Statement from Fort Frances Councillor Douglas W. Judson
Fort Frances = POLITICS – Last night, council of the Town of Fort Frances agreed with a recommendation from committee to proceed with renaming Colonization Road East and West.
This is good news for our community, but long overdue. For the next thirty days, members of the public will be invited to submit proposed names for the two roads as well as suggestions for officially recognizing the Town’s decision to rename these roads (such as the placement of a plaque). I welcome and look forward to their submissions.
This is a milestone, but as I stated during last night’s meeting and at committee last week, I share the disappointment of those who wrote to council about the process which was followed on this issue. Instead of taking a position at the outset on the painful legacy of colonization in our community and acknowledging it, our approach invited a public debate about whether colonial policies and history were actually racist and harmful. That was irresponsible, as we have now heard from numerous constituents. We already had answers to those questions from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
During our meeting, I asked council to address this deficiency by making the next step of our process clearly focused on reconciliation and our explicit reasons for renaming Colonization Road. I proposed that we do so by not just committing to change the name, but by asking our community to propose names which reflect Indigenous history, culture, or language, or the themes of reconciliation. This is what I initially proposed in November, and council’s new policy on road names even calls for Indigenous consultation. To my disappointment, no member of council supported this amendment, despite a majority of the people who wrote to us asking us to take this approach.
This was not my only disappointment. The Mayor’s comments were misplaced and misdirected. She repeatedly suggested that there was a need for council to hear “both sides”. Racism doesn’t have two sides worthy of equal council consideration. This was obvious. She also stated that those who will have to change their address are owed an “apology” and will be “victimized” by this decision of council. This equates the harms of colonization with the minor burden of changing one’s address, which is hurtful to those who are actual victims of colonization. These comments underscore the need for further council leadership on these issues.
The Mayor’s remarks also suggested it was improper of me to bring this item forward to begin with or that I did not follow procedure, and appeared to blame me for division in the community caused by the discussion of colonization and racism. That is false and I fundamentally reject this assertion and the continued interference with my right to bring business to council. I intend to continue to use my role on council to support equity-seeking causes and people.