indian road toronto

The drive to change a racist road name in Toronto is picking up steam

A debate surrounding changing what some consider a racist road name is picking up steam again in Toronto right now.

It's not the first time roads named "Indian" have been brought up for potential renaming, but a Facebook post in a local group reignited the inflammatory discussion. 

Indian Road, Indian Grove and Indian Trail are all clustered near Toronto's High Park neighbourhood, and there's even an Indian Road Crescent Junior Public School.

A self-proclaimed "white settler/colonizer" posted in the Friends of Roncesvalles Facebook group asking, "has our community talked before about renaming Indian Road?"

"Would love research, resources and any Indigenous or non-settler perpectives please!" the query concludes.

The post racked up almost 200 comments before commenting was turned off by group administrators. While there was some of the usual mud-slinging associated with private groups on Facebook, many people, including Indigenous community members, were willing to contribute opinions.

Eva Jewell referenced the way that attention was actually brought to a need to change these street names years ago by Anishinaabe activists.

She explains she's "an actual Indigenous person" with Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee heritage and ancestors from all over the area who until recently lived around the corner from Indian on High Park Blvd. She's also a sociology professor at Ryerson (or X).

Jewell comments that while changing these names is a start, settlers can help Indigenous communities by contacting MPs and MPPs to make sure they're committed to fulfilling the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

"Indian IS A DEROGATORY TERM, and it is also a LEGAL TERM which is why you will still hear First Nations peoples use it, but it is not to be used socially or conversationally by anyone who is not First Nations/Indigenous in Canada," writes Jewell.

"I get that this is a bit confusing but let me just say this: I would be incredibly offended if any non-Indigenous person called me an Indian. How do I know all of this? I teach this, I am a Professor in this stuff."

The essential reason the street is so named is because of the area's history of First Nations trails.

There are some that commented on the post who don't want the name changed, who say the action is too small and they should be aspiring to greater change instead, and some who say it's a waste of money. Others who grew up in the neighbourhood don't want to see the names changed for nostalgic reasons.

One commenter said they tried to raise the same discussion last year.

"I tried to address this a year ago and I got a lot of rudeness! I won't restate my rationale here but I do not think white folks should have a say," they wrote.

"To many Indigenous people, 'Indian' is a slur, for good reason. If the Indigenous community wants it changed, the rest of us should swallow whatever objections we have and help to make it happen."

One person offered a perspective that hoped to balance remembering our history, warts and all, with embracing the future.

"Street names, statues, and behaviours that are offensive to good citizenship can be kept in museums where we keep witness to all the ignorant and harmful people and behaviours of the past," they wrote.

"I'm proud to live in a neighbourhood that is becoming increasingly educated about what a civilized society involves."

If you're a settler looking for more information on matters like this, here are some helpful resources on how to be an ally to Indigenous peoples and to Indigenous-led conservation.

Lead photo by

The Ogimaa Mikana Project

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