Park in Centennial neighbourhood to be renamed in honour of Indigenous activist Leslie Spillett

Lizzie Park in Winnipeg's Centennial neighbourhood will be renamed in honour Ka Ni Kanichihk founder Leslie Spillett.

City committee also renames Pioneer Arena after NHL goalie from Winnipeg

Leslie Spillett, whose spirit name is Giizhigooweyaabikwe, meaning 'Painted Sky Woman', founded Ka Ni Kanichihk and served on the Winnipeg Police Board. (CBC)

An inner-city park will soon bear the spirit name of a prominent figure in Winnipeg's Indigenous community.

Lizzie Park in the Centennial neighbourhood will be renamed in honour Ka Ni Kanichihk founder and executive director Leslie Spillett.

Point Douglas Coun. Mike Pagtakhan brought a walk-on motion to the city's standing policy committee on protection, community services and parks on Tuesday.

"I wanted to honour a strong woman figure in the neighbourhood," Pagtakhan said. "She's done a lot for our city. What she's done, she's exceeded what I think most people would do."

In addition to founding Ka Ni Kanichihk, which provides programs and services to Indigenous people in Winnipeg's inner city, Spillett has been an advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and started the Keeping the Fires Burning fundraiser, which supports efforts to preserve Indigenous traditional knowledge.

"These are huge issues and then the fact that she's still alive to tell those stories and to inspire people and to make those human connections is extremely important," Pagtakhan said.

Spillett also served on the boards of numerous community organizations and served on the Winnipeg Police Board. She was removed from the police board by an order in council from the province shortly after the Progressive Conservatives were elected in 2016.

Lizzie Park, bordered by Logan Avenue, Alexander Avenue, Fountain Street and Lizzie Street, will be renamed Giizhigooweyaabikwe Park. The name, which is Spillett's spirit name, means "Painted Sky Woman" in Anishinaabemowin (the Ojibway language).

Pagtakhan said there are no current records that indicate who Lizzie Park was named after, although he didn't ask city administrators to prepare a report ahead of the renaming, saying the committee has the authority to rename parks. 

"[The park] was named after one of the daughters of some of the developers, I guess, in the past, but I don't even know who Lizzie is. Who is Lizzie?" he said.

Pioneer Arena named after Charlie Gardiner

The committee also passed a motion to rename Pioneer Arena on Logan Avenue after goalie Charlie Gardiner, who played with the Chicago Black Hawks (now Blackhawks) in the late 1920s.

Scottish-born Gardiner, who grew up in Winnipeg and died in 1934 at age 29, was one of the first goalies from Winnipeg to play in the NHL, Pagtakhan said.

"He's a great goalie. He's been honoured in the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame. He's a charter member of the Toronto [Hockey] Hall of Fame," he said.

Pagtakhan said the arena is underused and he hopes the renaming will lead to more people using it.

"It's kind of just sitting there. It's in great shape. I checked it out and it makes total sense," he said.


  • An earlier version of this story said the park is in the West Alexander neighbourhood. In fact, it is in the Centennial neighbourhood.
    Aug 03, 2018 3:42 PM CT

With files from Bartley Kives