According to a recent Probe Research poll, a majority of Winnipeggers want to see Bishop Grandin Boulevard’s name changed.
The street’s namesake, Vital-Justin Grandin, who died in 1902, was a Roman Catholic priest who is considered one of the architects of the residential school system.
The discovery of the bodies of 215 Indigenous children in unmarked graves at a former Kamloops, B.C., residential school earlier this month has led to renewed calls to remove monuments to historical figures who were complicit in that system.
While 55 per cent of Winnipeggers polled said they’d like to see the name changed, a further quarter of respondents favour the compromise of keeping the name but educating people about Grandin’s involvement with residential schools.
Only 17 per cent said they want the street’s name to remain the same. The research was conducted by polling a random and representative group of 600 Winnipeg adults between June 2 and 11.
Probe said a similar study conducted in 2018 saw the majority (57 per cent) choosing to keep the name the same, but provide some education around the topic, while only 25 per cent wanted the name changed outright.
Winnipeg Indigenous activist Michael Redhead Champagne told Global News every small gesture toward reconciliation matters, but he doesn’t want to see the city rush into trading Grandin’s name for someone else who could prove problematic down the line.
“I am nervous. I don’t want us to go naming Bishop Grandin (Blvd.) after another problematic person,” he said.
“So I think it’s important for us to think about what are some of the ways we could rename Bishop Grandin into something that’s a little bit more respectful of those survivors who have been harmed by the legacy.”
Champagne said he welcomes a name change, and pointed to Edmonton — which has renamed all of its electoral wards with local Indigenous names — as a “beautiful” example of reconciliation in action.
The City of Winnipeg, however, could be doing much more.
“I think that this conversation about Bishop Grandin that we’re having is an important conversation for us to be having,” Champagne said.
“I think renaming it absolutely has to happen, but the City of Winnipeg has much more capacity than just renaming a street. They’re in charge of police, paramedics, libraries, community centres, so I expect the city to be doing much more than just renaming a street.”
Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman is introducing a motion at the city’s Executive Policy Committee to officially rename Bishop Grandin Boulevard.
Bowman tweeted earlier this week that his motion would not only rename the boulevard, but also engage in a consultation process with the Indigenous community.
The motion would direct city’s Indigenous relations division to engage in consultations with “Indigenous peoples, including residential school survivors, elders, knowledge keepers, as well as Indigenous governments and community organizations to bring forward their proposal for re-naming Bishop Grandin Boulevard to a name that honours Indigenous experience, culture and history.”