Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Streets.

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.


wkh said...

Choke, gasp, cough, NOOOO!

We cannot POSSIBLY disagree on this!

I am the president of the "fuck avenue du crap spelled backwards named after a cheap ass knock off park wanna be central park!" comittee! I feel like if this was not about business interests NO ONE would care. I mean come ON Kelly it's named after a PARK. This is ROBERT BOURASSA we're talking about. Heritage my ASS. It's a PARK. A THING. We're talking a person! If VilleDeM said "dude we'll pay to change all your advertising" I guarantee the "Waaah we want Parc Ave!" committees would die a very fast death. They are capitalist pigs manipulating linguitic and heritage votes and creating a language battle where there is not one. It's not like they are trying to name it Parizeau Road!

Anders said...

Dude, wkh, you are completely wrong. I live a block away from Parc Ave and I don't have any kind of business or advertising or commercial stake in this issue and I am furious about it. I'm upset because the street is very much part of a neighbourhood and a community and a heritage, not because of money.

The thing that makes me the most upset about this issue though is the utter lack of public consultation. I don't care if the street is named after a thing, an animal, mineral or vegetable, what pisses me off most is that no matter how much the people who live on and around that street try to make their voices heard, Tremblay's party seemed totally unwilling to listen. This issue is the latest example of a level of callousness that the munincipal government has been displaying for some time and I am sick and tired of it. It's not about language or money, it's about democracy.

Anonymous said...

The thing about Nick's Alley was that it put a name on smething that had carried no name. And that's what is needed, blank places that can carry names for the first time, rather than forgetting the past and renaming things when someone new dies.

The argument that it's "only Park Avenue" is nonsense. Because it's been that for close to forever. The history of a street is not who it's named for, the history is of the street itself, and that includes the name it carries.

Most of the streets we know are of people long in the past, and we don't care who they were or why the streets carry their name. We only care that the
streets as they are named are part of hour history.

There never should have been debate over whether the street be renamed (or whether some other street "that doesn't matter" be renamed). The debate should have been over how we can honor people who have died without erasing existing history to do it.


Matthew said...

While the city council is at this, they should set their sights on re-naming Rue St. Urbain to Rue Richler.

Matt said...

I think the bigger problem is still with the mayor. So lets see. You get a pretty large mob of people all who are clearly unhappy with this situation. And pretty much nobody in favor of it. However, rather than back down, the mayor chooses to instead choose his wants over the large group of people... If there was a whole mob of people trying to change the name... Well, that'd be different. I mean, then there's a debate. Instead, you have a surprising amount of people surprisingly passionate about this, and a mayor who's saying "yeah... but you're not REAL Montrealers. And I don't like to be wrong."
Seriously. If he won't listen on something like this--where he would lose nobody's respect for backing down, or changing another street name--how are we supposed to sway him on the really big issues?