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Vancouver to debate policy allowing residents to rename streets, buildings

Vancouver city council will debate a motion Monday night on creating a way for residents to try to rename streets and buildings. Global News

Have you ever felt that one of Vancouver’s streets or public buildings is in need of a name change?

According to Vancouver city councillor Andrea Reimer, there’s currently no way of doing it.

The city does have a naming committee, created in 2012, but Reimer said it is only empowered to bestow names on new or unnamed civic assets.

That can be a problem, she said, if residents feel strongly that the city got things wrong in the past.

READ MORE: Vancouver building named after man behind Komagata Maru decision

“I mean, it’s certainly not a daily or weekly or even monthly occurrence, but when it does happen it tends not to be trivial,” Reimer said. “It’s something that somebody has been sitting with for quite a while, feels quite passionately about.”

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Reimer said names that have raised concerns in the past include the Grandview Highway, which is not actually a highway, and Trutch Street, named after B.C.’s first lieutenant-governor Sir Joseph William Trutch.

Trutch held views about Indigenous people now widely criticized as racist, and once described the Indigenous people of the Oregon Territory as “the ugliest and laziest creatures I ever saw.”

The possibility of renaming Trutch Street in Victoria sparked a heated debate earlier this year.

WATCH: Debate over renaming Victoria streets

Click to play video: 'Debate over renaming Victoria streets' Debate over renaming Victoria streets
Debate over renaming Victoria streets – Jan 18, 2018

Reimer said the proposal is of added significance, given the City of Vancouver’s expressed commitment to Indigenous reconciliation.

Vancouver city council unanimously adopted a motion last year which seeks to give greater representation to women, minorities and First Nations when naming new or currently unnamed civic assets.

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Borrow from Toronto

Reimer is proposing the City of Vancouver adopt a policy based on Toronto’s renaming procedure.

“Toronto has, it seems like, a very good, workable policy,” she said.

“It simply says that you submit the request [for] the street or building that you want to be renamed, that you need to get a petition signed by 75 per cent or more of people that are along that street or next to that building, and then it can be considered by the naming committee.”

READ MORE: Vancouver plazas get new Indigenous names as part of reconciliation process

Applicants would need to explain why they want the name changed, speak to the relevance of the public asset and submit a map.

If the proposed new name has Indigenous significance, consultation with the local Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations would also be required.

WATCH: Vancouver Park Board votes to rename Siwash Rock

Click to play video: 'Vancouver Park Board votes to rename Siwash Rock' Vancouver Park Board votes to rename Siwash Rock
Vancouver Park Board votes to rename Siwash Rock – Oct 12, 2017

The policy would not apply to Park Board or School Board property.

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After that, the city’s existing policy for choosing new names would apply.

“These are very difficult debates, but I think necessary and certainly legitimate ones,” Remier said.

“Giving them an avenue to occur in a fair way at the city seems reasonable.”

Vancouver city council will debate the motion on Monday night.

— With files from Jon Azpiri and Neetu Garcha

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