Call for new bridge name met with 'stereotypes' about Indigenous people, city says
City declines to release suggestions that prompted red flag
The public outreach to rename one of Saskatoon's bridges-in-progress was launched as "an educational process" about the Indigenous experience in Canada and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in particular.
But some of the suggestions received so far for rebranding the North Commuter Parkway are only underscoring why that education is especially needed for some, according to the City of Saskatoon.
"We did receive some information that indicated that we do have some individuals that are reflecting on stereotypes and obviously have some misinformation about the history of the treaty, the reason why the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report was put in place," said Gilles Dorval, the director of Aboriginal relations for the city.
More than 100 suggestions so far
The city — alongside other steering committee members, such as the Saskatoon Tribal Council and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations — has received over 100 online proposals from the public so far.
"Out of those 100 and so names, 98 per cent of them are positive," said Dorval.
The others, not so much.
Dorval declined to provide a list of the suggestions received so far, or of those that prompted the city to write in a report going to city councillors on Tuesday that the ideas highlight "the need for educational opportunities to correct stereotypes and misinformation and to promote community building."
"If I started to reiterate the types of names that came forward that were perpetuating stereotypes, I would be doing the same thing," said Dorval.
But he did hint at the nature of one comment.
"It was more or less, 'Who pays taxes? The bridge is paid for [with] tax money. Why would we be naming it after Aboriginal people that don't pay taxes?'
"So obviously, you're dealing with someone that doesn't understand the whole tax regime."
Aboriginal people who have Indian status and who live and work off-reserve pay both federal and provincial taxes.
The final process
People have until the end of the month to offer further suggestions via the city website.
The steering committee — which also includes the Office of the Treaty Commissioner and the Central Urban Métis Federation Incorporated — will winnow down the suggestions to a list of four semi-finalists.
"They'll select four names and we'll do some education vignettes and then the community will have another opportunity to weigh in on which of those four names they prefer and why," said Dorval.
"Then we'll select the name based on that and the guidance of elders and Indian residential school survivors."
The bridge itself, which is under construction, is expected to be completed in October 2018, according to an update provided by the city last month.