--Aylmer’s new municipal district still just a number; names forthcoming
As Gatineau prepares to unveil the name of Aylmer’s new electoral District 5, some have raised concerns that the selection process lacks transparency and opportunity for public input. Planned to occupy eastern portions of the existing Deschênes district and southern parts of the Plateau district, the new area is planned to include 10,475 electors.
During Gatineau’s Municipal council meeting on January 19, the President of the Parc Champlain residents' association Marc St-Onge requested that Deschênes district councillor Mike Duggan and the Comité de toponymie President Myriam Nadeau call the new district "Champlain", noting that choosing any other name would be a stretch.
In a letter sent to elected officials on December 15, St-Onge argued that the “Champlain” name is firmly established in the area’s cultural and historical character. From nearby recreation sites, to the bridge residents use to go to work every day, St-Onge presented a list of facts promoting Samuel de Champlain’s legacy on the area.
The city’s Comité de toponymie responded that it received St-Onge’s name suggestion. It added that the city announced the creation of a new electoral district in its west-end last March, responding to the area’s rapid population growth.
With that, it stated that municipal council mandated the Comité de toponymie to go through the process of finding an appropriate name for the district. It noted that the process has been led in accordance with the committee’s criteria to designate a territory.
Explaining that the name must be engrained in the area's geographical characteristics rather than its historic value, Nadeau responded that the criteria in place to decide the name of a district is different than that of a building or a street. In accordance with the Comité de toponymie's action plan, the analysis emphasizes names that promote women, cultural diversity, Indigenous people and Gatineau’s heritage, Nadeau said. When naming streets and buildings, files are handled by the Executive Committee of council. But in this case, as with the naming of the Pavillon Robert-Middlemiss, municipal council will decide, Nadeau said.
While recognizing St-Onge's desire to highlight the historical value of the "Champlain" name, Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin replied that the name is already commemorated a lot in the area. He argued that the name of a district, since there are so few of them, carries a lot of symbolic importance – adding that District 5 is a chance to pick a name that highlights women or Indigenous people rather than one that is already used.
Initially expecting the selection process to involve a public consultation, Deschênes district councillor Mike Duggan said the city has instead decided to put the power in the hands of the Comité de toponymie and "certain politicians", referring to the Mayor's executive committee.
Having attended one of the Comité de toponymie's meetings last September, Duggan said he proposed the name "Champlain", which he believes is the obvious choice, and "Miciming", an Indigenous word for "where there are oaks".
Aylmer district councillor Audrey Bureau was also disappointed in how the city has handled the file so far, stating that residents should be consulted. As far as names go, Bureau suggested the district be named after former Aylmer Mayor Constance Provost who passed away on January 9. Noting that Provost lived in District 5 for a considerable portion of her life and the impact she has on the community, Bureau believes it would be a fitting thing to do.
A believer that “Champlain” is the ideal name for District 5, Lucerne district councillor Gilles Chagnon said that the city’s name-selection process should be revised, noting that residents of the area should be consulted on the matter.
Municipal council addressed the naming of District 5 during a private meeting on January 26, Bureau said.