'We cannot erase history': Where Kitchener and its councillors stand on renaming the city
Published Tuesday, June 16, 2020 12:06PM EDT Last Updated Tuesday, June 16, 2020 4:21PM EDT
KITCHENER -- The City of Kitchener says it has “no plans” to change its name in response to a social media post looking into the history behind the name.
Residents voted to change the city’s name from Berlin to Kitchener during the First World War in 1916. The city’s namesake -- British general Horatio Herbert Kitchener -- was prominently featured on recruitment posters at the time.
In a Facebook post, Kitchener resident Jenna Thomas argued the city should consider changing its name due to the general’s actions in his time with the military.
“It’s not surprising that recent world events have us contemplating the origins of our City’s name,” city officials said in a statement to CTV News Kitchener. “We acknowledge that the legacy of our namesake, Horatio Herbert Kitchener, a decorated British Earl who established concentration camps during the Boer War, is not one to be celebrated.”
The city says it doesn’t want to “condone, diminish or forget” Kitchener’s actions, but believes the city has “become so much more than its historic connection to a British field marshal.”
Although a name change isn’t on the table, the city says it’s working on changes to dismantle systemic barriers and eliminate anti-Black racism internally.
Several city councillors expressed a similar sentiment, saying that the city has more pressing issues to resolve in regards to racism than a name change.
Here's what the councillors had to say:
Ward 1 Coun. Scott Davey: He’s “open to the discussion,” but says there is more pressing issues at hand for the city to deal with first.
He also says he would “prefer a deeper discussion of amalgamation first,” lest the region risk renaming twice, something he says would be “costly and confusing.”
Ward 5 Coun. Kelly Galloway-Sealock: She says she hasn't heard from her constituents on the matter, but says she would "listen to the pros and cons of changing the name of the city before making any decision."
Ward 7 Coun. Bil Ioannidis: He referred to the city for an official response
Ward 10 Coun. Sarah Marsh: She also referred to the city's official response, saying that it "does not close the door on future considerations." She also says that the city has "more pressing equity diversity and inclusion work to do first."
CTV News Kitchener reached out to the other city councillors in Kitchener but did not hear back by 4:15 p.m.
Over the next few months, the city says it plans to create an equity and inclusion policy, develop a training program with courses on anti-racism and discrimination, and change its recruitment and promotional policies to remove systemic barriers within the city’s administration.
“It’s true that we cannot erase history, we can only learn from it,” the city said.
Last week, a small Ontario township took a step to forsake its name’s history.
Russell Township announced it was looking for a new namesake to replace Peter Russell, a government official who delayed abolishing slavery in the 18th century.
The township’s name will stay, but officials there want its name to honour a different Russell in the future.