The name of Neill Street shouldn’t change, said Port Alberni resident Cameron Stefiuk.
Stefiuk presented a slide show titled, “Save A.W. Neill” at Monday night’s city council meeting, and also gave a brief history of Neill—noting the former MP’s (1921–45) accomplishments as a Cherry Creek businessman and his contributions towards Old Age Pension and making Remembrance Day a separate holiday.
Stefiuk said his main concern about the motion was the cost, and went over the document provided by Councillor Chris Alemany. “That’s $19,000 coming out of our pockets,” he said. “Our city council doesn’t really have the best reputation for having accurate projects.”
He emphasized that “bad history is still history.” He pointed out that Maquinna, a former Nuu-chah-nulth chief who also has an elementary school named after him, was known for capturing and scalping Europeans.
Stefiuk brought forward both paper and online petitions with 855 signatures in opposition to the name change. Response to his actions has been mixed, as he has been hailed as a hero, but also a white supremacist. Stefiuk said that he does not believe he is racist, but, “we live in a generation where we have to be so scared of what we say.”
He voiced his opinion against reconciliation, saying, “No amount of retribution will ever compare to the horror and mentality of people like A.W. Neill. It is my very belief that reconciliation creates more division and harm than it does good.
“I don’t feel that I was personally responsible, and have to reconcile for things that I have nothing to do with.”
Following Stefiuk’s delegation, Alemany thanked him for standing up for what he believed in and for pursuing a petition.
“That was one of the ways that I became involved in municipal government,” he said.
“That’s important to do, no matter what the issue. If you stand up for something and you believe in it strongly enough, then you should have the ability and the right to do that, and not suffer any sort of hurt from that.
“You should not be talked down to for doing that.”
Alemany also addressed some of the financial concerns, saying that there are “misconceptions” about how much a street name change would cost, and potential grant avenues for the change.