Toronto Indigenous Street Renaming Hits Roadblock

It was easy to name Lower Coxwell Avenue to make way for a parking lot. Renaming it to honor its history as an indigenous toad proves trickier.

Located between Queen Street East and Lake Shore Boulevard East, near Ashbridge’s Bay, the street was hastily rebranded in 2019 as an address for a new Green P parking lot off Coxwell Avenue.

City Councilor Paula Fletcher, who took the initiative to name it Emdaabiimok Avenue, said she agreed at the time, on the understanding that it would be better named after consulting with indigenous communities.

Emdaabiimok (Em-DAH bee dung) is derived from the literal translation “where the road leads to the water” and was recommended by the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, whose ancestors traveled the path to the lake to fish.

Now city officials say the name cannot be changed because the city’s own rules allow streets to be renamed no more than once every 10 years.

The Toronto Police Department and the Toronto Fire Department expressed concern that the proposed name would be difficult to spell and pronounce, a concern that was refuted by Fletcher (Section 14, Toronto-Danforth).

“We have a lot of street names that are difficult to spell or pronounce,” she said, taking Roxborough, Gloucester and Wroxeter as examples.

Fletcher said when the Green P parking lot was proposed, it was discovered that the lower portion of Coxwell that connects to Lake Shore was unnamed, and one needed to be given quickly to allow for construction of the parking lot and other city projects. The name Lower Coxwell Avenue was thought to be in keeping with the style used for other city streets, including Jarvis Street and Lower Jarvis Street.

Fletcher said the once-in-decade rule is to make sure residents don’t have to change their address multiple times in the span of a few years.

There are no buildings on Lower Coxwell. It is bordered by a skate park, rugby field and the car park on one side and a city park on the other.

Fletcher said the renaming proposal has gone through an extensive consultation process, including with the city’s Bureau of Indigenous Affairs, the Aboriginal Affairs Committee and the Mississaugas of the Credit.

Bob Goulais, a Nipissing First Nation Anishinaabe and founder of the Indigenous Relations consultancy Nbisiing Consulting Inc., led the process.

“A lot of these things that we call — parks and roads and structures — we should use indigenous names for that, and it makes sure we keep our history alive and well,” Goulais said, adding that it’s also important to consider. how to keep traditional land use alive.

Toronto has recently begun an effort to add more indigenous place names to the city.

Fletcher said the renaming has the support of hundreds of local residents.

“We should try to broaden our minds and psyche,” said Riverdale native John Ota, pointing to New Zealand, where the native Maori language has official status, as an example for Canada.

Fletcher said she is hopeful the Emdaabiimok name will prevail when it goes to Toronto and East York City Council on June 29. Depending on what happens there, the matter will be discussed at the last full council meeting of the summer on July 19.

City councils have the power to decide on street naming matters in accordance with the city’s official street naming policy. Because the proposed new name is not satisfactory, it will have to go to the city council, even if it is approved at the municipal level.

“We’ll have to see what we can do next week,” Fletcher said.

Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter who covers City Hall and municipal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF

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