Calls grow to change streets named after Christopher Columbus on island of Montreal
By Brayden Jagger Haines Global News, Updated February 1, 2023 2:00 pm
A growing chorus of voices in Pointe-Claire is calling for a street presumably named after Christopher Columbus to be changed.
Columbus Avenue, a small avenue measuring less than 140 metres long that is located off Hymus Boulevard, is raising some controversy in the West Island city.
“I don’t think there is a shortage of notable people that the street can be named after, as opposed to the man known as the father of the slave trade,” Ray Coelho said.
Coelho, a resident of Pointe-Claire, says the city should no longer honour the tarnished historical figure in light of recent atrocities committed in the past.
“The name itself represents genocide to Indigenous people,” Coelho said.
Since raising the issue, the cause has gotten backing from the Red Coalition and the Mohawk council.
“Having a sign like Columbus Avenue is a contributing factor to these dog whistles of systemic racism,” said Red Coalition executive director Joel DeBellefeuille.
“You have the opportunity to do the right thing. Change the name of the street and let’s move on.”
Despite presenting the issue in November of last year, Pointe-Claire city council said it was not aware.
District councillor Brent Cowan said the city can’t be certain the name is based on the Italian explorer.
“We have to do our homework and actually find out if this was named after Jack Columbus or Christopher Columbus — we don’t know,” Cowan said.
While Cowan said the council would consider a possible name change if proven legitimate in the future, it would not act before the city of Montreal changes the name of Christophe-Colomb Avenue.
“If there is going to be a public outcry about using that name, Columbus, [Christophe Colomb Ave. in Montreal] should be looked at first, then we in Pointe-Claire would have to follow suit behind,” Cowan said.
There is a formal process to demand changes to street names. But in a statement to Global News, Montreal city officials said they “have not received any request from organized groups seeking to change the name of Avenue Christophe-Colomb.”
Coelho said he refutes the city’s response and vows to continue to push for the name to be replaced.
“Changing the street is just about putting it on the agenda at council,” Coelho said.
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