The N-word on maps in Quebec: a petition for change
Published Thursday, August 13, 2015 11:16AM EDT
There are 11 locations in Quebec with names that many find incredibly offensive.
Nigger Rock near Phillipsburg. Nigger Rapids in Gatineau. Riviere du Negre in the Eastern Townships.
Folklore says many of the names are related to black people, such as a couple that drowned in a river, or a cemetery for slaves.
Robert Cote of St. Armand said he knew of the local cemetery, but was shocked when he actually visited it one day.
"I had heard through the [grapevine] the history of the black citizens here. But to see the sign, Negro Cemetery. I was stunned at first," said Cote.
The official place name for the hill is Nigger Rock, and it's marked with a bronze plaque that was set in place just a decade ago.
Rachel Zellars, a PhD. student at McGill University, has launched a petition asking Quebec to rename the locations.
"It's a deeply offensive term. The history of nigger, of negre, in terms of the history of this place, of how people were treated here, is clear," said Zellars.
"The persistence of the term attests to how little we know and own our history here. That's why the petition is important."
Quebec's Toponomy commission said analysts are gathering information about the sites and will present information about the request for renaming to committee members later this year.
For historian Charmaine Nelson, the question is how to change names without erasing history.
"The problem for me is that there will be an erasure of how those names came about in the first place and already there is in Canada what I call a collective amnesia of things like the fact that we participated in trans-Atlantic slavery,' said Nelson.
Both Nelson and Zellars agree Quebec needs to dig deeper and come up with a respectful way to pay tribute to people, without using a word that is insulting.