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Group wants to see Langevin name dropped from Cobourg's west pier

By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today

VALERIE MACDONALD/NORTHUMBERLAND TODAY
Meghan Sheffield says the West Pier, formally known as the Langevin Pier, should have its name changed, as its namesake, Sir Hector-Louis Langevin, was a key creator and supporter of residential schools. She will be part of a delegation appearing before Cobourg council to ask for the change.

VALERIE MACDONALD/NORTHUMBERLAND TODAY Meghan Sheffield says the West Pier, formally known as the Langevin Pier, should have its name changed, as its namesake, Sir Hector-Louis Langevin, was a key creator and supporter of residential schools. She will be part of a delegation appearing before Cobourg council to ask for the change.

COBOURG -- A delegation to this Monday's Cobourg council will ask councillors to change the official name of the west pier.

It is labelled as Langevin Pier on a map used during recent public town hall meetings about the harbour, Meghan Sheffield said in an interview, and its namesake, Sir Hector-Louis Langevin, was a key creator and supporter of "residential schools."

As a result of noticing this, Sheffield said she and Nichole Beatty "reached out to Alderville as it seemed like a subject about which Indigenous voices, those directly affected by the legacy of residential schools, should be heard."

Chief Jim Bob Marsden confirmed he is part of Monday's delegation about changing the pier's name.

"If you see the current name"¦this past history shows it should be removed," he said.

Both he and Sheffield referred to the fact that an Alderville resident died while working on the pier. More information was provided by Alderville First Nation chief administrator officer Joanne Smoke who states in an e-mail that there is an obituary documenting the death of the Alderville man.

"Eldon Smoke was drowned on or about May 28 1955 - while working on a dredge operated by the J.P. Porter Company out of Montreal Quebec," Smoke stated.

In a pre-council media release, the group quotes Langevin from a 1883 speech he gave to Parliament.

"The fact is that if you wish to educate the children you must separate them from their parents during the time they are being taught. If you leave them in the family they may know how to read and write, but they will remain savages, whereas by separating them in the way proposed, they acquire the habits and tastes "¦ of civilized people.

The delegation release also states that some projects across the country, including Cobourg's west pier, "were named for Langevin during his tenure as Public Works Minister, a position from which he later resigned amid corruption scandal. Earlier this year, Calgary's Langevin bridge, and Langevin Block, which houses the Prime Minister's Offices in Ottawa, were renamed due to the same concerns. Though the name is not commonly used -- the pier is usually referred to as the "West Pier" or "West Headlands," the official name remains on maps, and it has never been formally renamed."

Beatty made this comment in the same release.

"Given the conversations around the Truth and Reconciliation Report and the historical lens of Canada's 150th, this is an excellent opportunity for some education about local history and its impacts."

Beatty is also co-chair of the Cobourg 150 Committee.

"This is a chance to learn from the past and to do better moving forward," she urges in the release.

The delegation will not suggest a new name but ask that a council committee, including a member from Alderville First Nation, decide on one, along with signage "to indicate the pier's name and its history."

vmacdonald@postmedia.com

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