With some reluctance, we have to disagree with those who want to rename Lionel Groulx métro station after Oscar Peterson, the legendary Montreal-born jazzman who died two days before Christmas.
Certainly Montreal should name something significant after Peterson, and it's true that he was born on Delisle St., an easy walk from the métro station on Atwater St. facing Lionel-Groulx Ave. So it's no surprise that more than 4,500 people have used Facebook to support for the idea of changing the station's name, and that Tuesday night 20 supporters of the idea lobbied for it at a Southwest borough council meeting.
Led by Rev. Darryl Gray, they made the point that Southwest has a substantial population of blacks and other visible minorities, and argued that no métro station is named after a visible minority person. On the face of it, then, the name change is perfectly logical and a fine idea.
But you have to go deeper. For one thing, there's a significant French-vs.-English undertone to this proposal, and while we'll cheerfully credit the change-the-name activists with good faith in this, the context can't be ignored.
[Lionel Groulx (1868-1967) was a nationalist priest whose writings included views that were overtly racist->archives/ds-groulx/critiques.html]. Many in Montreal have long decried the naming of a métro station after him; others have vehemently defended his claim to fame, despite his flaws.
But the métro station is not named after him; it's named after the street. Most Montreal métro stations are named, reasonably enough, after streets. The Montreal Transit Commission has a moratorium on renaming stations.
It would be interesting to know how many supporters of the station-name change were opposed, not so long ago, to scrapping the name "Park Ave." to honour former premier Robert Bourassa - another issue that pitted many francophones on one side against many anglophones and allophones on the other. The most important name change in recent decades had the same subtext, when the city of Montreal changed the name of Dorchester Blvd. to honour another former premier, René Lévesque. The language question is vexed enough, most of the time, without this kind of dispute.
In any case, we don't like the idea of changing geographical names. Streets named after people reflect the fact that at one time Montrealers, or at least those in office, thought the people so commemorated deserved the honour.
This is itself social history with genuine meaning. If you live on Alexandre de Sève St., Sir George Simpson St., or Jeanne-Mance St., you're a little more connected to the place by knowing who those people were.
We certainly deplore Groulx's racism, but if we named streets after perfect people we'd have only numbered streets. Revising place names with every twist of popularity, or every reconsideration of ancient folly, would greatly cheapen the act of naming.
All that said, however, we firmly believe that Oscar Peterson was a Montrealer of well-earned international renown, whose music will live as long as jazz is popular. It would be fitting for his name to appear someplace on the map of the city, and to grace some park square, or public building of a stature that does justice to his own. Since many in the black community are especially proud of him, something in a part of town important to that community would be particularly suitable.
Putting Oscar Peterson's name on the map would not only be respectful to him; it would also send a welcome signal to the black community, to anglophones - and to jazz lovers. The city, or another level of government, should come up with something suitable.
Should Lionel-Groulx métro station be renamed Oscar Peterson?
The Gazette Monday, February 25
A Facebook group is urging the Montreal Transit Corporation to change the name of the Lionel-Groulx métro station to Oscar Peterson. The group's founder, Michael Citrome, says it would be a fitting tribute to the jazz great who grew up in the streets neighbouring the station. He also contends that Lionel-Groulx was a racist and anti-Semite, whose name should not be a part of the métro system.
Do you agree? Should Lionel-Groulx be renamed Oscar Peterson station? Would it be too confusing to change the names of the métro station? What would be a more appropriate public tribute to the jazz great?
Group wants métro station renamed after jazz great
The Gazette Tuesday, February 26
MONTREAL- Lionel Groulx métro station should be renamed after jazz great Oscar Peterson, says a Facebook group started by Montrealer, Michael Citrome.
Citrome, a graduate law student at the Université de Montréal, said Peterson, who died last December, is a pillar in Montreal's cultural landscape and should be honoured - especially in the neighbourhood where he was raised.
"His legacy comes from that place," Citrome said yesterday.
At the same time, Lionel Groulx was a well-known racist and anti-Semite (ns), Citrome added. "He was a negative, divisive figure and not someone whose legacy we should be celebrating."
The Montreal Transit Corp., however, said it has no plans to rename the station. Since 2006, there has been a moratorium on renaming any station, said MTC spokesperson Mariane Rouette.
Citrome said he is not deterred.
The Facebook group has about 170 members so far. Citrome said the goal is to get as many people on board as possible.
Origine du nom de la station Lionel-Groulx
Lionel Groulx (1878-1967), originaire de Vaudreuil, fit ses études de théologie au Grand Séminaire de Montréal et il fut ordonné prêtre le 28 janvier 1903. Professeur de lettres et de rhétorique au séminaire de Valleyfield (1903-1906), il poursuivit ses études en Europe, à Rome et à Fribourg.
Il reprit l’enseignement des lettres et de la rhétorique à Valleyfield (1909-1915), puis il fut nommé professeur titulaire de la chaire d’histoire du Canada (1915-1950).
Chanoine honoraire en 1943, Lionel Groulx fut aussi président-fondateur de l’Institut d’histoire de l’Amérique française (1946) et directeur de la Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française (1947-1967). Ses nombreux écrits, romans et ouvrages historiques lui valurent plusieurs prix et marquèrent profondément la vie intellectuelle et sociale de son époque.
Source : Tour toponymique Les stations de métro, Communauté urbaine de Montréal, 1989
(INFO690) - Un Montréalais a lancé une campagne sur Facebook dans l'espoir que la station de métro Lionel-Groulx soit rebaptisée du nom d'Oscar Peterson, ce célèbre jazzman décédé en décembre.
L'instigateur de cette démarche, Michael Citrome, estime que la Ville se doit d'honorer la mémoire de ce grand pianiste et compositeur, né à Montréal en 1925.
La porte-parole de la Société de transport de Montréal, Marianne Rouette, rappelle qu'un moratoire est en vigueur pour toutes demandes de changement de noms, ce qui réduit presque à néant les chances de M. Citrome de voir la station Lionel-Groulx changer de nom.
Marie-Claude Veillette / Info690