Should Frank Oliver’s name be removed from public spaces in Edmonton?

Click to play video: 'Should the city rename Oliver neighbourhood?'
Should the city rename Oliver neighbourhood?
WATCH ABOVE: On Aug .25, 2017, Fletcher Kent filed this report about a group raising concerns about Frank Oliver, the man a downtown Edmonton community is named after, due to his controversial past. – Aug 25, 2017

Frank Oliver founded Edmonton’s first newspaper and is a namesake for schools, parks and an entire neighbourhood – but some are calling for his name to be removed from places other than museums or books.

Marisa Peters is part of a group encouraging the city to get rid of the Oliver name because of his controversial actions, saying his dark side shouldn’t be honoured.

In addition to establishing the city’s first newspaper, Oliver created the Northwest Territories’ first public school system and then went on to a career in politics.

Oliver was an MLA and also an MP. It was during that time that he implemented an immigration policy banning black people, and another that chased the Papaschase First Nation off its land.

Story continues below advertisement

At the time, Oliver is quoted as saying, “Better men need the land.”

Peters is holding an anti-racism rally on Saturday to demand change.

“We aren’t erasing the history,” she said. “I think that history needs to be named and put into textbooks and museums. I think those names need to be remembered but not commemorated.”

She said there are good alternatives to the Oliver name.

“I think that we [can] find better people to be honoured, to be honest.”

But not everyone agrees. Oliver resident Victor Kennedy said he wants to maintain the status quo.

“Just leave it the way it is. That was a part of history,” he said.

Mayor Don Iveson said he understands both sides.

“There is a mixed story with Frank Oliver,” he said. “How we approach a conversation about names and about history is really the opportunity here.”

Iveson said it’s important not to have a knee-jerk reaction to the concerns being raised.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Calgary’s Langevin Bridge renamed Reconciliation Bridge

Watch below: On Jan. 23, 2017, Lisa MacGregor filed this report about Calgary’s Langevin Bridge, which was named in honour of a father of confederation who is also tied to a dark chapter in Canadian history.

Click to play video: 'Calgary moves closer to renaming Langevin Bridge'
Calgary moves closer to renaming Langevin Bridge

The mayor said he is open to having a discussion about Oliver and other controversial names.

“Maybe that leads to name changes. Maybe that leads to interpretation. I don’t think that’s solely up to me. We have to have a lot of engagement with the community.”

Edmonton’s historian laureate, Chris Chan-Yen Phillips, agreed it’s a complicated issue.

“It asks us, ‘Are we celebrating this person or are we just remembering him?’ If we are celebrating him, which parts of that legacy are we celebrating?”

Story continues below advertisement

Oliver isn’t the only name some are calling to be removed. John A. Macdonald is also under fire and his name is on a number of schools across Canada.

READ MORE: The controversy over Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, explained

Watch below: On Aug. 24, 2017, David Akin filed this report about the past of Canada’s founding father and first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, coming back to haunt him. There’s a growing campaign to remove his name from schools and buildings in Ontario.

Click to play video: 'Calls to remove John A. Macdonald’s name from Ontario schools'
Calls to remove John A. Macdonald’s name from Ontario schools

A mural in the Grandin LRT station, painted by Aaron Paquette, serves to remember residential schools.

Paquette believes controversial names should be treated the same way.

“Rather than mythologize our history, we can understand it, learn from it and move forward in a better way together.”


Sponsored content