There is the argument that changing place names because of acts that were committed long ago is a way of whitewashing history. There are other arguments that we should not judge someone like Frank Oliver through a 21st-century lens — that, at the beginning of the 20th century, his views would not be seen as an extreme.
But consider the work of American scholar Crystal M. Fleming, who takes this on in her book, How to be Less Stupid About Race. While this passage is about how Americans view the legacies of white leaders who supported slavery and racialized policy, it can be applied to the Canadian reality.
She wrote: “Others will object and say that condemning the founders for their moral crimes against humanity is unfair, because it means using our current values to judge historical figures. But this narrative – long dominant (and typically invoked by white men) — deliberately ignores the fact that people spoke out against and opposed white supremacist genocide and chattel slavery while these things were happening.”
Basically, Fleming states that the “that’s the way they thought at the time” argument is a lazy default.
And Aaron Paquette, the lone Indigenous member on City Council, said there is no way Frank Oliver will be forgotten. He said Oliver’s name will continue to scar Indigenous people for generations to come.
“Many of [his] contributions were built on betrayal and theft,” said Paquette.
“This is really profound work,” said Paquette of the work the community league did to engage residents. “It will mean a lot for generations to come.”