City of Winnipeg task force recommends new names for streets dedicated to residential school proponent

A group appointed to propose new names for three Winnipeg streets hopes Indigenous children who were forced to attend residential schools will be front of mind for those who use the roadways, rather than a bishop who supported the institutions.

The City of Winnipeg’s Indigenous relations division forwarded three name recommendations for Bishop Grandin Boulevard, Bishop Grandin Trail and Grandin Street for the city’s executive policy committee to consider, following a naming circle with elders, knowledge keepers and residential school survivors, the city said in a news release on Monday.

The division suggests the boulevard be changed to Abinojii Mikanah (A-bin-oh-gee Mee-kin-ah), the trail be renamed Awasisak Mēskanow (Aa-wa-sis-uk Me-ska-noh) and the street be changed to Taapweewin Way (Tap-way-win).

The first two names mean “children’s road” in the Ojibway and Cree languages, respectively, and are meant to represent residential school survivors and the journey to find the children who never returned home.

Elder Frank Beaulieu, a member of the Bear Clan of Treaty One Nation who took part in the naming circle, said he was moved by the discovery of the 215 possible burial sites on the grounds of the former Kamloops Residential School in B.C.

Bishop Grandin Trail could be renamed Awasisak Mēskanow, which means Children’s Road in Cree. (Trevor Brine/CBC )

“As we sat together as knowledge keepers at the workshop, when they asked my spirit, I thought of, and in clarity, that it would be named Abinojii Mikanah (Children’s Roadway),” he said in the news release.

The third name, Taapweewin, means “truth” in Cree, and reflects the importance of people knowing the truth of the country’s dark history on the road to reconciliation.

The city has been going through consultations about changing the street names since 2020. The roads are named after Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin, who lobbied the federal government to fund the construction of residential schools in the 19th century. 

Grandin’s legacy has been reconsidered in recent years, following the release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada with 94 calls to action, the city said.

A man with short hair, glasses in a grey plaid suit stands behind a microphone.
Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham says he plans to support the recommendations made by the city’s Indigenous relations division. (Warren Kay/CBC)

Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham said he plans to support the new names suggested by the Indigenous relations division, because he doesn’t think an informational sign recognizing the true legacy of Grandin is enough.

“I think if we’re sincere about making the changes along the path of reconciliation … then we need to take actions that go beyond putting up panels that someone may or may not ever see to educate people,” Gillingham said.

“If we’re going to take the calls to action seriously, then we need to act, and this, to me, is action.”

The road renaming is on the executive policy committee agenda for March 13. If approved by the committee, it goes to council March 23.

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