Montreal

​Family of Daisy Sweeney upset by city plan to rename 'patch of grass' in her honour

When the City of Montreal said last year that it would name a street after the late Daisy Peterson Sweeney, jazz musician and sister of Oscar Peterson, the family was pleased. But now the city has changed its tune, offering instead to rename Guy-Paxton Park after her.

Montreal said it would name a street after the late jazz musician, but has since changed its tune

The park currently takes its name from its location at the corner of Guy and Paxton streets, on the border between Little Burgundy and Griffintown. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

The family of famed music teacher Daisy Peterson Sweeney says it's upset city officials have broken their promise to rename a street after the woman who taught Montreal's jazz legends how to play piano.

Instead, the city is offering to attach her name to Guy-Paxton Park, which sits on the border of Little Burgundy and Griffintown. 

Sweeney's family doesn't think the park befits her legacy, which includes having tutored her brother, Oscar Peterson, and Oliver Jones — arguably Canada's two greatest jazz pianists.

"When we looked the park up and went to visit it, it turns out that it's a very small patch of grass that can be described very generously as some kind of little dog run," said Oscar Peterson's daughter, Céline.

At Sweeney's funeral in 2017, then-mayor Denis Coderre told mourners the city would rename a street in her honour. 

Céline Peterson, the daughter of Oscar Peterson, said her family is not impressed by the city's offer to rename Guy-Paxton Park in honour of her late aunt. (Céline Peterson/Facebook)

But, according to Céline Peterson, the family received a letter from the city earlier this month advising them of the new plan, which she called "unacceptable."

She said the idea of naming a street for her aunt was an "appropriate tribute," while attaching Sweeney's name to the small park was "disrespectful."

A teacher and community fixture

Along with having taught Peterson and Jones, Sweeney gave lessons in classical piano to hundreds of students at the Negro Community Centre in Little Burgundy.

She also founded a youth choir, which eventually became the internationally celebrated Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir.

Daisy Sweeney, pictured here with famed jazz pianist Oliver Jones, was a community fixture in Little Burgundy. (Radio-Canada)

"She was known within ​the city of Montreal and in the province of Quebec for being kind [and] open-hearted," Céline Peterson said of her aunt. "Her door was always open."

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante told reporters Monday that the city would listen to the family's concerns, but she also ruled out the possibility of finding a street that would take Sweeney's name.

"​We want to honour the memory of Mrs. Peterson Sweeney. It's very important," Plante said. "If the family is not happy with the decision, we will find something else. I'm confident."

She said the city offered a park instead of a street because it didn't want to replace an existing street name.

Guy-Paxton Park, so named because it's on the corner of Guy and Paxton Streets, doesn't yet have a namesake, said Plante.

She added that the city plans to reinvest in the park as part of a plan to make over several parks in the area.

With files from CBC's Navneet Pall

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