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Petition to change Langevin Bridge name gains momentum

WATCH ABOVE: An online petition has been started in an effort to rename the Langevin Bridge. Jill Croteau reports.

CALGARY – An online petition supporting a name-change of one of Calgary’s most popular bridges is gaining momentum, with over 650 people pushing for an end to Langevin Bridge.

A report on the horrors of Canada’s residential school system called it nothing short of a “cultural genocide,” making 94 broad recommendations including greater police independence and reducing the number of aboriginal children in foster care.

As part of the fallout, the name of a Calgary bridge honouring one of the men behind the residential school system has come into question.

The Langevin Bridge spans the Bow River, but bears the name of one of the architects of the residential school system.

“In order to educate the children properly we must separate them from their families. Some people may say that this is hard but if we want to civilize them we must do that,” said then-Public Works Minister Sir Hector-Louis Langevin in 1883. It was Langevin’s explanation for the need to establish residential schools for Aboriginal children as presented to the Canadian House of Commons.

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A Calgary woman has created a petition after learning more about the man behind the bridge.

“A lot of us are guilty not knowing the history—I am one of them,” said Cathleen Foster. “As soon as I heard it was cultural genocide, it took it to a different level. It’s such a dark part of Canadian history and it’s an embarrassment.”

“Bridges are meant to bring people together not tear them apart.”

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On Thursday, just blocks from the bridge, a ceremony at Fort Calgary commemorated the Truth and Reconciliation findings and offered an emotional tribute to those who survived and those who did not.

“I want it to be known what was done to us was real. It’s everlasting and it’s cost a lot of lives,” said Lorna Born With A Tooth. “I only have four brothers and sisters left. Each of my brothers and sisters that attended residential school have passed away with alcohol addiction. So it means a lot to me.”

City officials say they’re taking the name change seriously and researching possibilities.

“I’m going to think of those children walking across that bridge,” said Borth With A Tooth. “I don’t want that name there. And it would be a real honour if it would change.”

There have also been calls for Langevin School to change its name; the Calgary Board of Education won’t say whether or not a change is under consideration.

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Langevin School

With a file from The Canadian Press