Mordecai Richler honour stirs debate

The city councillor for the district of Mile-End in Montreal says his constituents are not interested in having a public space named after Mordecai Richler.

'It was never our intention to rename anything,' city councillor says

The city councillor for the district of Mile End in Montreal says his constituents aren't interested in having a public space named after Mordecai Richler.

"There's no genuine grass roots support for this initiative from within our community," said Alex Norris.

Author Mordecai Richler sits in a Montreal park in October 1983. The movie adaptation of the late novelist's Barney's Version is in movie theatres. ((Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press))
More than 2,500 supporters have signed a petition calling on the City of Montreal to name a public space in honour of the late author before the 10th anniversary of his death on Jul. 3, 2011.

Snowdon city councillor Marvin Rotrand, who's been spearheading the initiative, said several suggestions have been put forward, but the No. 1 suggestion has been to rename a library after Richler.

"A lot of people suggested the Mile End Library," said Rotrand, noting it's in the heart of the neighbourhood where Richler grew up and set many of his novels, including Barney's Version, which has been adapted into a film in theatres now.

Norris maintains not one person has contacted his office to express support for the idea.

"It suggests that Marvin Rotrand was able to persuade more than 2,000 people to sign his petition," said Norris. "I don't know where those people live."

City naming not renaming'

The City of Montreal said it is looking at a way to pay tribute to the prolific author, famous curmudgeon and ardent federalist by the anniversary of his death, but renaming an existing building or street after Richler is not part of the plan.

"It was never our intention to rename anything," said Helen Fotopulos the city's executive committee member responsible for Culture, Heritage and Design.

Other municipalities have taken the step of renaming libraries after celebrated local authors. The Montreal borough of Lachine re-named of one of its libraries after Saul Bellow, the late writer and winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Fotopoulos said the public space that would bear Richler's name has yet to be built.

"We are looking at things that do not exist at this point to bear the name of Mordecai Richler," said Fotopulos. "Where and how is yet to be determined."

In January, Fotopulos said the city will put together what she calls a think-tank to come up with a tangible and permanent way to honour Richler before the anniversary of his death next summer.