The City of Guelph will review street names, park names and the names of trails to look at them through the lens of anti-racism, diversity and inclusion.
“We are early on in the process, so much that I don’t know what the process is,” said Danna Evans, general manager of culture and recreation for the City of Guelph. “I don’t know how fast we can take action, but certainly we want to align it with all work and support we are trying to do in the community across the anti-racism, inclusion and diversity.”
The review comes on the heels of work by other municipalities to review their street names. Some residents in neighbouring Puslinch have been petitioning for years to have the Swastika Trail street name changed because of its association with the National Socialist German Workers' Party, or Nazi Party, in Germany.
The City of Toronto is expected to rename one of its major streets at a cost of over $5 million because of Henry Dundas's association with the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
“I would anticipate, with Toronto having discussions about Dundas Street, that there will be questions about how streets (in Guelph) were named and there is definitely various opinions from historians in our community,” said Evans. “The process will have to unpack some of that, as well.”
Evans said changing the name of a street is no small task and would affect every business and residence on it.
“There is a financial impact on those, but we never want to lose sight of not causing pain or avoiding any truth and reconciliation,” she said.
Evans said she expects people to come up on both sides of the conversation, similar to the Swastika Trail discussion or to the recent cancelling of Canada Day celebrations.
The review by the city is a proactive step by staff and not the result of a motion from city council.
“Council definitely supports the anti-racism and diversity and inclusion work that is ongoing and we provide them with regular updates on that. This would roll into that,” said Evans.
Although the process is still being hashed out, Evans said many city departments will be involved in the review, including the planning department and Guelph Museums.
Evans said as the process continues there will be an opportunity for the public to engage with city staff
“It’s not me to say what causes harm or not, I can only speak for myself. There are definitely conversations to be had across all cultures and all community members,” she said.