Justin Trudeau – City to consider renaming Langevin Avenue after late Algonquin leader
City council will decide Wednesday whether to rename a residential street in Ottawa’s Beechwood neighbourhood after a respected Indigenous leader — and thereby drop its connection to a historical figure with ties to one of Canada’s darkest chapters.
Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King will bring forward a motion calling for Langevin Avenue in his ward to be renamed Commanda Way, in honour of the late Algonquin political and spiritual leader William Commanda.
Commanda, who died in 2011 at the age of 97, served as chief of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, near Maniwaki, Que., for almost two decades.
He spent years advocating for the rights of Indigenous people in Canada and for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
The street is currently named after Hector-Louis Langevin, a father of Confederation widely considered one of the architects of the residential school system, in which thousands of Indigenous children suffered physical, mental and sexual abuse.
“It’s important to recognize Indigenous culture and a person who has driven, basically, the protection of culture,” said King, who is also the city’s liaison for anti-racism and ethnocultural relations.
“We can easily say that William Commanda … spent his entire life working towards reconciliation and ensuring the continuity of Indigenous culture.”
Commanda was a proponent of social justice and equality who fought passionately against the abusive school system Langevin helped create, said his granddaughter, Claudette Commanda, executive director of the First Nations Confederacy of Cultural Education Centres.
“He was a fierce, fierce, fierce advocate for justice. He was a fierce protector of our rights,” she said.
She said her grandfather also encouraged good relations between First Nations people and non-Indigenous Canadians, years before that became a national project in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“It was about reconciliation, building the right relationship between our peoples to ensure that … First Nations people and settlers — that we would live in peaceful harmony and mutual understanding and respect,” she said.
Renaming the street, she said, would represent a reclamation of the history of the land and provide an opportunity for people in Ottawa to learn more about the city’s history as Algonquin territory.
Process began in 2018
The renaming process began in 2018 under King’s predecessor, Tobi Nussbaum, who’d been contacted by a Langevin Avenue resident who wanted to change the name.
King continued that process after he was elected in April 2019.
He said the proposed name, Commanda Way, came from a list of names generated by his office following consultations with the street’s residents and Ottawa’s Indigenous community.
If the motion passes, it wouldn’t be the first time a space named after Langevin has been renamed: in 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dropped the name Langevin Block for the building across from Parliament Hill that houses the Prime Minister’s Office.
It is now officially called the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council.
Similarly, a bridge in Calgary that used to bear Langevin’s name was renamed Reconciliation Bridge after a vote from the local council.
King’s motion says his office would cover all costs related to the renaming, including any costs for new street signs.