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Watson's backtracks on 'divisive' naming

Here's the full text of Mayor Watson's memo to his council colleagues explaining his reversal on naming the city's Archives building after Charlotte Whitton:

Dear Council colleagues,

I am writing to inform you that I am withdrawing my suggestion that we transfer the name of Charlotte Whitton from the old City Hall Archives to the new facility on Woodroffe Avenue. This item, which passed FEDCO last week, was scheduled to go to Council on Wednesday.

These kinds of commemorative namings should be positive occasions that bring the community together. Instead, this suggestion, which was mine and mine alone, was creating disunity in parts of the city, and as Mayor, I felt it my obligation not to allow the matter to continue to divide.

While I was and am appreciative of the fact that a clear majority of you were prepared to support the transfer in an effort to honour Dr. Whitton, I nonetheless believe that the divisiveness and character of the debate was becoming very unpleasant and for the good of unity in our community I will not proceed with the report.

Even in death, Dr. Whitton is a controversial figure, and one who draws strong reaction and emotions both for her many accomplishments, as well as for her faults and shortcomings.

I have spent a great deal of time immersed in the history of Dr. Whitton before and after the report was tabled and have found a wide body of contradictory information on her many statements and actions.

In the spirit of not furthering a long drawn out debate on her history, merits and faults, I felt it best to not pursue the naming.

With this withdrawal, I will now ask the Ottawa community for their suggestions on who we should name this new building after. While it is scheduled to open next month, we will proceed with the opening, and retroactively name it after we have heard from the public and council has made a decision.

I want to thank all members of Council for your input into this debate.

I also wish to thank the three dozen citizens and organizations who took the time to express their views, both for and against the FEDCO recommendation that I received last week.

Jim Watson, Mayor

City of Ottawa

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