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You would think that naming or renaming streets would be a relatively straightforward undertaking with a well-established process behind it.

However, you would be mistaken, at least in Hay River.

Last week, councillors were presented with a recommendation from town administration to rename a couple of streets, but they slammed on the brakes to take a hard look at the process.

It’s somewhat worrisome that a motion suddenly appeared before council to rename two streets, apparently without public discussion. It seems it was just a matter of the town receiving letters, and the name changes were in the works.

Now, before we say anything else, our opinion (or council’s decision) is in no way a comment on the new names that were suggested for the streets.

This is simply a matter of process.

The proposed new street names would honour and remember individuals no doubt worthy of the distinction. However, there are many other past residents of Hay River who would also be worthy.

The question is: How do you choose?

There is a policy right now, but we have to wonder how closely it is being followed, and councillors themselves wondered aloud about the process.

We agree with councillors that naming/renaming streets has the potential to be controversial. After all, we’re talking about families who have suggested street names to honour relatives who have passed on.

When the town has to honour the memory of one person over another, that can easily result in disappointment and hard feelings for the families involved. No one wants that to happen.

Hay River town council is reviewing the process of naming or renaming streets after receiving two recent requests, including to rename Commercial Road in front of the fire hall.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

So at the very least the process has to be transparent, well understood and fair.

We don’t think the current process meets those criteria. It is certainly not transparent, nor is it well understood, not even by council members by their own admission. And if it is not transparent or understood, there is really no way it can be fair.

So we agree with councillors that they should not consider any naming/renaming of streets until this is all worked out, and that town administration not suggest any name changes until that happens.

More than that, we would suggest that streets only be renamed in exceptional circumstances.

We think it would make more sense – and be a lot less complicated – to just name new streets.

Everyone is saying that Hay River has to grow in the coming years, so that would seem to mean there will be new streets to name.

One of the strangest parts of this whole issue is renaming streets has been discussed at other times by other councils.

In February 2017, for instance, then mayor Brad Mapes proposed renaming streets in honour of long-time residents and families in Hay River, and switching from names of animals and trees, and just numbers in Old Town.

And back then – almost three years ago – it was noted that the idea had been discussed in previous years.

After so many years, you would think that the town would have a clear understanding of how to change a street name, and whether or not it’s something that should even be done.

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Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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