Thursday, June 18, 2020

History of Russell Township: honour to scholars

The better Russell
It has been shown that Peter Russell, the early colonial administrator of Upper Canada and namesake for Russell Township, Ontario, held unacceptable views on slavery. Now there is a search on for another Russell to name the township after.  Et voila, courtesy of William Phillips's letter to the Toronto Star, one I'd vote for:
The Peter Russell that Russell Township should rename itself after is distinguished Canadian author Peter H. Russell, born in 1932 in Toronto.
Russell, an Officer of the Order of Canada, and a Rhodes Scholar, who was a member of the federal task force on Comprehensive Land Claims; president of the Canadian Political Science Association, and chair of the research advisory committee for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
He is the author of several books, including “Two Cheers for Minority Government: The Evolution of Canadian Parliamentary Democracy;” “Constitutional Odyssey: Can Canadians Become a Sovereign People?;” and “Recognizing Aboriginal Title: The Mabo Case and Indigenous Resistance to English Settler Colonialism.”
Russell Township could do no better than renaming itself in honour of this outstanding Canadian.

Honours and naming practices are important. But when names like Dundas and Russell and Vaughan were being applied all over Ontario (and Canada: Queen Charlotte, Prince Rupert...), it had little or nothing to do with any particular views they held or did not hold. They were all just generic members of the British ruling classes at a time when colonizers required a nearly endless supply of place name inspirations. Which seems to justify a certain lack of seriousness in discussing the whole matter.

I note there used to be a Moore Township in southwestern Ontario, but it was amalgamated out of existence in 2001. Sic transit gloria mundi. No ancestor of mine was intended.
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