The City of Kingston launched the naming campaign for the Third Crossing at a press conference earlier today, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Through consultation with Indigenous communities and nations, a short list of names are expected to be presented for public feedback by the end of May 2021.
“This is a step that follows from the decision that council made back last summer,” Mayor Bryan Paterson said at the press conference. “We wanted to name the largest infrastructure project in Kingston's history with something that would reflect the Indigenous culture, history and heritage of our city and this region.”
In July of 2020, City Council committed to naming what is now the Third Crossing in a way that reflects and celebrates Indigenous contributions and stories from Indigenous nations communities and residents in this region both past and present, according to the presentation by Jennifer Campbell, Manager of Cultural Heritage at the City of Kingston. This decision was later reconfirmed by Council during their discussions of reconciliation and Sir John A. Macdonald legacy projects in October, 2020.
“This is part of a long process of community discussion and consultation around how to tell more inclusive histories, how to create new landscapes of commemoration, and how to afford opportunity to celebrate different histories than those we may have traditionally seen in the telling of Kingston history,” Campbell said.
Campbell’s presentation outlined the naming process which will continue throughout 2021 and into early 2022.
The naming consultation will begin with discussions with Indigenous Nations who have historical and enduring ties to the area, including Alderville First Nation and Tyendinaga Mohawk Council, as well as with interested members of the local Indigenous community.
Chief Donald Maracle of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Council shared his views on his role and on the legacy of Macdonald in general after being named to the City's Sir John A. Macdonald History and Legacy working group.
“I know that Sir John A. Macdonald is an important historical figure in Canada's colonial history and, also, that he is recognized by the City of Kingston as one of its most distinguished citizens. Members of society will see Sir John A. Macdonald through many different cultural lenses. He will be seen as a lawyer, a visionary, one of the founding 'Fathers of Confederation,' first Prime Minister, the constructor of the railroad, but also by Indigenous communities as architect of the Indian Act, an exploiter, dispossessor and oppressor who carved up Indigenous lands without consultation,” Maracle said. “The discussions are sensitive and will require an unbiased analysis of all aspects of Sir John A. Macdonald's life and legacy. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls for truth and better education of Canada's history; and in particular the history of its relationship with Indigenous people, who have occupied the land for thousands of years. I look forward to the discussions on these topics and I appreciate the City reaching out for Indigenous input on this subject.”
Maracle, and the other members of the Sir John A. Macdonald History and Legacy working group, will act as consultants during the Third Crossing naming process.
“The opportunity here is for these individuals, nations, and communities to come together and offer insights, particularly around the themes and the concepts of what the name could or should involve in terms of Indigenous history and culture, both past and present. This is expected to result in a shortlist of names, by the end of May, 2021,” shared Campbell.
Kingston residents will then be asked to provide feedback around the proposed names and their meanings. The community input will be brought back to the Nations, Indigenous communities and Indigenous residents, and a name will be selected and then shared with City Council for affirmation through a report by the end of 2021.
“We anticipate that there will be a need to share not only the origins, but also the meaning of the names that are being brought forward,” Campbell said. “It's very important that names are understood, as well as the deeper meanings behind them, so that the community can offer feedback, not only on the word or words themselves, but also on their context, their meaning, and how they relate to them as citizens of Kingston.”
When asked about the significance of giving the bridge an Indigenous name, Campbell said “We have heard from Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members that naming things is an important symbolic action to draw attention and acknowledgement to Indigenous history and presence in this region, both in the past and into the future.”
“The consensus coming out of City processes, engagements, and conversations has been that creating more space to share Indigenous names and Indigenous history is an important way of people seeing themselves in the community, and for non-Indigenous residents to see Indigenous history and culture within the community, as well,” she continued.
Melissa Hammell, Vice President, First Peoples Group, said that naming a road or infrastructure project was number one on a list of symbolic actions the group identified while working with the City of Kingston.
“We are excited to be guiding the engagement for the naming of the Third Crossing and are looking forward to working with Nations, Indigenous residents and Kingston community members to bring forward a name that honours Indigenous culture and history and that reflects the meaningful relationships being built in Kingston,” she said.
“It's important to note that the symbolic actions can only happen in concert with the substantive and non-systemic changes that need to happen, as well,” Hammell continued. “It's not just about checking a box; it's about this whole larger project that gets conversations going. What better symbol than a bridge to bring everybody together around the table to learn about Indigenous history and culture in the area?”
Residents are encouraged to learn more about the naming process on the Third Crossing website at https://thirdcrossing.cityofkingston.ca.
Story by Jessica Foley, The Kingstonist, for the Local Journalism Initiative