The sign is placed on the outside of the City of Powell River

Chippy west coast town starts its process to change a name

qathet Living, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Who’s leading the process to consider a name change for the City of Powell River? 

Tla’amin Executive Council members Erik Blaney and Brandon Peters, City of Powell River councillors Cindy Elliot and Maggie Hathaway, Mayor Dave Formosa, Hegus John Hackett, plus Stewart Alsgard (former City Mayor), Harmony Johnson (vice-president, Indigenous Wellness and Reconciliation for Providence Health Care), Davis Mckenzie (principal of Toxw oxw Communications), and Lyn Adamson (previous executive director for LIFT Powell River) – these are the locals who in 2021, came together to form the City of Powell River’s name change committee, known as the Joint Working Group.

Since December, the group of 10 has met four times to plan ways to involve both communities in the name changing process, so that all citizens can share their perspectives. The timeline is undetermined.

In June of 2021, Hegus John Hackett sent the City Mayor and Council a request to change the city name and remove ‘Powell’ from the name of the City, because the name refers to Dr. Israel Powell, who had been the Superintendent for Indigenous Affairs and had a hand in the creation of residential schools as well as banning potlatches. 

During the meetings, the group reviewed documents on which the City and Nation had previously collaborated: the 2003 and revised 2018 Community Accord, and the 2004 Protocol Agreement on Culture, Heritage, and Economic Development. 

These two documents are monumental for the Nation and the City, as they are the first municipality and First Nation in all of Canada to have created a formal relationship. The group also talked about the value of bringing in a third-party contractor to help support community engagement, as well as discuss how the Community Accord and Joint Vision will influence and shape the group’s upcoming work.

The new sign represents ‘skelhp’ the shishalh Nation name for the area ‘Saltery Bay.’

The City and Tla’amin have always found a way to maintain constructive dialogue with one another as official partners.

The Joint Working Group has already recognized the harms committed by Dr. Israel Powell against First Nations people in Canada, and that the memorialization of his name is inconsistent with the shared commitment to reconciliation.

The group also plans on meeting bi-weekly in 2022, to continue building a path forward 

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