Rosemarie Buchanan was one of two Port Alberni residents presenting delegations at Monday’s council meeting with opposing viewpoints on A.W. Neill and the motion to change the name of Neill Street.
Buchanan, a School Board 70 trustee, presented a delegation in support of the name change. She gave an in-depth report on A.W. Neill, including many of his comments towards people of other races—comments where he likened Japanese people to “smallpox disease” and said “This is a white man’s country and we want it left a white man’s country.”
Neill’s comments, Buchanan said, were considered “flesh-creeping” in his time.
“Some have said to me that this kind of dialogue was acceptable in A.W. Neill’s time,” she said. “That people spoke that way, and nothing was thought of it. In fact, this is also incorrect. Neill was taken to task by some of his fellow members of Parliament.”
“Racists gain a false sense of power when there are others who share their viewpoints,” she said.
This is why, she added, that much of the online reaction to this motion snowballed out of control very quickly. “I would respectfully remind our mayor and council that whatever was discussed on Facebook is not a scientific poll, and should not be regarded as evidence in favour of keeping Neill’s name on the street.”
Buchanan emphasized that the motion was not about political correctness, but about righting a wrong perpetrated by someone who is now honoured in the community.
“We cannot fix all the wrongs.
“But we certainly have the ability to make the changes we can.”