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Rideau-Goulbourn councillor wants ward name changed due to slave owner, absentee history

Scott Moffatt says he has already faced some push back from his residents.
2018-12-12 scott moffatt mv1
Ottawa City Councillor Scott Moffatt, December 2018. Mike Vlasveld/ OttawaMatters

Ottawa's city councillor for the ward of Rideau-Goulbourn is moving to change the name of Ward 21, because of it's ties to a British slave owner. 

However, Scott Moffatt is clarifying that his problem isn't even necessarily with the personal history of Henri Goulbourn, but that he had no part in actually building the local community.

"The fact that he was a slave owner isn't the issue here, its part of our history, we can't change our history," Moffatt says. "It's the fact that Goulbourn never stepped foot in the township, or even in Canada."

Goulbourn Township, 1818-2000, was named after the absentee slave owner, known for owning one of the largest plantations in Jamaica.

"We have some Fathers of Confederation in our history that don't have the brightest past," the councillor adds. "We balance that out by saying they built this country -- I really tried to find that with Henri Goulbourn."

In Great-Britain, Goulbourn was also known as a member of parliament in the 19th century, which Moffatt says was the reason the township was named after him. 

Still, some residents have voiced their concerns about renaming the ward.

"I have receive push back on the cost, and people saying, 'Don't I have better things to do,'" explains Moffatt. "The reality is there is no real added cost with the changing of a ward name, there's no signage or anything identifying the ward, its just the name."

When talking about residents pushing back on history of the township, Moffatt said, "Nothing changes, its history still exists, but the township is gone -- has been since 2000 -- and I don't understand why we would keep honoring the name of a slave owner."

The councillor says he understands the need to remember the history of the township and even Henri Goulbourn, adding he will ensure it's remembered, even if the name changes. 

Moffatt hopes to complete the process before the 2022 municipal election.

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