British Columbia

Powell River Regional District wants to change name to Indigenous word 'qathet'

The district voted this week to seek a name change.

New name means 'working together' and was proposed by local First Nation

The Powell River Regional District is one of the province's 27 districts responsible for a variety of services, including sewage, water, and local governance of smaller communities. (James Blake/cc 2.0)

The Powell River Regional District on B.C.'s West Coast could soon have a new name.

By a four-to-three vote last week, directors approved asking the province to change the name to qathet Regional District, which means "working together."

It comes after months of consultations sparked by board chair Patrick Brabazon, who said it can be confusing having a regional district with the same name as the largest city.

Brabazon said some people mix up the Powell River Regional District with the city of Powell River.

"This has resulted in minor confusion over people sending correspondence to the wrong place, applying for the jobs at the wrong place. It's also cost us money," said Brabazon.

The boundaries of the Powell River Regional District. (PRRD)

"We have a problem, the obvious problem is change the name. With an obvious solution, I identified an opportunity."

B.C. has 27 regional districts, which are responsible for water supply, waste and sewage management and they represent areas without municipal governments. But Nanaimo and Powell River are the only areas with direct overlap between the local and regional name.

Powell River is named for Israel Powell, who was superintendent of Indian affairs in British Columbia from 1872 to 1889.

'I thought that's it'

Brabazon said that in the spirit of reconciliation, he asked the Tla'amin Nation for suggestions on a new name for the regional district, which includes Savary and Texada islands, Lund, and a large mountainous area to the north of Powell River. 

"We agreed we would like a geographic name, and we both had to pronounce it," he said. 

"The elders came back and said there is no single geographic name in their language, just the same as ours ... but they did offer qathet, which translates as 'working together'. I thought that's it." 

Just over 400 letters were received from the public during a consultation process, with around 54 per cent in favour of the change. 

A number of directors who voted against the change said they weren't necessarily opposed to the new name, but wanted a referendum. 

"That's the only way it could possibly solve it. You can't put a broken egg back together again," said Colin Palmer, Electoral Area C director. 

Palmer also took issue with the consultation process, and said he would prefer a name that had a geographical significance. 

"If this name change goes through, I live in qathet Regional District. People would say 'where is qathet?', and I [would say] 'I don't know.'" 

It will be up to Municipal Affiars Minister Selina Robinson to approve or deny the name change.