This week Council voted to rename Langevin Avenue to Commanda Way to honour Algonquin leader William Commanda in the spirit of reconciliation with Indigenous people.
When we make a land acknowledgement, recognizing the owners and custodians of the land that we meet on, we’re doing many things. We’re honouring the peoples of the Algonquin Anishinaabe people who have lived on this territory for millennia. We’re recognizing that their culture and presence have nurtured this land. Land acknowledgement however should also set the preconditions for action.
The City of Ottawa’s Reconciliation Action Plan answered the call of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action to redress the residential schools legacy and advance the reconciliation process in Canada. Part of this, is the renaming of public spaces, which respects the principles of reconciliation. And so, I’m very pleased today to introduce this motion, seconded by Councillor Harder, to rename Langevin Avenue in Ward 13, to Commanda Way.
This motion to rename Langevin Avenue honours the survivors of the residential school system and their legacy but in turn, we’re also celebrating the life and legacy of an Algonquin leader, William Commanda.
William Commanda was the great-grandson of Pakinawatik, an Algonquin elder who led his people from the Lake of Two Mountains to the site of what is today, Kitigan Zibi. His grandfather was a Chief.
And while he may have always been destined to be a leader with that lineage, his own personality and gifts made him truly a one of a kind and a leader with conviction.
He was a leader both of his community and for his Nation. He was a historian, a guardian of his culture, an expert canoe builder, a peace maker and a land protector, an original environmentalist.
Long before it was en vogue, William Commanda understood in his soul, that protecting biodiversity was not something that was simply "nice to do" but critical for our future. He was the sacred keeper of several Algonquin wampum belts, which are of incredible importance as they hold the record of prophecies, history, treaties and agreements.
Throughout his long life, he promoted peace, harmony and racial equality for all --- through his leadership of an international peace and environmental movement -- the Circle of all Nations.
His early life was not easy. He experienced poverty and hunger and witnessed the tyranny of Indian agents. When he was a small child, he narrowly escaped being sent to a residential school because he hid out in the bush.
Thus, when Algonquin street names were provided by the Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition, the organization formed in 2001 as a means of presenting a unified voice on behalf of the Aboriginal community in Ottawa, to Langevin Avenue residents and many members of the Lindenlea community who originally asked for the change in 2018, it was particularly poignant that William Commanda's name was ultimately selected by them.
He was a dedicated role model for those who sought spiritual guidance as they navigated the pain of their residential school experiences. I cannot think of a more fitting way to honour that legacy.
I’d like to acknowledge the work of the Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition and of Elena Abel, the City’s Indigenous Relations Specialist and former Councillor Tobi Nussbaum for initiating this substantive consultation process prior to me taking office. Most importantly I would like to thank the residents who participated in the long journey of consultation, which included an in-person, Indigenous-led community forum with residents before the pandemic, a subsequent community meeting, a survey completed by 100 community members, discussions on the community online mailing list and the notification of the offices of the Chiefs of the Algonquin Anishinaabe Host Nation over the past two and a half years.
Reconciliation is a journey, not a destination, but as the saying goes, journeys are made up of thousands of steps. This renaming is just one step -- a step that demonstrates that through action -- we as a City are committed to the path of reconciliation.