In September 2017, Meghan Sheffield and Nicole Beatty (as a citizen) plus Chief Jim Bob Marsden, then Chief of Alderville First Nation, made a delegation to Council to change the official name of the West headland from Langevin Pier to something that does not recall Langevin’s role as a “chief architect of Canada’s residential school system.” (Wally Keeler then suggested that the “pier” be renamed after Susanna Moodie). The recent discovery of 215 graves has given a renewed impetus to renaming so at Monday’s regular Council meeting, Meghan Sheffield once again asked Council to look at renaming and once again asked that this be done in “partnership and consultation with the local indigenous community”. After the original delegation, Council referred the matter to Staff for a report but this was delayed and nothing happened.
Since the West Headland is not commonly referred to as “Langevin Pier”, and there’s no plaque there, it’s not an urgent issue although Langevin did have quite offensive views (see Canadian Encyclopedia Link below). The residential school system had the aim of eliminating aboriginal people as distinct peoples and to assimilate them into the Canadian mainstream against their will. Langevin specifically argued in favour of removing children from their parents and family in order to speed assimilation.
To be clear, the Headland was not named after Langevin because he supported splitting indigenous families but simply because he was the Minister of Works at the time (1878 – 1891) – the Federal government paid for two thirds of the work.
Re common usage of the name: The photo above was taken in October 2019. The sign reads: “In Case of Emergency call 911. The Address Is The West Pier Cobourg Ontario”.
After some discussion, Council agreed with Meghan and passed the following motion 7 – 0:
Recommended action that the delegation be received for information
AND FURTHER THAT the reference to Hector-Louis Langevin’s name in historic association and/or formal naming of the West Headlands/Pier be removed immediately
AND FURTHER THAT Council direct the Accessibility Coordinator to investigate options for renaming the West Headlands/Pier in consultation with the local Indigenous community as part of the Town’s ongoing commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.
Undoing or modifying places on the Internet where the Langevin Pier naming occurs will be difficult – except for the Cobourg History Site which I manage. It’s not known where the Headland is “formally” named in the Town’s records – as Town Clerk Brent Larmer said “I need to do some research”.
- Report on first delegation by Meghan Sheffield and Nicole Beatty – Should Cobourg’s Langevin Pier be renamed – 25 Sept 2017
- Should Langevin Pier be renamed Susanna Moodie Pier – 30 September 2017
- The Canadian Encyclopedia – Sir Hector Louis Langevin
A sample of places on the Internet where Langevin Pier is mentioned
- Sessional Papers of the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada, Volume 23, Issue 13 – 1890 – Google Books – describes construction from 1873 to 1890
- Cobourg History – Waterfront History
- Cobourg East Pierhead Lighthouse Friends
- Community Stories
- Cobourg Harbour – letter by Wally Keeler – 2015
- East Pier Cultural Evaluation Report – 12 November 2020 – on Town’s web site.
- And more
Plus a number of news articles about renaming requests – do a Google search for “Langevin Pier” – including the quotation marks.