Saskatoon City Approves Controversial John A Macdonald Road Renaming

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After extensive deliberation, Saskatoon city’s legislative assembly has granted approval for a significant alteration to the city’s cartography. John A. Macdonald Road has been transformed, taking on a new identity as miyo-wâhkôhtowin Road.

This decision, ratified on a Wednesday, did not arrive effortlessly. Since June 2021, when the topic first emerged, a succession of unanimous votes had been calling for a change. However, this contention dissipated in the final meeting when several councillors expressed their discomfort towards the name change.

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Among these voices was that of Coun. Bev Dubois, who highlighted her lack of ease with the fleeting creation of the process for changing street names. “We have no predetermined process to accomplish this, thereby leaving me with worries about potential oversights,” she lamented.

Despite such opposition, the resolution was endorsed with an 8-3 vote. Interestingly, those voting against the name shift appeared to be more disturbed by the seeming absence of established guidelines and procedures for name changes, rather than the actual renaming itself. They saw the city as improvising the process rather than adhering to a recognized standard.

These dissenting council members, namely Randy Donauer, Darren Hill, and Bev Dubois, are standing by for the impending phase of the legacy review. This review is expected to deliberate on potential name changes of other streets, parks, or civic institutions, subsequently updating the city’s nomenclature policies.

Councillor Donauer expressed concern over the potential snowball effect that such alterations could induce. “My fear is that this may lead to an endless cycle of modifications to the names of our streets and parks, and even the pulling down of statues,” he cautioned.

Coun. Hill echoed similar anxieties. He feared that the renaming of John A. Macdonald Road could motivate demands for similar modifications to other streets, parks, or areas that bear the names of controversial figures. “We’ve essentially summoned a deluge of potential name change requests from individuals with differing legacies. I worry that this could lead to a broad spectrum of removals,” he stated.

However, those supporting the name change clarified that this initiative was essentially a trial balloon to gauge public response to such changes. Coun. Mairin Loewen showed no apprehension about the possibility of Macdonald’s contribution to history being overshadowed due to the renaming.

From this point, Saskatoon city staff will engage with residents regarding any complications resulting from the change. In the coming weeks, signs bearing the new name will begin to appear about town. Various community activities, including a smudge walk, are already being arranged in collaboration with wâhkôhtowin School, the new namesake of the now transformed John A. Macdonald Road.