Having lived here only about 30 years, I am unattached to the current name or Indigenous alternatives. However, I appreciate peoples’ fondness for a name signifying home, even if others have good reason to reject it [“We are all treaty people,” Peak Midweek, June 30]. A commitment to reconciliation precludes recklessly alienating or excluding people who have strong views for or against renaming the city.
Ultimately, everyone will have to live together, so the more who are at least content with the name, the better.
Tla’amin Nation hegus John Hackett identifies mutual respect, working together, process, options, timing and community engagement as key elements in achieving this goal. Mindful of this, two questions must be answered, not one: (1) Should the city be renamed? And (2), if it should be renamed, what should the name be?
Distinguishing between the two questions allows for two different but complementary stages of deliberation and decision-making, one appropriate to each question. This satisfies legal and policy requirements [“Chief administrative officer outlines procedure for renaming City of Powell River,” July 17] and reflects the mayor’s focus on the process [“Council chooses committee members to discuss possible name change for Powell River,” July 16].
Hegus Hackett insists that the first question should not be asked, but people are already asking it and the debate is ongoing. Council cannot control this, but it can constructively incorporate it into the first stage of deliberation by inviting and enabling people to express their views directly to council.
If good reasons are offered in support of a name change, the burden shifts to those opposed to demonstrate that the reasons offered are insufficient. The arguments having been evaluated, a decision must be made, but by whom?
Hegus Hackett insists that government should decide; others insist upon a referendum [“Viewpoint: Renaming needs to be clearly thought out,” July 20]. A two-stage process has something to offer both sides.
The first stage decision to retain or change the city’s name should be made by council, not by referendum, and council must fully explain its reasoning. This is the best way to ensure its decision is seen to be sound, principled and fairly made. Those dissatisfied with the outcome should be left with no grounds to complain that council ignored or unfairly treated them.
If council concludes that the city should be renamed, in the second stage it should identify suitable names and present (perhaps) three in a referendum for a final choice by the electorate. The range of options for “respectful and inclusive” names includes at least Salish and English names, a translation of Salish (like Bear Hill, Alberta), anglicized Salish (like Canada, Nanaimo or Esquimalt) and a blended name (like Sault Ste. Marie).
Identifying and selecting potential names would promote reconciliation because it would require collaboration, community engagement, cross-cultural brainstorming and transparent decision-making. This would take time, but seems to offer the best hope for an amicable resolution; unanimity is not in the cards. As the mayor says, “Let it take as long as it needs to take [“Council chooses committee members to discuss possible name change for Powell River,” July 16].”
As to costs, governments often rename their departments, and taxpayers always foot the bills. If the city is renamed, the cost will arguably be a better long-term investment. Besides, public consultation and referenda are fundamental components of democracy, their costs part of the price of resolving our differences and living together. We all benefit from this; we should all be willing to pay for it.
Sean Murphy is a Powell River resident.