Calgary city council voted to rename the Langevin Bridge as the Reconciliation Bridge Monday evening, with only Coun. Jim Stevenson opposed.
The bridge, which opened in 1910, spans the Bow River, connecting 4 Street S.E. with 4 Avenue S.E.
It was named after Sir Hector-Louis Langevin, one of the Fathers of Confederation. Langevin also played a key role in the establishment and administration of the now-disgraced residential school system.
WATCH: Mayor Naheed Nenshi talks to city council about Langevin Bridge
“Renaming this bridge is not about vilifying one person for our history. It’s not about washing out our past. Or refusing to tell stories about our past. In fact it’s the opposite. It’s about acknowledging that history’s complicated,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said.
In the past, council unanimously approved a recommendation from the Calgary Aboriginal Urban Advisory Committee (CAUAC) to address the bridge’s name.
“The Langevin Bridge is a name that’s part of Calgary’s history, and there are better ways to further the discussion about reconciliation than by renaming the structure, Stevenson told council.
Joe Pimlott with the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary, says people are really distraught that it was named that. It’s a reminder of the horrors of Canada’s residential school system.
“That cultural genocide – it continues to live on and inter-generational trauma is always happening. So having a bridge that is traditionally named after an individual that had a key affect in that, is tragic” Pimlott said. “It’s important to rename it as a good gesture on the city in getting back to that camaraderie of working with the aboriginal people of Calgary.”
Ward 11 Coun. Brian Pincott said he hopes the name is a symbol of their commitment to work together.
“For survivors and generational survivors of the residential school system, hopefully it’s not a reminder of what they’ve been through anymore,” Pincott said. “This is a fundamental, foundational step that we can take on the path towards reconciliation.”
A 2015 report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada stated the residential school system amounted to “cultural genocide.”
With files from Lisa MacGregor