Moratorium on civic renaming requests

Moratorium on civic renaming requests while reconciliation framework development underway

(North Cowichan, B.C.) – North Cowichan Council has directed that civic asset renaming requests and requests for bilingual signage be paused while staff develop a reconciliation framework that will provide more equitable and collaborative direction. The moratorium includes the renaming of facilities, parks and other public assets, and also pauses renaming and bilingual signage requests that are currently under consideration.

The direction was a recommendation by North Cowichan’s First Nations Relations Committee and was developed through research into current and past practices within North Cowichan, as well as other municipal and provincial organizations. The proposed reconciliation framework will take into consideration the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) Calls to Action, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (The Declaration), and consultation with North Cowichan’s First Nations and other equity-deserving groups regarding their preferred involvement.

Bilingual (English/Hul'q'umi'num') signage has been explored and implemented in an ad hoc fashion across the Cowichan Valley for a number of years. Definitive policy direction in North Cowichan will help inform how bilingual signage is approached in the future.

The Province, through the BC Geographical Names Office, has engaged local governments (January 2022) on proposed updates to provincial Geographical Naming Principles, Policies and Procedures, which outline how decisions about geographical place names – such as mountains, rivers, and other such features -- are made. An explicit proposed change the Province is engaging on is to “acknowledge the importance of documenting and restoring Indigenous place names as an act of reconciliation.”

North Cowichan is committed to reconciliation and in September 2021, Council directed staff to prepare a process, plan, and budget to implement the TRC’s Calls to Action that relate to municipal government, including using The Declaration as the framework for reconciliation. The Declaration alludes to the importance of place naming or renaming, including Article 13:

“Indigenous Peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.”