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MP wants to change North Island-Powell River riding name in spirit of reconciliation

North Island-qathet moniker is “acknowledgment of First Peoples of this territory” — Rachel Blaney
North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney requested a name change to her riding on April 20. Photo courtesy Youtube

The North Island-Powell River riding might get a new name, after MP Rachel Blaney requested it be changed in response to the recent Boundary Commission’s decision to maintain the name.

The Boundary Commission was charged with redistributing the electoral districts in B.C., and presented a report to the House of Commons in February. The report did not change the layout of the electoral district, and in the report the commissioners decided to maintain the current name of the riding.

Blaney spoke at a committee objecting to the name, and requested it be changed to North Island-qathet.

““The proposed name change is much more reflective of the entire riding,” Blaney said. “While Powell River is only one city is a large area, qathet is the name of the regional district, so it encompasses a much larger, more representative area.”

“The ‘Powell River’ part of my riding is reflective of just one community not the many communities that are represented,” she said to the commission.

The word qathet means “working together” in the Tla’amin language, and was gifted to the qathet regional district in 2017. The Tla’amin First Nation asked Blaney to request the name change, and the move was supported by the K’omoks, Homalco and Klahoose First Nations, all of which are represented in the riding and share a language and culture with the Tla’amin First Nation.

“The name change is an acknowledgement of the First Peoples of this territory,” Blaney says. “Powell River is named for the first superintendent for Indian Affairs in British Columbia, a man who brought in many colonial policies, including residential schools. Changing the riding’s name is a vital step towards reconciliation.”

“K’ómoks First Nation is fully supportive of the proposed name change for Rachel Blaney’s federal riding,” said Elected Chief Councillor Ken Price. “Including qathet in the riding name acknowledges Tla’amin, one of our Sister Nations, both culturally and historically, and provides important recognition of the First Peoples of the region. Promoting Indigenous languages is an encouraging step in the reconciliation process.”

Blaney also said that she spoke to the mayor of Powell River who had no concerns with the change.

“The proposed electoral riding name change is a small and tangible step on our reconciliation pathway, but is one that will have great impact for Tla’amin Nation and our citizens,” said Tla’amin Hegus (Chief) John Hackett. “Israel Wood Powell, for whom the City is named after, has caused deep suffering in our community, which continues to affect us to this day. Tla’amin Nation appreciates MP Rachel Blaney’s ongoing support and reconciliatory effort her office shows for our community and our Sister Nations through initiatives like this.”

RELATED: ‘Funky’ changes to new and existing provincial ridings on Vancouver Island

Open letter by First Nations Leadership Council directs Prime Minister to act

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Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Campbell River Mirror in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
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