London

Councillor, women's group want to rename Paul Haggis Park

A London councillor and women's shelter officials want Paul Haggis Park renamed after sexual misconduct allegations came out against the Hollywood director.

'It's such a negative attachment to such a beautiful place'

Paul Haggis Park off of Southdale and White Oak Roads in south London. Councillors will debate a possible name change on Tuesday. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

A London councillor and women's shelter officials want Paul Haggis Park renamed after sexual misconduct allegations came out against the Hollywood director.

Four women have spoken out since December, accusing the London native of sexual assault and harassment. They said the incidents happened between 1996 and 2015. The allegations have yet to be proven in court.

Councillor, Mo Salih, introduced a motion to replace the current sign at the south London park to its address of "2875 Baterman Trail" until a new name can be chosen. The motion is backed by the women's shelter Anova.

"My goal is to ensure people can use city public spaces, in particular parks," said, Salih. "For some people, the name alone may be triggering for them."  Salih said he's been urged by members of the community to address the issue.

"We talk about being inclusive and we talk about accessibility and we signed up to be a safe city," he said.

Last year, councillors voted to add London to the United Nations women's safe cities list, in the name of anti-violence and harassment.

City staff have previously changed the names of two parks in London, including the now Charles Hunt Park.

Legal roadblocks

A London councillor and a women's group are calling on the name of a south London park to be changed. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Officials at Anova want city councillors to re-commit to the safe cities initiative by supporting the motion, going before a council committee on Tuesday.

AnnaLise Trudell, manager of education at the shelter, said the move will push forward the safe city initiative. 

"Changing a park's name is a symbolic gesture.  It doesn't actually do a lot but if it … pushes forward the safe city initiative then that's useful." - AnnaLise Trudell, manager of education at Anova

"As a community, we should [think about] who we want to admire and what kind of public dialogue we want to have around issues. This is an opportunity to think about how sexual violence happens in London and how it impacts Londoners." 

 Trudell said proponents of the motion understand that allegations against Haggis have yet to be proven in court.

Neighbourhood reacts

Jose Torrez lives a few houses down from Paul Haggis Park in south London. He recently learned about the sexual misconduct allegations made against the Hollywood director. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Crystal Kendall, who lives across the street from the park near Southdale and White Oaks Roads, fully supports the name change suggesting to do so acts a symbol of support for sexual assault victims around the world.

"It's such a negative attachment to such a beautiful place such as a park," said Kendall. "[It's] important to stand behind women coming forth."

Whereas, Ahmed Elshorafa, who lives a few doors down from the park, said council "shouldn't jump to conclusions until something is proven."

Nearby resident, Jose Torrez, only recently learned about the park after living in the area for six years. He's torn over whether to change the name. 

"We use the park for the purpose of the kids not the name of it. It would be nice if they change the name though because many people may know what it means and have issues. For me I don't mind at all."

City councillors are slated to discuss the motion at the committee meeting on Tuesday. A final decision is expected next week when there's a full council meeting. 

With files from Travis Dolynny

now