Thu., June 23, 2022
Naming Lower Coxwell Avenue to make way for a parking lot was easy. Renaming it to honour its history as an Indigenous trail is proving trickier.
Located between Queen Street East and Lake Shore Boulevard East, near Ashbridge’s Bay, the street was hastily rechristened in 2019 to provide an address for a new Green P parking lot off Coxwell Avenue.
City Councillor Paula Fletcher, who has led the effort to have it called Emdaabiimok Avenue, said she agreed at the time, on the understanding that it would be more properly named after consultation with Indigenous communities.
Emdaabiimok (Em-DAH-bee-muck) is derived from the literal translation “where the road goes to the water” and was recommended by the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, whose ancestors travelled the path to the lake for fishing.
Now city staff are saying that the name can’t be changed because, under the city’s own rules, streets can’t be renamed more than once every 10 years.
The Toronto Police Service and Toronto Fire Services raised concerns that the proposed name would be difficult to spell and pronounce, a concern rebutted by Fletcher (Ward 14, Toronto-Danforth).
“We have many street names that are difficult to spell or pronounce,” she said, citing Roxborough, Gloucester and Wroxeter as examples.
Fletcher said that when the Green P parking lot was proposed, it was discovered that the lower section of Coxwell that connects to Lake Shore didn’t have a name, and it had to be given one quickly to allow for construction of the parking lot and other city projects. The name Lower Coxwell Avenue was felt to be in keeping with the style used for other city streets, including Jarvis Street and Lower Jarvis Street.
Fletcher said that the once-every-10-years rule is to ensure that residents don’t have to change their addresses multiple times in the space of a few years.
There are no buildings on Lower Coxwell. It is bordered by a skate park, rugby field and the parking lot on one side, and a city park on the other.
Fletcher said the renaming proposal went through an extensive consultation process that included the city’s Indigenous Affairs Office, Aboriginal Affairs Committee and the Mississaugas of the Credit.
Bob Goulais, an Anishinaabe from Nipissing First Nation and founder of Indigenous relations consulting firm Nbisiing Consulting Inc., led the process.
“A lot of these things that we name — parks and roads and structures — we should be using Indigenous names for those, and it ensures that we’re keeping our history alive and well,” Goulais said, adding that it’s also important to consider how to keep traditional land uses alive.
Toronto recently embarked on an effort to add more Indigenous place names to the city.
Fletcher said the renaming has the support of hundreds of local residents.
“We should be trying to broaden our minds and our psyches,” said John Ota, a resident of Riverdale, pointing to New Zealand, where the Indigenous Maori language has official status, as an example for Canada.
Fletcher said she is hopeful the name Emdaabiimok will prevail when it goes to Toronto and East York community council on June 29. Depending on what happens there, the issue is scheduled to be considered at the last full council meeting of the summer on July 19.
Community councils have the authority to rule on street naming matters that are compliant with the city’s official street naming policy. As the proposed new name does not comply, it will have to go to city council even if it is approved at the community council level.
“We’ll just have to see what we can do next week,” said Fletcher.