Port Alberni city councillor Chris Alemany would like council to consider renaming a couple of city streets in the new year.
According to 93.3 The PEAK, which received a letter written by Alemany and leaked to the radio station, Alemany aims to rename Neill Street and Indian Avenue with the argument that the names are racist and offensive.
Neill Street (and AW Neill Elementary School) is named for Alan Webster Neill, who was an MLA for Comox-Alberni from 1925-1945. During his time in the House of Commons, he was notably an opponent of Japanese immigration to Canada, pushing for internment of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War. He also supported the Residential School system in the Alberni-Clayoquot region.
The issue has blown up on social media, with several hundred comments on a few Facebook posts.
Alemany told the AV News he would prefer not to comment further at this time.
“It’s a sensitive issue,” he said. “Not just because of the street names but because it’s also about reconciliation.”
He wanted to bring forward the issue in an informative and respectful way, and said that he does not plan to engage in any conversation on the issue until everyone involved has been consulted properly.
He also posted a comment on the PEAK’s Facebook page saying that he is “disappointed” in the way this matter was brought to the public.
“No decisions have been made. Council has not discussed this as a council,” he went on. “There is more information here that I hope people will wait for before forming an opinion on the issue.”
Earlier this year, council put forward a motion to look at changing the names of Gertrude Street, Stamp Avenue and Third Avenue by amalgamating the three street names into one. But after receiving negative public input, council decided to keep the names the same.