All 12 of the Indigenous names proposed to Edmonton city council as new names for city wards have been approved after councillors voted nine to four in favour of the motion Monday afternoon.
An all-female committee made up of 17 women representing First Nations, Inuit and Métis chose them, after discussions and conversations with the Indigenous community.
Mayor Don Iveson acknowledged that it may take Edmontonians some time to get to know which ward the new names represent and how to say them. However, he said it’s a learning opportunity.
“Even this discussion we’re having now is an opportunity to acknowledge that Indigenous heritage and learn some words and some concepts from Indigenous culture that otherwise wouldn’t have come into the public conversation,” Iveson said.
Rob Houle, whose voice is being used as a resource by council on the debate and is from the city’s Indigenous Resource Office, said each name has a story about their origin specific to the ward boundary — and a meaning.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the City of Edmonton to continue to be a leader in welcoming Indigenous people and communities into this city… as well as recognize some of the historical relationships and really working to educate everybody that comes to the city on the presence of Indigenous people and how they contributed to the city,” Houle said.
“Each name has a unique connection to the ward.”
Ward 3 councillor Jon Dziadyk put forward an amendment Monday asking that the new names also carry the original numbers in brackets, so Edmontonians aren’t confused about which ward is theirs, especially when it comes to election time.
Dziadyk’s amendment was was voted down 11 to two by councillors.
“Now that we have received the recommended names, I note that 10 of the 12 names do not relate to place or geography within the wards, even though that was specified in the bylaw,” Dziadyk said in a statement to Global News. “One-hundred-and-fifty-thousand dollars was allocated for consultation and so I want to know how widely people were consulted and if the broader Indigenous community is in support of these.
“Perhaps more work needs to be done to ensure that we select the right names with regard to stakeholder buy-in. I will be asking more about this during the discussion today, in council.”
In response to Dziadyk’s statement, Iveson said council never settled on the directional idea and that there was a robust engagement process with the Indigenous community.
Iveson also said he believes most people didn’t know the difference in wards geographically before either, and rather just knew the ward numbers.
“The wards were named one to 12 before and most people didn’t know the difference, they just needed to know who their councillor was and I think they’ll be able to do that under this system as well,” he said.
Houle also reflected on Dziadyk’s comments about the new ward names and the challenge some will face in trying to pronouncing them properly.
“Everyone has problems pronouncing new names and new words when they first try, and I’m sure councillors like Dziadyk had difficulty getting people to pronounce his name once he started getting to know people,” he said.
Council said a bylaw will come forward before the end of this year to make the renaming of the wards official before the election cycle so that people who wish to run for council can specify where.
If the bylaw is passed by Dec. 31, changes to ward boundaries and names would come into effect on the date of the next Edmonton general election: Oct. 18, 2021.