Thunder Bay

Fort Frances town council set to make a decision about renaming Colonization Road

Fort Frances council is set to consider a recommendation from the municipality's Planning and Development Executive Committee to rename its Colonization Road at council on Monday night.

Town councillor says presence of the road name is 'harmful and discomforting' to community

The renaming of Colonization Road in Fort Frances Ont., is set to go before council Monday. (Supplied)

Fort Frances council is set to consider a recommendation from the municipality's Planning and Development Executive Committee to rename Colonization Road at their Monday night meeting.

The latest step in the process comes after consultation conducted by the committee, which saw an informational brochure distributed to community members. According to the committee, 37 residents responded to the brochure, in addition to many letters and email that were sent prior to the consultation period.

In the last several weeks, the town has received responses from 240 people, including 52 letters. Of those responses, only 10 were opposed to the road's renaming, according to Fort Frances Coun. Douglas Judson.

"So, I think that's a pretty loud and clear message that the community is behind this initiative and recognizes it as something we need to do, and that frankly, we've been slow to do. We need to get done quickly," said Judson, who put the renaming proposal forward in November 2020.

Judson, who is on the Planning and Development Executive Committee, said he has been disappointed by the lengthy process council agreed upon to have the road renamed, adding that it "watered down" Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action with the creation of a road renaming policy.

He said since the consultation process began, which was intended to be technical in nature, an "ugliness" has surfaced in the community and has rehashed a debate about the road name, which Judson said is a debate that's already been settled.

"We have all these other tools available to us and all these other specialized organizations that have, you know, told us what they expect," said Judson.

"When I brought [the renaming proposal] forward, I did so with the written support of Indigenous leaders in our region. So, no, I don't think there was any question about the need to remove this word, this racist concept from our local roads."

Community members speak up

The Treaty #3 Oshkiniigiig Youth Executive Council wrote to town council at the end of February, also expressing disappointment over delays in the renaming process.

In a letter dated Feb. 26, the youth council wrote that the process should not be a "politicized debate" adding that the renaming of the road is an opportunity to bridge a divide and champion positive change in the community.

"Renaming Colonization Rd. is not a performative action, it is a reasonable request by community members who have been harmed by colonialism and are asking for that to be recognized by a community that they live and work in, as well as contribute to," reads the letter. "Tell us we are welcome here."

Once the decision to move forward with renaming the road is put to council, Judson said he hopes council will use the next step of the process as a vehicle to have a discussion in the community about what names and concepts matter.

Fort Frances is one step closer to renaming Colonization Road. Up North's Olivia Levesque spoke with town councillor Douglas Judson, who introduced the motion back in November. 8:11