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Letter: Changing Powell River's name will have small effect on day-to-day life

Thirty cities or towns in Canada have had a name change, as has a significant Canadian university and numerous streets. ~ Reid Baker

A joint working group was formed in November 2021 to help guide the conversation about the possibility of changing the name of Powell River. A letter was published in the Peak describing the working group strategy as one of tortuous fatigue [“Letter: Possible name change strategy is one of tortuous fatigue," May 10].

The writer then goes on to describe the “torment” he has endured and that “going to three open house meetings is all I can take.” That is a disgusting display of white privilege.

When using a word like torment it would be prudent to think about what it would be like to live with the constant reminder of a man who condemned your cultural practices, focused on assimilation, attempted to “civilize” your people and supported residential schools. How about living with the constant reminder of a time when your ancestors had land stolen from them and were told that their way of life was no longer acceptable?

Should anyone be forced to endure that torment? If the name Powell provides that constant reminder, then it doesn’t matter if Israel Powell did some great things in the late 1800s, or if he behaved in a manner that was acceptable at the time. If we want to talk about what he did or didn’t do, then we need to remember he didn’t do anything for this city or region, so why should that name have meaning in this area?  

Should this go to a referendum? Changing the name of the city will have a small effect on day-to-day life. Thirty cities or towns in Canada have had a name change, as has a significant Canadian university and numerous streets. Life goes on.

Ask the people of Haida Gwaii about the “torment” they had to endure in changing that name. And it’s such a small step in terms of reparations needed.

But sure, let’s have a referendum. Although, why should it be limited to residents of Powell River? Why should the decision be made predominantly by white people? Why should any Indigenous person anywhere have to live with the constant torment of a name.

Open it up to the entire qathet region, better yet the entire province or country. And if they want the name changed, it’s the least we could do.

But hey, if voluntarily attending three open house meetings and learning about Israel Powell is all the torment some residents of Powell River can take, maybe we should forgo the referendum and just make the change.

Reid Baker,