Towns and places in Canada are revisiting their racist names
Calls to purge Canada of many racist reminders are growing stronger, and several towns and places with problematic names are taking a serious look at what they can do about it.
Three Ontario townships, Vaughan, Russell and Kitchener, are each taking steps to address the racism inherent in the namesakes.
"The City of Vaughan was named after Benjamin Vaughan, a well-known politician and enslaver," it says.
"Benjamin Vaughan was a racialist that viewed Black bodies as chattel, or property, that could be owned, and that type of hatred has no place in our community."
Similarly, Russell, named after Peter Russell, an 18th-century government official who delayed the abolition of slavery is exploring the best course of action for possibly changing its name.
Russell, Ontario is a small town outside of Ottawa that many call home. However, the town itself has been named after Peter Russell, a corrupt politician who owned slaves and actively fought against the abolition of slavery in Canada.https://t.co/ysAllwlsSp— DEFUND THE FUCKING PIGS (@kingberniee) June 10, 2020
Kitchener is also revisiting the idea of changing its name.
It's named after Horatio Herbert Kitchener, a British general who fought the Indigenous forces of Africa, India and other places in the name of the British Empire.
not a big deal to change the name. i was changed from berlin to kitchener in 1916. that was due to anti-german sentiment. so doing the same due to anti-slavery sentiment will not be a stretch— lennox cadore (@lennoxc) June 16, 2020
What many may not know is how deeply these racist namesakes range in Canada, far beyond glorifying military heroes, with many places steeped in troubling appellatives.
In 2018, Researcher Bashir Mohamed compiled data from various geographical sites in Canada with racist names, many of which still exist today.
"When I was looking into John Ware, a famous cowboy and Black Albertan, I noticed that a ridge was named after him that was called "[expletive] John ridge." This made me question - are there other sites in Canada with similar names?" he wrote.
"This lead me to the Canadian Geographical name database where I put in some racial slurs and ended up with a couple dozen results - some official and some historic."
Canada’s first black cowboy had a place named after him. Know what they called it? “Nigger John Ridge”. If you don’t see racism here, cool. It’s what we expect. But don’t discount the insidiousness of it. We’re out here dealing with it everyday.— Dr. Sara Ghebremusse stan account (@Jon_Dujon) May 5, 2019
He discovered that many places across the country incorporate racial slurs into their names.
"The most important thing to understand is that Canada has an extensive anti-Black history that is relatively unknown to most Canadians," he continues.
"For example, Canada practiced slavery for more than 200 years, segregation was common, along with race riots targeting Black communities."
"Understanding this history allows us to understand the ways White Canadians viewed and continue to view Black people."
Let’s not forget that there are a lot of places in Canada with very racist names. Ex. Nigger rapids— BABYPLSKILLME (@avokedaa) June 6, 2020
Several of the most troubling have been rescinded, according to the database, thanks to advocate groups like the New Brunswick Black History Society and PRUDE which have helped to change multiple places with racist names.
Across Canada, calls to remove statues continue to grow as more people seek to confront reminders of Canada's racist past in response to widespread anti-Black racism protests across the country and around the world.
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