Three Ottawa city councillors whose wards include the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway are calling on the federal government to launch an Indigenous-led process to rename the road as soon as possible.
Macdonald was a Father of Confederation who was elected Canada's first prime minister in 1867, leading his party to victory six times before his death in 1891.
During that time, Macdonald's government enforced policies that starved Indigenous people to force them from their land, outlawed their ceremonies and centralized and expanded a residential school system that took generations of children from their families and tried to wipe out their cultures, as detailed during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The legacy of those schools was unearthed again last week when the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced a search had confirmed the presence of the remains of 215 children buried at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.
Estimates of the number of children who died after being forced to attend the residential schools range from 4,100 to more than 6,000.
Road renamed in 2012
On Wednesday, Ottawa city councillors Jeff Leiper, Theresa Kavanagh and Catherine McKenney published a letter reflecting on last week's discovery and calling on the federal government to rename the parkway, which runs west of downtown along the Ottawa River.
"As First Nations people across Canada demand justice for the ways they have been repeatedly failed by our governments and institutions, the need for renaming this prominent area in the nation's capital is evident," they wrote.
The councillors are asking the federal government to follow the example of Charlottetown, where council decided unanimously this week to remove a statue of Macdonald from the P.E.I. capital's downtown.
In Ottawa, the federal government would be involved because the parkway is managed by the National Capital Commission (NCC), a Crown corporation that manages many roads, paths, parks and other spaces in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.
The parkway was renamed for Macdonald in 2012 after Ottawa historian Bob Plamondon, who went on to serve on the NCC's board, pushed the city to rename Wellington Street on Parliament Hill after Macdonald.
Renaming the former Ottawa River Parkway was seen as a compromise, and the NCC's chief executive officer said at the time no other names were considered.