Edmontonians push to rename Oliver neighbourhood

Click to play video: 'Oliver residents take their neighbourhood’s namesake to task'
Oliver residents take their neighbourhood’s namesake to task
WATCH ABOVE: Residents of downtown Edmonton's Oliver neighbourhood are bringing former MP and journalist Frank Oliver's past into question. Should his name be removed? President of the Oliver Community League, Robyn Paches and Jacquelyn Cardinal, an Oliver community member and director of Naheyawin, are spearheading the discussion with the #UncoverOliver Facebook campaign – Jun 22, 2020

An initiative to rename the Oliver neighbourhood is gaining traction after its namesake’s actions were called discriminatory.

The Oliver Community League first proposed the idea on Sunday, which was National Indigenous Peoples Day.

In a lengthy Facebook post it outlined Frank Oliver’s life in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Oliver was a journalist and Member of Parliament who was the co-founder of the Edmonton Bulletin, but the community league said some of his actions are the reason it is pushing for the renaming of the area.

“He was personally responsible and an active perpetrator in chasing the Papaschase and the Michel Bands from their land. He used the Edmonton Bulletin to perpetuate a lot of negative stereotypes around Indigenous peoples,” community league president Robyn Paches told Global News.

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“He also used his position as an MP to put forward a lot of anti-immigration policy that added preference to individuals of able body of certain races.”

LISTEN BELOW: Robyn Paches joins the Ryan Jespersen Show

Working with the Indigenous community, the community league started a campaign called “#UncoverOliver” to share their findings on the history of Frank Oliver.

Tuesday, it officially called for the district to be renamed.

Paches told Global News the idea is not new. Protests in 2017, during Canada’s 150 birthday celebrations, also called for the change.

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It’s something a distant relative of Frank Oliver supports.

Ancestry tracking has show Frank Oliver is Edmontonian Brent Oliver’s great great uncle’s cousin or brother.

Brent is blunt about his thought’s on Frank’s actions.

“Problematic is a light way of putting it. Regrettably racist is another way of putting it.”

Brent said he believes the move would be long overdue and that the city should go all in.

“There’s some people who have said, ‘Well just put out a plaque that sort of decommemorates what he did.’ Well why don’t we do the opposite? Why don’t we change the name and then put out a plaque that says this used to be called Oliver and this is why it was changed?”

Click to play video: 'Frank Oliver’s distant relative supports neighbourhood name change'
Frank Oliver’s distant relative supports neighbourhood name change

Jacquelyn Cardinal is related to Papaschase. The Oliver resident said the name is disturbing to Indigenous people in the area.

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“We have very specific, very real implications directly in our family from the legacy of this man. And I live here. And I love living here. And that’s what’s so frustrating about having the name this way,” she said.

Area councillor Scott McKeen said he has heard those same concerns from members of Enoch Cree Nation.

McKeen said it’s important the initiative and decision come from the community.

“Just sort of hoping that we and the establishment, particularly the white establishment, can approach this with the proper humility and curiosity.”

The community league wants to see the city to bring a community engagement team into the area to host a widespread consultation process.

That process, the league says, must be Indigenous led with further involvement from the Black community, newcomer community and from people with disabilities.

It should also include a large number of residents.

“We actually get to invent something new,” Cardinal said. “We actually get to bring in Indigenous governance actually into the processes so we can start to think about place names a little more differently and we can think about them in a way that reflect all of the diversities of people that call Oliver home.”

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Already Cardinal says there has been mixed reaction to the idea but that for the most part, it has been supportive.

“People are saying, ‘Oh, you’re erasing our history.’ And the reality is that often monuments, statues, place names like Oliver aren’t great teachers and they’re not great historians.”

The community league would also like to see a policy in place to reexamine all community names going forward. Currently there are only guidelines for new communities.

Mayor Don Iveson tweeted that he and city officials would “do our best to facilitate these tangible steps for reconciliation and anti-racism.”

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While it would be a municipal decision, area MLA David Shepherd also tweeted his support.

“Thank you to @OCLYEG for your leadership in taking this step to open dialogue,” it read in part.

There is currently no timeline on when consultation would start or when a decision would be made.

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