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Renaming discussion for City of Powell River stirs controversy

Councillors debate possible name change at committee of the whole meeting
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City of Powell River councillors held a lengthy discussion on their draft strategic priorities, including discussion of a possible name change for the city. Tla’amin Nation has reacted to comments by councillor Jim Palm with regard to the possible renaming process.

City of Powell River’s deliberations on a possible name change for the city have generated reaction from Tla’amin Nation.

At the January 30 committee of the whole meeting, councillors held a workshop to deal with its strategic priorities draft document, and in the intergovernmental relations category, discussed an item that stated the city would take real steps toward a name change.

During discussion there was controversy when councillor Jim Palm made reference to the prospect of an opinion poll. He said he believed it should be a simple question.

“Step one is: are you in favour of a name change, yes or no?” said Palm. “It should not be convoluted with…” at which point he used an Indigenous-sounding name.

Tla’amin has since taken exception to the expression, issuing a media release.

That item in the draft strategic priorities being debated came in the category of intergovernmental relations: take real steps towards a name change.

Before the controversy, mayor Ron Woznow said he was advocating consultation on the matter of a name change with an opinion poll as part of the process.

Councillor Trina Isakson said she was not comfortable including reference to a public vote. She said she wants to focus on process, not outcome.

Councillor George Doubt said the provincial government requires a poll so support of the community can be demonstrated for a name change.

“The people of Powell River would like to come to a conclusion,” said Doubt.

Councillor Cindy Elliott said if council was going to ask about a name change, it was important to have something that the city is going to change it to.

“Changing the name to some unknown thing is never the right question,” said Elliott. “To me, it doesn’t mean yes or no. It means you want to change it to this or that. We can’t have an open-ended question.”

Isakson, in response to Doubt’s statement about a poll, said it is not required by the province. She said public engagement is required and the province is looking for an indication of public support.

Woznow said there is an obligation to pose a question. 

“This is straightforward,” said Woznow. “We’ve had a request from Tla’amin Nation. Now, we have an obligation to hold the equivalent of a referendum, with a simple question: would you support a name change. Then, we can move on.”

The committee carried a motion that the item in intergovernmental relations be changed to say council will consult city residents and hold the equivalent of a referendum to ask: “Do you support a name change for the City of Powell River?” at the 2026 municipal election. Opposed were councillors Elliott, Isakson and Earl Almeida.

UPDATE: The city released a statement on February 6, apologizing to Tla’amin in relation to what Palm said at the meeting regarding the possible renaming. Palm has not responded to the Peak’s request for comment

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