More about the Name of the West Headland

In October 2017, Meghan Sheffield and Nicole Beatty asked Council to rename Langevin Pier because it was named after Sir Hector Langevin who was a major advocate for Canada’s residential school system for indigenous children.  Langevin Pier is more commonly called the West Headland and there is no known usage of the Langevin name by the Town. Meghan and Nicole asked that the Town “consult with Alderville Elders and Chief Marsden on what indigenous name the West Pier should bear”.  Wally Keeler then suggested in a letter to Council that the West Pier be named after Susanna Moodie – he subsequently made a delegation to Council recommending the East Pier be named after Susanna Moodie. The idea was referred to Staff for a report that never happened.

Then in June of this year, Meghan once again asked for a renaming; Council agreed and asked Jamie to report.  So at the Committee of the Whole meeting on August 23, Jamie Kramer, Accessibility Coordinator, will once again raise the issue.  Since then, she has consulted with Chief Dave Mowat from Alderville First Nations.

Jamie reports that Chief Mowat stated that:

The removal of the name was what Alderville wanted to see and his recommendation for a name/naming convention for the area was to call it the “West Headlands,” as it was colloquially known. He noted that no one in Alderville felt a strong connection to the West Headlands area and, as such, he did not think it would be appropriate to use an Indigenous name or language to name the area. Further, he noted that he thought it would be best to not name this, or any other area, after a specific person as it can generally lead to having to go through a renaming process as we are currently seeing.

West Headland
West Headland

The photo was taken in October 2019. The sign reads: “In Case of Emergency call 911. The Address Is The West Pier Cobourg Ontario” – notably NOT Langevin Pier.

However, in her report to Council Jamie says that:

The best option is to keep a colloquial name for the West Headlands for the time being while the Stewardship Study is being conducted. Once this Stewardship Study is conducted, it is recommended that the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee be consulted about the future consideration of the name of the entire area as a Nature Park.

In doing this work, Jamie found

(There are) other areas in Cobourg named after other historical figures that played a significant impact in residential schools or other historical events that impacted marginalized communities in a negative way.  As such, it is recommended that a full audit of all areas in Cobourg be conducted and the removal of these names, plaques, and other signage attributed to these figures be done as soon as possible.

Jamie recently conducted a survey (now past the original close date) to help get public input on developing an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Strategy for the Town.  As part of the survey description she lists her progress to date:

  1. The Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Advisory Committee
  2. Indigenous Traditional Land Acknowledgement
  3. Joining the Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities
  4. Women in Governance: Leadership and Mentoring Program and Speaker Series
  5. Adding Personal Pronouns to Town of Cobourg Staff’s Email Signatures

Items 2 – 5 are described on a Town Web site page here.

It’s not clear what effect any of the renaming effort will have.  There is no actual usage of the Langevin name in the Town although it does appear on unrelated web sites (see links below).  Chief Mowat does not want the headland to be given an indigenous name.  Non-Town web sites are not likely to change their description of history – you cannot retroactively change history.


Earlier Cobourg News Blog Reports

Places where Langevin Pier is mentioned online

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2 years ago

Four years to address an issue that completely lacks any level of complexity…they should be embarrassed with this update – and to suggest an audit should take place to attempt to identify any additional potentially offensive names leaves me shaking my head. Understanding and appreciating a consultative approach but why would the pier require an indigenous name?

I’ll be on the edge of my seat until the audit status update in 2025

Reply to  Rob
2 years ago

Why? It’s all the rage these days. That’s why.

2 years ago

Susannah Moodie, like other women of her social class at the time, arrived in Canada with her ex-army officer husband who was given land to farm. They did not earn the land, or buy the land, but it was taken from the indigenous people along with almost the rest of Canada to be distributed to Europeans according to the social rank they arrived with. Lower classes were not given land and had to become labourers. Her own accounts tell that they failed at farming and he turned to politics. That she wrote kindly about the indigenous people who tried to help does not begin to pay the debt the settlers owed the original people and does not make her worth revering on a point of land she probably never saw. Let’s call it West Headlands.

2 years ago

Council can’t be busy if they Bring up the Water front Again and again
The Natives have it this Yr
Shelter Point next yr for all the Homeless that camp there

2 years ago

How about a new name every couple years so that we have the best chance of appeasing everyone and offending no one. We are still in a pandemic . What are the priorities?

Reply to  Informed
2 years ago

What does being in a pandemic have to do with anything? Council must devote 100% of their time to something they have little control over?

Reply to  Ahewson
2 years ago

I dont think there is a need to seek out more items to put on the agenda when there are a host of unfinished items to tidy up. Chief Mowat never asked.

Small town lover
2 years ago

Instead of changing the name, a plaque informing people of what happened and his role in it should be erected. We should be reminded of the horrible treatment of those children and never let something like that happen again to any human being. Removing statues and changing names only attempts to erase the memory of what happened.

George Taylor
Reply to  Small town lover
2 years ago

HISTORY is not there for you to LIKE or DISLIKE, it is there for you to LEARN from it. AND if it OFFENDS you,even better. Because then you are LESS likely to repeat it! It’s not yours to ERASE or DESTROY!

Reply to  George Taylor
2 years ago

The TRUEST words I’ve read in months. Are there not more issues to spend time on ?

Reply to  George Taylor
2 years ago

Very good comment. I agree

2 years ago

“The idea was referred to Staff for a report that never happened.” Does that mean that Town Staff picks what projects to work on and if the staff choose not to look into something referred to by the council the request gathers dust. Who is working for whom?

Reply to  Gerry
2 years ago

The item should be listed in “unfinished business” at the end if each Council meeting agenda. The Clerk updates the list regarding due dates and progress.
If an item is missing, you should ask the Clerk about its status.

2 years ago

I did not check the above links but if I understand correctly the west pier has a legal name that is not commonly used. Since most people likely do not know this name it is unlikely there will be much opposition to renaming. Unless there is a plan to do necessary repairs there will not be a pier. Maybe with a federal election being called it would be a good time to ask for federal money to repair the west and east piers. Soon reality might happen and all the Covid-19 deficit spending will have to be recovered. The west pier by any other name will still … need expensive repairs.

Reply to  Kevin
2 years ago

I think it’s the east pier that needs expensive repairs. The west pier is a different type of structure – mostly a heap of big rocks and dirt held together by a network of roots of grass and trees – and long since settled into a steady state.

The part of the outer stretch made of concrete may be another matter, but it’s difficult to access and of little concern anyway.

Last edited 2 years ago by JimT
Cobourg taxpayer
2 years ago

A sensible solution “West Headland” thank you Chief Mowat.