The volunteers behind Ottawa's Sir John A. Macdonald Winter Trail are looking for a new name for the trail as human remains continue to be found in unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools.
The Sir John A. Macdonald Winter Trail runs parallel to the Ottawa River and the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, west of downtown Ottawa. Changing the name of the trail would be separate from any potential name change -- or lack thereof -- for the parkway.
While they know some people will be upset by a name change, the trail's volunteers recognize that the tide is turning.
"We want to keep with the times, and history did not start with Sir John A. Macdonald," said Dave Adams, the trail's head groomer.
The change is being driven by the now-widespread awareness of hundreds of remains in unmarked graves, at the sites of former residential schools in Kamloops, BC and in Saskatchewan, as well as Macdonald's key role in the design and implementation of Canada's residential school system.
"The trail, being a community trail, it's paramount for us for it to be a place where people feel comfortable to come and play in the snow together," Adams told CityNews Ottawa. "If this name is making people feel uncomfortable, we're prepared to change it."
Adams said volunteers are open to suggestions from everyone, including from the Indigenous community and its elders. They hope that a new name for the trail could reflect the area's entire history, not just its history post-Confederation.
The goal is to have a new name in place by September, when volunteers begin fundraising to pay for the upcoming winter's snow grooming costs.
We are a community trail and a place where we ALL come to play and celebrate snow and winter together. It is time that we retire the name and replace it with something that we ALL feel welcome. (If you have an idea, let us know) pic.twitter.com/W14FFU51Eg— SJAM Winter Trail (@SJAMWinterTrail) June 20, 2021