EMBRUN – Politicians with the township of Russell have passed a resolution changing the meaning behind the municipality’s name.
The Namesake Rededication Committee submitted a letter summarizing their findings to council, which was then discussed during Russell’s May 2 council meeting. The committee received and reviewed name suggestions submitted by residents.
Only 19 submissions were received, with nine automatically invalidated as they didn’t meet the set criteria. Of the remaining 10 names, the committee noted that seven were unique, but only two had a connection to Russell.
Council voted to officially remove Peter Russell as the namesake for the township and the village of Russell. Instead, they voted to honour “all our Russells, such as Russell Phair, Keith Russell, and any others who would have helped develop our community into the jewel we love today.”
The resolution included a direction that the information be passed along to the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR), requesting that the upper tier government officially “accept that Russell County is renamed after all Russells who had a positive contribution to our communities instead of Peter Russell.”
The resolution included a statement that keeping Peter Russell as the namesake is contrary to the municipality’s “desire to be a welcoming community for all people.”
The issue of Russell’s name arose roughly two years ago when people discovered the municipality was named after Peter Russell, a high-ranking administrator in the pre-Confederation government of Upper Canada who owned slaves. In response, hundreds of people signed a petition calling on the township to change the name.
It was noted, at that time, by many that the municipality doesn’t represent the beliefs of its founder. It was also noted that legally changing the name would be complicated and costly, as it’s not just the township that’s been named Russell, but also one of the towns within the municipality and the upper-tier United Counties, as well. With some residents pushing for a name change and others opposing the move, Russell council decided to keep the name but find a different “Russell” – first, middle, or last name – that could become the new namesake, one who would honourably represent the area and its residents.