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Kitchener to review renaming of city's 'Indian Road'

A city staff report to the finance and corporate services committee notes the renaming has been brought forward "on many occasions" by Kitchener citizens
indian road
Indian Road and Heritage Drive in Kitchener

The City of Kitchener's Finance and Corporate Services Committee is set to discuss and potentially approve a staff strategy for the renaming of Ward 1's Indian Road. 

That report, headed to council on Monday, proposes a 12-month long strategy to see the street renamed -- noting the issue of the street's inappropriate name has been "brought up on many occasions by Kitchener citizens."

Back in May of 2021, a group of high school students from Grand River Collegiate Institute, situated on Indian Road, wrote an open letter to the City of Kitchener calling for a change to the street name, arguing that it was "offensive, disrespectful and a cause of harm to others" while noting that the street received its name during a time when we were "not as educated and compassionate."

With a subcommittee of the Regional Reconciliation Action Plan Working Group (RAPWG) now established for the "larger issue of renaming public spaces," city staff said the issue of renaming Indian Road has once again been brought up by members of the local Indigenous community and "identified by the RAPWG subcommittee as a priority." 

Staff have outlined in their report several reasons as to why it "makes sense" for Kitchener to pursue changing the road's name, including the "expectations from the community" for the city to make an effort toward Indigenous reconciliation work, as well as commitments to the Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism policy. 

The renaming effort is expected to include collaboration and consultation with residents of Indian Road, as well as business owners, students and staff from Grand River Collegiate Institute and local Indigenous communities. Expectations are that those groups will play a role in the process of designating a new name for the Kitchener street, eventually creating a list of potential options to be forwarded to Kitchener council. 

The 12-month process of renaming the road is expected to require between $65,000 to $90,000 for creation and installation of new road signs, the potential hiring of an "engagement consultant" and stipends for 36 households situated along Indian Road, as well as the residents and management company of a nearby apartment complex. Those funds will flow from the 2022 budget process.

City staff also note that renaming of the road falls in line with a recently published article by the Ontario Human Rights Commission on the development of a new policy regarding the "discriminatory display of names, words and images" and the impact street names, buildings, landmarks, logos and more can have on individuals and groups. The policy aims to recognize the continuing impact of colonialism on Indigenous peoples as well as "Ontario's historical links to slavery." 

Luke Schulz

About the Author: Luke Schulz

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