Ottawa

City ward that honoured 19th-century slave owner could soon have new name

Six city wards in Ottawa are slated to get new names, including one that references Sir Henry Goulburn, a British statesman and slave owner with no apparent ties to Canada. 

Rideau-Goulbourn one of 6 wards slated to be rechristened

Coun. Scott Moffatt says he's pleased by a proposal that would see his Rideau-Goulbourn ward renamed Rideau-Jock by January 2022. Moffatt has stopped using the ward's full name after learning it honoured Sir Henry Goulburn, a 19th-century British plantation owner. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Six city wards in Ottawa are slated to get new names, including one that references a 19th-century British slave owner with no apparent ties to Canada. 

Late last year, council approved a decision to redraw the city's electoral boundaries and include another ward. The new voting map now includes 24 wards — 12 urban, nine suburban and three rural. 

The new names are designed to reflect geographical areas and identifiable communities, while keeping the naming conventions used for existing wards, according to the Ottawa Ward Boundary Review 2020 report.

One of the wards being rechristened is Rideau-Goulbourn, where Coun. Scott Moffatt has pushed for a different name since discovering it commemorated Sir Henry Goulburn, a‌ ‌British‌ ‌statesman‌ ‌and‌ senior ‌cabinet‌ ‌minister‌ ‌who‌ ‌was‌ ‌also‌ ‌the‌ ‌absentee‌ ‌owner‌ ‌of a ‌plantation ‌in‌ ‌Jamaica.

"I think it's important that we understand what a name signifies or what it means to certain people, and that we recognize how it can make people feel," said Moffatt, who has been referring to Rideau-Goulbourn as "Ward 21" since learning of its origins.

The new name suggested for Moffatt's ward is Rideau-Jock, which pays homage to the river that runs through the area.

Moffatt said the general consensus was that the renaming process would steer clear of commemorating any individual.

Other ward name changes include:

  • Orléans, which would be renamed Orléans East-Cumberland.
  • Innes, which would now be named Orléans West-Innes.
  • Cumberland, which would be renamed Orléans South-Navan.
  • Gloucester-South Nepean, which would be renamed Riverside South-Findlay Creek.

The existing Barrhaven ward is slated to be renamed Barrhaven West, according to the report, while the city's newest ward will be called Barrhaven East.

Henry Goulburn, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1828-1830, never visited his Jamaican plantations, which he had inherited, and never set foot in Canada. (William Holl/British Museum)

Indigenous name suggested

Sarah‌ ‌Onyango,‌ a board‌ ‌member‌ ‌with‌ ‌Black History Ottawa, said she would have preferred Rideau-Goulbourn be renamed after the people whose land it originally belonged to.

"I would much rather that ward get an Indigenous name of some kind," Onyango said. "I understand they want to name it Rideau-Jock, but name it after the original inhabitants of the land."

Moffatt said the plan was to keep the new name simple and not to deviate too much from the existing name. But he says the city might actually have that conversation next term, as city staff plan to take another look at ward names through an Indigenous lens. 

The city's finance and economic development committee is slated to discuss the ward names Oct. 5.

The renamed wards could become official by January 2022, well before the next municipal election in October 2022. The city plans to launch a public education campaign on the changes — along with the new 24th ward — in the spring.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Celeste Decaire

CBC Reporter

Celeste Decaire is a reporter with CBC Ottawa. She can be reached at celeste.decaire@cbc.ca and on her Twitter account @celestedecaire.

now