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Associations say McGill causes ‘trauma,’ push to change metro station name

Click to play video: 'Renewed call to remove McGill from Montreal metro station name' Renewed call to remove McGill from Montreal metro station name
WATCH: The African Diaspora Association of Canada is calling on the city of Montreal and the STM to re-baptize the McGill metro station. The association says hearing McGill’s name is a traumatic experience for Black people. But the STM says they can’t change the names of metro stations because they are part of the toponymy of the city of Montreal and considered part of its heritage. – Feb 14, 2022

The African Diaspora Association of Canada is asking the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) to change a downtown metro station’s name. Its members say they experience “trauma” every time they take the metro, especially when it stops at McGill station.

“When we hear the name McGill is traumatic to us, right? It’s like you telling Jewish people to take a metro called Hitler,” said Otito Atansi, African Diaspora Association of Canada member.

The station shares the name with James McGill, the founder of McGill University and an enslaver.

“We know that he enslaved at least five people, both Indigenous and Black,” said Charmaine Nelson, Canada Research Chair in Transatlantic Black Diasporic Art and Community Engagement and director of the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery.

“He knowingly exploited enslaved people in the Caribbean who he would have understood to be the ones who were being forced to produce the rum, sugar, molasses on sugar cane plantations.”

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Read more: McGill University removes contentious statue of founder James McGill from downtown campus

In a statement, the STM writes that “we are sensitive to the concerns expressed and work to promote diversity and combat systemic racism,” adding that the public transport agency created a moratorium on name changes in 2006.

The Black Coalition of Quebec argues that the STM can reverse its own ruling, it just refuses to act.

“Not changing the name of McGill metro station is supporting systemic discrimination,” said Max Stanley Bazin, Black Coalition of Quebec president.

Members of the Black community say changing the metro station’s name is a starting point.

“If we can start from there, you can initiate the change from there, maybe in the future, in going to the street, you go to the university,” said Atansi.

Read more: Outgoing STM CEO says public transit faces a lot of challenges

The African Diaspora Association of Canada has sent a letter to the City of Montreal asking for its help. However, the administration said it has no power when it comes to changing metro stations’ names.

“We can’t change the past. That’s what I’m saying. The past is the past and right now we live together, but we need to change,” said African Diaspora Association of Canada president Soumaila B. Coulibaly.

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Coulibaly is hoping to further discussions with the city and the STM in order to change McGill station’s name to something that doesn’t create trauma for members of the diaspora.

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