A controversial motion to rename a Port Alberni street in the spirit of reconciliation was defeated at last night’s city council meeting, but a new motion was brought forward, instead.
The motion to potentially rename Neill Street brought out a crowd during the Monday night meeting. In addition to speakers and delegations at the beginning of the meeting, council received 47 letters in response to the proposed renaming, both pro and con.
City councillor Chris Alemany, who first brought the motion to city council, began his comments with an apology.
“I want to say that I’m sorry that this issue has been so controversial,” he said. “My intent was for this to be a positive experience that we could have an opportunity for growth. Up until today it hasn’t been. But I do still believe that we can make this into a positive experience that we can grow from.”
Mayor Mike Ruttan agreed that the motion has grown into something different than what was intended, and suggested a different motion entirely.
“I don’t think simply renaming a street accomplishes what you are trying to accomplish,” he said. “I think there’s way more that we can do.”
Ruttan made a motion for council to direct staff to bring forward a report as soon as possible proposing options to further the city’s efforts and commitment towards reconciliation with First Nations in the community.
Both Councillors Ron Paulson and Denis Sauve expressed their disappointment that Alemany’s motion has revealed this division in the community. Councillors Jack McLeman and Dan Washington both admitted that all of the comments they have heard have been against the name change. Councillor Sharie Minions expressed her support of Alemany’s motion, and said that she saw the two motions being able to work together.
Alemany’s motion was defeated in a 5–2 vote, with Alemany and Minions voting for it.
Ruttan’s motion to direct staff to bring forward a report for reconciliation was then carried.
During the question period, Jolleen Dick, an elected councillor for the Hupacasath First Nation, stepped forward to express her disappointment with council’s decision.
“The comments this evening extremely disappoint me on the attitudes of experiencing a small but significant change in the community that would result in a small, nominal amount just comparable to other interesting spending of the city of Port Alberni.
“Although some of you may disagree, you are sending the message that it is okay to maintain racist values in the community.”
She addressed city council with a number of questions, including whether or not they were prepared to allocate a significant portion of their budget towards reconciliation equivalent to or above a potential name change.
“We hear people say ‘reconciliation values need to be coming from First Nations people.’ I am here. I have spoken, and I hope you take my questions seriously.”
For a more detailed report on this meeting, folllow albernivalleynews.com.