I can't remember if I've come out against the renaming of Montreal's Avenue du Parc on this blog yet, or if I've just joined the anti-Avenue Robert-Bourassa Facebook group. Regardless: No fence-sitting here, it's a dumb, backwards idea. (Just when we should be celebrating the Cinema du Parc's return, too!)
Lysiane Gagnon has an article in La Presse today urging the renaming opponents not to throw in the sponge -- towel, that is, in English -- but some of her reasoning is a bit skewiff. She says that New York never renames its streets and avenues, and Paris neither. That's just wrong. Take a look at this page and you'll see that almost every week in 2004 a street in New York was renamed after a firefighter who died on 9/11. As for Paris, the last big street-renaming kerfuffle was in 2003 when part of the right bank of the Seine was rechristened Quai François Mitterrand.
So, it's not "provincialism" as Gagnon writes. Montreal does seem to be particularly prone to jumping the gun on street renaming, though. Gagnon reminds of the strange case when the street Acadian writer Antonine Maillet lived on in Outremont was renamed avenue Antonine-Maillet -- while she was still living on it.
My favourite street renaming fiasco was one a Bill 101 baby. Mountain Street near McGill University was accidentally renamed during translation to rue de la Montagne -- nobody realised that the street was not named after the mountain, but after Bishop Mountain, co-founder of Bishop's University and President of McGill from 1829 to 1835.
The only uncontroversial Montreal street renaming I can remember was when they named an alley on Crescent Street after the late journalist/boulevardier Nick auf Der Maur. Everytime drunk people wander into its dark recesses to pee, puke or poke, it's a fitting tribute to the man known for his bon-vivant escapades. (One anecdote retold by Mordecai Richler: "Nick once told me that years ago he and Conrad Black, out on the town, inadvertently repaired to a gay bar for drinks. Taken for unwelcome intruders, they were asked to leave, but an irate Black insisted on their democratic right to stay as long as they pleased. And so they did.")
Language is politics in Montreal, so it makes sense that every street renaming will be the subject of heated debate. Changing Park to Robert-Bourassa seems to me a real travesty, though. I hope the Commission de Toponymie reverses the city council's decision.