Winnipeg is set to spend over $316,000 in taxpayer funds on renaming two streets, Bishop Grandin Boulevard and Grandin Street, as part of an effort to distance itself from historical figures deemed controversial to progressives. 

The decision comes in the wake of similar actions in other cities, such as Toronto’s move to rename Dundas St.

The name changes, from Bishop Grandin Boulevard to Abinojii Mikanah and Grandin Street to Taapweewin Way, were recommended by the Indigenous Naming Circle after consultations with Indigenous communities according to reports before Winnipeg’s City Council. 

The Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development and the Riel Community Committee endorsed the recommendations, approving budget increases of $211,684.61 and $105,849.82 for the respective street renaming.

The allocated funds will be distributed across various city departments, including Winnipeg Transit, Public Works Department, Water and Waste Department, and Planning, Property, and Development Department.

The renaming process for Bishop Grandin Boulevard is estimated to include compensation worth approximately $100,000 for affected business owners. 

Critics have argued that activists have revised the history of Bishop Grandin and that he was actually inclusive of Indigenous people. 

Bishop Grandin, born in France in 1829, dedicated his life to a religious vocation and became a Catholic priest in 1854. Sent by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to work in what was then known as the New World, Grandin, despite lacking specific training, learned indigenous languages and focused on missionary work among the aboriginals in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and beyond. 

Recognizing the challenges faced by indigenous people, he worked tirelessly to secure funds and provisions, ultimately saving lives during a time of disease and societal changes. 

Grandin advocated for transforming traditional indigenous lifestyles, supporting education, and establishing industrial schools. 

Despite later controversy surrounding historical perspectives, Grandin’s administrative skills and contributions to schools, hospitals, and welfare efforts continued until his death in 1902. 

This move by Winnipeg mirrors the trend seen in other major cities like Toronto, where Mayor Olivia Chow supported the renaming of Dundas St. due to alleged historical ties to the global slave trade.

However, concerns have been raised by former councillors in Toronto about the financial burden of the $8.6 million project and its impact on critical infrastructure, including the transit system.

Additionally, those critical of the move have argued that activists have distorted 18th century politician and namesake Henry Dundas’ biography towards political ends. 

Toronto’s decision could have wide-reaching impacts on Toronto’s transit system, as exclusively reported by True North. 

Beth Waldman, Manager of Corporate Communications for the City of Toronto, noted that renaming Dundas St. would require replacing maps in 4,000 bus shelters, 75 subway stations, and on board all streetcars and subway train cars.