Proposed renaming of Winnipeg's Bishop Grandin Boulevard meant to reflect truth, advocates say
Indigenous relations division also proposes new names for Bishop Grandin Trail, Grandin Street
Advocates say the recommended name change to a major Winnipeg route is not meant to change history, but to evolve it.
The City of Winnipeg's Indigenous relations division forwarded name recommendations for Bishop Grandin Boulevard, along with Bishop Grandin Trail and Grandin Street, for the city's executive policy committee to consider, following a naming circle with elders, knowledge keepers and residential school survivors, the city announced Monday.
All three were originally named after Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin, who lobbied the federal government to fund the construction of residential schools in the 19th century.
Chance Paupanakis, executive director of Akiing Onji Foundation, said it's important to honour truth as Canada moves forward with reconciliation. He said that includes rewriting its history so it reflects how residential schools impact Indigenous people in Canada.
"It teaches about the intergenerational effects and traumas that have that … and are occurring because of the systems like the residential school system," he said Monday.
Paupanakis, whose grandparents are residential school survivors, said many people have forgotten that truth and reconciliation go hand in hand — and truth has to come before reconciliation can truly begin.
"In order to make change you have to know what happened. And I think knowing the truth about what happened will be a really important part of the healing journey for residential school survivors," he said.
'Truth is uncomfortable'
The Indigenous relations division suggests that Bishop Grandin Boulevard be changed to Abinojii Mikanah and Bishop Grandin Trail be renamed Awasisak Mēskanow.
The two names mean "children's road" in Ojibway and Cree, respectively, and are meant to represent residential school survivors and the journey to find the children who never returned home.
The division also suggests that Grandin Street, a short street off Tache Avenue in St. Boniface, be changed to Taapweewin Way — meaning "truth" in Michif, the ancestral language of the Red River Métis. The name reflects the importance of people knowing the truth of the country's dark history on the road to reconciliation.
Geraldine (Gramma) Shingoose, who was forced to attend a residential school in Saskatchewan for nine years, says the renaming is important to her healing journey.
She's been advocating for the city to change street names since the 2015 release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 Calls to Action.
"[People] need to accept and understand that this individual participated in the elimination of the Indian in the child," Shingoose said.
"Seeing that name removed, this is a significant step forward."
Shingoose said the changes are about acknowledging the truth of Canada's history with residential schools, and she hopes the name changes don't stop with the routes named after Grandin.
She hopes the city also considers renaming St. Vital Road and Sir John A. MacDonald Park in the future, and proposes names honouring Murray Sinclair, a former Manitoba judge and senator who also chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
"He said three things to us survivors. He said, 'I see you. I hear you, and I believe you.' Those three words were very meaningful to us" said Shingoose.
"It brings healing to me, knowing that we're finally being heard."
Mark D. Head, a Métis citizen, said the proposed changes are not meant to regress Canada's history, but to evolve it.
"Things change. Stories change, stories grow," Head said.
"Truth is uncomfortable. The truth is we need to ... include indigenous people in the society here. Part of that is through the naming of our history."
Head said he's happy the name changes may finally be moving forward. He hopes other members of council follow the lead of Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham, who is supporting the recommendations, and make sure the changes become a reality.
"If we're doing this and we're applying action, then we're applying hope ... We can be the emulators for others to follow us."
The road renaming is on the executive policy committee agenda for March 13. If approved by the committee, it goes to council on March 23.