Agamiing Drive and Sunset Drive selected as new names to replace Colonization Road in Fort Frances, Ont.
Colonization Road East and West will be officially renamed by January 1, 2022
Two new names have been chosen to replace Colonization Road in Fort Frances, Ont., as of Monday night, marking the end of a long consultation process among the town and its residents.
The east section of the road will be renamed Agamiing Drive, Anishinaabemowin for "at the shore", while the west section of the road will be renamed Sunset Drive.
"Tonight, council took a step toward building a more inclusive Fort Frances. We did that by replacing symbols of systemic racism with signposts of our commitment to reconciliation, and of the vital role Indigenous people will play in our path forward as a community," reads a written statement from town councillor Douglas Judson, issued Monday night.
Judson brought forward the resolution to rename the major roadway in the northwestern Ontario town back in November of 2020, adding that he never intended for such a "long and difficult" process.
"It exposed an undercurrent of racism and bigotry in our community, and I am disappointed that this was only a 4-3 vote. But what I hope this experience tells council is that there is an appetite for social change in this community, and that we, as leaders, have to direct these discussions toward a vision," he said.
"It isn't good enough to shy away from equity issues because they might offend the prejudices or privileges of others. I hope we can do better in the future."
Despite the challenges along the way, Judson said the change is a "proud moment" for Fort Frances.
The two new names chosen for the road were the top choices of an unofficial survey administered by Judson between May 4 and 8.
"The choice of 'Agamiing' for Colonization Road East honours Anishinaabe people and their culture at the eastern gateway to our community, connecting Fort Frances with Couchiching First Nation and the sacred area known locally as Seven Oaks," said Judson.
"The selection of 'Sunset' for Colonization Road West reflects the natural beauty of the region. It is also a nod to the Sunset Country Métis Community and their many contributions to Fort Frances," he added.
Treaty #3 youth council says there is more work to be done
The drawn-out process, along with the discussion unearthed by the road renaming process garnered much attention from local residents and organizations.
The Treaty #3 Oshkiniigiig Youth Executive Council wrote to town council at the end of February, expressing disappointment over delays in the renaming process, calling it a "politicized debate."
Now that the process has reached its end, the youth council said it is thrilled to finally see the change materialize.
"We see this as a positive step forward, that Fort Frances acknowledges the role that Indigenous Peoples have in the community, and that Indigenous Peoples will be welcomed into the community. There is still work to do, but this is work we can do together," reads a written statement from The Treaty #3 Oshkiniigiig Youth Executive Council.
The youth council also acknowledged Judson's work, calling him "constant advocate" for the change.
"We also recognize the many Fort Frances community members, Indigenous partners and allies who wrote letters in support of the name change and supported reconciliation efforts. The names proposed by the broader Fort Frances community are reflective of the shared history between the Indigenous communities in the area who call Fort Frances home and of the opportunities that Fort Frances offers," reads the statement.
The new road names will be implemented on January 1, 2022, and according to Judson, three of the signs for the former Colonization Road will be donated to museums: one to the Fort Frances Museum, one to the Manitou Mounds Interpretive Centre, and one to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.
Fort Frances follows Dryden, Ont., which recently renamed its Colonization Avenue to 'Boozhoo' and 'Memorial'. Kenora, Blind River, Lake of Bays, and several other municipalities in Ontario and Manitoba have also renamed local 'Colonization' roads in recent years.