Gatineau to look into renaming Amherst Street, again

·2 min read
Amherst Street, or rue Amherst, in Gatineau, Que., was named after an 18th century British general who advocated for the genocide of Indigenous people. (Radio-Canada - image credit)
Amherst Street, or rue Amherst, in Gatineau, Que., was named after an 18th century British general who advocated for the genocide of Indigenous people. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

City councillors in Gatineau, Que., have unanimously approved a motion to consider changing the name of a street that commemorates an 18th century British general who advocated for the genocide of Indigenous people.

Amherst Street, or rue Amherst, is a residential strip in Gatineau that runs for about a kilometre parallel to Highway 148. As in many cities, the street was named after Jeffery Amherst, a controversial figure for his relations with Indigenous people.

Montreal already renamed its Amherst Street to Atateken Street in 2019, which denotes the idea of equality among people in Kanien'kéha, in the Mohawk language.

Coun. Myriam Nadeau put forward the motion Tuesday at city council to consider a name change for the Gatineau street, and it was approved unanimously.

"I am proud of our collective intelligence of having, you know, [given] new life to this issue," said Nadeau, who's also the head of the city's toponymy committee responsible for naming streets and public places.

Amanda Pfeffer/CBC
Amanda Pfeffer/CBC

Take 2 in Gatineau

This isn't the first time the street's name came before council. More than a decade ago, Gatineau councillors decided to keep the street name the way it is.

"Back in the days when it was first refused, people were saying, 'Well, it's like we're rewriting history,'" Nadeau said.

"The toponymy science of naming things, it's not only to recall our history. It's also a choice in choosing what we decide to honour in that history. And I find the city council really matured to make the distinction between the two."

Nadeau said city council wants to move forward in consultation with residents of the street and Kitigan Zibi, a First Nation north of Gatineau near Maniwaki, Que.

The new name would come out of this process working with both communities, said Nadeau.

After Montreal changed the name of its street, activists also called on the City of Ottawa to do the same for Amherst Crescent located in the suburb of Barrhaven. CBC has asked the city whether there are plans underway to rename the crescent, and awaits a response.

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