The Quebec Toponomy Commission has begun the process of changing the names of 11 natural sites across the province because they contain the N-word.

“This summer there were many people who were asking for the change. We received a petition we received files from other organizations so after that we came to the decision that it was time to change,” said Jean-Pierre LeBlanc, spokesperson for the Quebec Toponomy Commission.

That petition was started by historian Rachel Zellars and has received nearly 2000 signatures.

“Right now everything hinges on what the toponomy commission decides to do next, and what I've consistently asked them to do is involve black historians, researchers, and long-term community members who have ancestry in Quebec,” said Zellars, who is a McGill PhD candidate studying critical race theory. “The toponomy commission really has an important historical moment in its hand to do right by black Quebecers by allowing black Quebecers to come fully into this renaming process.”

The commission has not laid out a timeline for the name changes, stating it could take months to a few years. The process has begun be de-officializing the current names of the sites. The commission said it intends to consider the ideas of individuals and community groups in the renaming efforts.

“It's true when you change a name, it's changing something and you can't rewrite the history, but also we have to take care of what people think, if it's an offensive name,” said LeBlanc. “It's good to take your time, change it and rename it in the good way, the right way.”

Zellars said she hopes the commission will go a step further.

“I think public consultation would be the second step or the third step, but the first is really reaching out to the professionals and the community members we have here whose lives and work centres on preserving black Quebecers’ history and stories,” she said.