New neighbourhoods need new street names, so Red Deer City Council will consider a new policy on Monday to ensure these monikers are “transparent, consistent, clear” — and inoffensive.
If council approves a new draft policy, the former Intermediate School, now the city’s Culture Services building, can finally be named, and a small backlog of other titling work can be taken care of.
If council doesn’t adhere to a naming policy, “the city may experience major reputational damage… when a municipal name no longer reflects Red Deer’s current community values of equity and inclusion and needs to be removed,” a report to council warns.
Some long-established Canadian institutions have re-branded in recent years after public controversies arose regarding their historic namesakes. Metropolitan University in Toronto is a prominent example.
The post-secondary previously known as Ryerson University, dropped its association with Egerton Ryerson after a mob threw part of his statue into Toronto Harbour in 2022. Although historians say the educator was a friend of First Nations people and had no direct influence on the Canadian residential school system, as alleged by his detractors, Ryerson was asked in 1847 to contribute ideas as to the best way of introducing industrial schools to aboriginal tribes.
The City of Red Deer used to have a Municipal Features Naming Committee, but it was one of six committees disbanded by council in 2016. This created a policy gap, regarding “our expectations and procedures to name municipal features,” states and administrative report to council.
Discussions as to how to fill this gap got underway before the pandemic but the work was delayed because of COVID.
The draft policy that will go before council on Monday would make councillors responsible for approving future names as submitted by administration. The main criteria would be choosing simple, unambiguous titles that are appropriate to way-finding (or not confused with similar names).
In the past, pioneering families were usually featured on our street signs. Under this draft policy, submissions could come from further afield.
However, too long names might not be eligible because of signage limitations. Also, monikers that could be misused in a derogatory or profane manner, or that belong to an elected official currently in office; or are inconsistent with the mission, vision, and values of The City could not be chosen.
Civic pride, public image, as well as commemorative naming criteria, would be considered. Names with historical significance, landmarks, local flora. fauna, or partnerships with Indigenous communities, could also qualify.
If a person’s name is chosen, the person must meet at least two criteria: having demonstrated excellence, courage, or exceptional dedication to service; volunteered or given “extraordinary help or care;” risked their lives to save others, or achieved excellence. Names of those closely connected to Red Deer would be preferred over those who have achieved national or international status but are not closely connected to the city.
And financial contributors could still name new city buildings under the terms of the city’s sponsorship policy.