Thursday, August 13, 2009

Frenchisizing La Ville Marie:: Ruing the Rue Amherst?

In Montréal, councillor Nicolas Montmorency representing Riviere-des-Prairies-Pointe-aux-Trembles is seeking to "Frenchisize" street names at a 24 August meeting. He has a bone to pick with Rue Amherst, named after a British Army officer, Jeffrey Amherst. Amherst, as it turns out, is a rather unsavoury character from the past. According to an article in the National Post, Montmorency claims::

"...Jeffrey Amherst pioneered the practice of genocide in the Americas with the use of bacterial agents and also states that he had previously declared the native people a 'vile race.'"

Charming. Amherst was also responsible for laying siege to Montréal in 1760, causing the French to capitulate. Montmorency has also created a Facebook group, Francisation des rues de Montréal, where he has posted his motions. One of the motion states::

"The culture and history of Montreal's English should not be unjustly represented by someone overtly in favour of the extermination of a people/Attendu que la culture et l’histoire anglophones de Montréal ne doivent pas être injustement représentées par une personne ouvertement en faveur de l’extermination d’un peuple.

Also on Facebook is a group, Jeunes Patriotes du Québec, who also have a Facebook page supporting the name change.

If you look on a map of Montréal, Rue Amherst {Google map link} might be better suited being renamed in its entirety. It turns into Rue du Parc-Lafontaine, which is innocuous enough, but as it crosses Rue Rachel in the Plateau, the street in-line with Rue du Parc-Lafontaine's trajectory is Avenue Christophe-Columb. While I'm not sure of the associations in Canada and Québec, Christopher Columbus is viewed as a dark figure for indigenous peoples in many areas of the US.

As it turns out, Montréal street names are often renamed on the basis of politics and geography.

For example, Boulevard Dorchester was renamed for the famed separatist, Réné Levesque, except in the predominantly anglophone Westmount {above - link to Google map}.

Montmorency also wants changes to University Street, McGill College Avenue, and City Councillors Street, so that they become Rue de l'Universite and Avenue du College McGill, and Rue des Conseillers municipaux, respectively.
I don't have a real problem with the name changes, but then again I grew up in California, which had plenty of avenidas, calles, and paseos. I seem to recall a Paseo Westpark and always wanted to see a street with an idiotic name like Rancho Bob. It's interesting to me how the intersection of meanings and identity fuel political action. Now, maybe there needs to be a Facebook group in La Ville Reine to get people to pronounce Roncesvalles correctly.

Twitterversion:: Councillor in #Montréal seeking to get streets "Frenchisized," targtng Rue Amherst, nmed for 18th.C. British officer. @Prof_K

Song:: Poetaster - Miracle Fortress {Montréal, QC}

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