A street by any other name just wouldn’t be the same.
Tofino’s council isn’t ready to rename Main Street but could start looking to put the names of longtime local families on other public features more frequently.
Council recently reviewed a letter from Judi MacLeod that suggested Main Street should be renamed MacLeod Street.
“The MacLeod family moved here in the late 1890’s and most of them lived on Main Street. All these MacLeod men were veterans and very active in the Legion (also on Main Street),” she wrote.
“The wives were also very active in the community, forming the Ladies Auxiliaries for the Legion and the Hospital. They all raised their families on Main Street. I feel it would be a great tribute to these pioneer families to name a street after them and Main Street seems the most fitting.”
The district has a Naming of New Streets, Lanes and Parks policy that identifies roughly 50 names of families significant to Tofino, including the MacLeods, that aren’t yet bestowed on a street or public feature.
“In the case of a newly created subdivision, where new roads, lanes and parks are created, the developer is invited to submit proposed names for any newly created roads, lanes or parks within the subdivision,” the policy states.
“The proposed names shall be forwarded to Council for consideration.”
Prior to talking about MacLeod’s request, Coun. Greg Blanchette suggested local First Nations names should be added to the policy’s list before any other names are considered.
“We’ve had a lot of talk about reconciliation and what all that means and looking through our [policy], there’s a glaring omission in that there isn’t, that I can find, a single First Nations name in that entire list. I think it’s time we revamped our thinking on that,” he said.
“We talk about the desire to honours those persons who have historical significance within the district and surrounding area, I would say that nobody has more historical significance than our local First Nations.”
Blanchette made a motion to direct staff to review the policy and create a process for adding local First Nations names but no councillors seconded this motion so it fell without being discussed.
Speaking to MacLeod’s request, Coun. Duncan McMaster opposed renaming Main Street and suggested visitors wouldn’t understand the street’s significance if it was renamed.
“When I first came here, I thought this was Main Street,” he said motioning to Campbell Street.
“Main Street is important to be still called Main Street because, I think, it shows the development of the town from the water outwards…It’s important that towns keep that sort of heritage and Main Street remains Main Street.”
Blanchette suggested renaming public features rather than streets could be an easier way to honour local legends.
“For instance, Anchor Park is pretty generically named so we might consider changing the name of that rather than the entire street,” he said.
After the meeting, Blanchette told the Westerly his motion to find First Nations names likely didn’t find a seconder because it wasn’t relevant to the MacLeod name council was discussing.
“I was surprised about it initially but, thinking about it later, it wasn’t a motion that addressed the matter at hand so it was kind of a side avenue,” he said. “I talked about it with a couple of councillors later and they’re not adverse to the idea, they just think it needs its own separate discussion.”
He said he plans to do some research before raising the motion again and believes council will support it.
“I’m pretty hopeful. I think most of us on council, if not all of us on council, are pretty cognizant of the whole reconciliation thing,” he said. “Small things like renaming public features can be a step in the right directions. It’s a public acknowledgement of first nations and of the partnership between first nations and the district.”
He said reconciliation is high in the minds of local governments across the province.
“We’re all here. None of us are going anywhere. We have to begin to live together and cooperate in a really free and open manner, much more so than has been down up until now,” he said. “Reconciliation is in the cards. I think everybody realizes that and there are big steps and small steps we can take. Renaming a public feature is a small step perhaps, but I think there are many steps of all sizes that have to be taken to begin to repair the damage that’s been done over the past 100-200 years.”