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Halifax council seeks report on renaming ‘Micmac’ streets

The street names were called ‘antiquated’ and 'colonial' during Tuesday’s regional council meeting

3 min read
caption Micmac Street in Halifax is one of several streets in the HRM mentioned in Coun. Sam Austin's motion for a staff report to recommend changes to street names.
Nicola Seguin

Halifax regional council took the first step at Tuesday’s meeting toward renaming several streets whose names include the term Micmac.

Councillors unanimously voted in favour of a motion to request a staff report on renaming Micmac Boulevard, the Micmac Transit Terminal and Micmac Drive in Dartmouth and Micmac Street and Micmac Court in Halifax.

Micmac is an anglicized version of the word Mi’kmaq which refers to the First Nations people of Mi’kma’ki, the unceded territory encapsulating all of Nova Scotia and other parts of Atlantic Canada and Quebec.

Coun. Sam Austin brought the motion to council. He said the issue has been “simmering” in Dartmouth for some time and seems to come up every couple of years.

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“It’s something that I think it’s high-time that we take a look at,” Austin said in council on Tuesday. “From what I understand (Micmac) is not necessarily a slur, but it’s not the proper pronunciation of their name.”

Austin also described the term as “antiquated,” “colonial” and “just very outdated.”

“As a matter of respect, I would think that it’s incumbent on us to actually use the proper name,” Austin said.

Coun. Pam Lovelace proposed an amendment to the motion for the report to include recommendations to rename Micmac Drive and Micmac Park in her district. The amendment was approved by council.

“In this realization and understanding of truth and reconciliation and hope for peace and friendship, we have a wonderful opportunity here,” Lovelace said. “We don’t know where this will go, but I think it’s wonderful that we are having this conversation.”

Austin’s motion was informed by The Cornwallis Task Force report, which provides recommendations to help the municipality to work towards an “equal partnership with Aboriginal people in Canada.”

Recommendations 13 and 14 in the report suggest changes to street names in Halifax. While the report doesn’t specifically reference the streets that Austin’s motion proposes to rename, he believes his changes are in line with the recommendations.

“When this came forward, I was a little surprised that Micmac Boulevard and some of these weren’t included,” Austin said. “But, even though they weren’t specifically mentioned, this is clearly the sort of thing that the task force was contemplating.”

Austin’s motion doesn’t propose new names for the streets but it does provide the following suggestions for the staff report to consider:

  • The east-west portion of Micmac Boulevard becomes part of Glen Manor Drive.
  • The portion of Micmac Boulevard between Glen Manor and Woodland Avenue gets a new name that commemorates the Avenue, the “former Black community that previously existed in the area for approximately 200 years.”
  • The Micmac Transit Terminal gets the same commemorative name as Micmac Boulevard or a new one of its own.

Several councillors expressed their desire for the staff report to seek input from the Mi’kmaw and Black communities when deciding on new names for the streets.

Coun. Shawn Cleary said that he’s had multiple conversations about the proposed changes with residents in his district; some are in favour of the changes and some are opposed.

“People are always talking about erasing history when it’s statues, place names, team mascots,” Cleary said.

“You can’t erase history by changing a street name or taking down a statue. In fact, what we’re doing is helping people understand history.”

While private properties, like the Micmac Mall, and the province-owned Lake Micmac are not directly impacted by this motion, councillors hope this sets an example for the province and private business owners in Halifax.

Mayor Mike Savage said that, growing up on Lake Micmac, he and his friends never really questioned the name.

“All of our consciousness has changed over the last number of years and I think we have to acknowledge that,” Savage said. “I’m very proud that we’ve taken some of the steps that we have taken.”

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Simon Smith

Simon Smith is a multimedia journalist with The Signal in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is an avid traveller and is interested in local news, business,...

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