Oliver leads way in dealing with problem history
The Community’s effort to change its name
may be a sign of things to come
By Aubrianna Snow
THE NEIGHBOURHOOD currently known as Oliver is a trailblazer among Canadian communities in the effort to change its name, which honours controversial historical figure Frank Oliver.
The formal conversation around name-change didn’t begin until 2017, with the commemoration of Canada’s 150th anniversary, Oliver Community League President, Robyn Paches says.
“Over the next few years, community members advocated to the community league. This came to a culmination in June of 2020, when we had a large push from the global civil rights movement that was occurring at the time.”
Although the path to a formal name change was unclear when talks began, Paches says he has consistently been committed to the process.
“It was an incredibly big, daunting task that really hadn’t been done before at this level. We decided, clear path or not, let’s advocate for it and see where we go.”
Frank Oliver is known for his work as a federal minister and as the founder of the long-defunct daily newspaper the Edmonton Bulletin. He was also instrumental in removing Treaty Six Indigenous peoples from their land, specifically https://macewanjournalism.com/15082-2/the Papaschase, Michel, and Alexander First Nations. He also had a hand in making Canadian immigration policy more restrictive.
Although he was a prominent figure in the development of Edmonton and Canada, the impacts of his racism and colonialism are felt more strongly than those of his various titles and achievements.
The Oliver Community League is working with HeartStage Consulting to conduct the process of finding a new identity for the neighbourhood. This will involve consulting directly with those people most impacted by Oliver’s problematic legacies, before moving forward with a broader consultation including all neighbourhood residents.
The impact of the name-change effort has spread to Edmonton at large, as the city is working to develop a policy to accommodate the process. Paches says he hopes that the work can serve as an example for other communities whose names have problematic historical legacies.
“This is really precedent-setting, because the issue of renaming and how to deal with problematic histories is a really important generational question. Our community has a chance to be a real leader in showcasing how to properly and equitably address that.”