This article discusses an offensive slur, The Brunswickan has decided to censor every mention of it.
In response to persistent advocacy and calls for change, New Brunswick is taking steps to rectify offensive place names with a historical connection to racial slurs. The government has initiated a 28-day consultation period to rename the community of Sq–w Cap and Sq–w Cap Mountain, both located in Restigouche County. The decision comes after years of efforts by individuals like Lily Lynch, a Mi’kmaw woman based in Saint John, who has been pressing the government to eliminate derogatory terms from place names.
The term “sq–w” has derogatory connotations, originating from the Algonquian word for young woman but evolving into a disrespectful and misogynistic term after European colonization. Lily Lynch, along others, has been urging elected representatives and officials from the Tourism, Heritage, and Culture Department to address the issue promptly.
However, the process of changing place names is complex and involves a toponymy evaluation process. Minister Tammy Scott-Wallace acknowledges the need for a solid process to reach decisions, citing the ongoing procedural review. This review is part of a broader evaluation process, initiated in March, that aims to incorporate traditional knowledge and public input, including dialogue with First Nations.
Lynch expresses concern over the slow pace of change, suspecting comfort and complacency may contribute to the delay. She emphasizes the importance of recognizing the impact of derogatory names on the affected population and calls for a faster resolution.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, particularly 13 through 17, highlight the importance of language and culture, emphasizing Indigenous peoples’ right to reintroduce names that were taken away. Similarly, Article 13 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Persons asserts the right of Indigenous people to reintroduce their own names for communities, places, and persons.
Recall that until 2020, the Faculty of Law building in UNB was named Ludlow Hall, after George Duncan Ludlow, who had connections to slavery. The path to change began in 2019, when after complaints from staff and students, UNB President Paul Mazerolle emphasized the need for a thorough examination of the university’s rules about changing building names, and created a working group expected to provide recommendations by May 1, 2020. Following their recommendation, the building renaming was approved by the board of directors.
In a separate initiative, the province announced the renaming of a northern New Brunswick mountain to Meto’mqwijuig Mountain, reflecting its original Mi’kmaw name. The changes follow consultation with Mi’kmaw and Wolastoqey leaders, showcasing a positive step towards reconciliation.
These developments mark a significant stride toward addressing historical insensitivities in nomenclature, with ongoing efforts to align with Indigenous perspectives and foster a more inclusive and respectful environment. The consultation period for renaming Squ–w Cap and Sq–w Cap Mountain invites public input, demonstrating a commitment to collective decision-making in shaping the region’s cultural landscape.