Should Regina Change Its Name?
· 6 min. read
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It was the summer of '69 and change was in the air. Regina was filled with over 3,500 tractors and 6,900 farmers, all protesting Prime Minister Trudeau's policies on farming subsidies. According to them, the prairie provinces needed an injection of cash to keep the farming economy up and running. If not, they predicted more bankruptcy of grain producers and more instability in poultry and livestock production. Without government intervention, they risk a "complete breakdown of the rural economy". The farmers protested in the streets with signs that said "We are feeding the wrong hogs" as well as crudely drawn swastikas.
Other changes were happening too, with the West growing sick of Trudeaumania, the NDP rallying for power in a neighbouring province, the City of Regina overspending by about 30% of its budget, and the Ring Road getting a division down the middle. Also, the local hippies are reported as being "healthy", which is great, I guess.
All of this was on the third page of the July 16th, 1969 copy of The Leader-Post. But there was one more headline that screamed for attention, and it was that "Regina will stay Regina".
The article begins:
"Reginans [sic] can stop worrying about the possibility of being converted to Riel Citizens and cease dreaming up other names for Saskatchewan's capital.
"City council Tuesday defeated a motion by Alderman George Bothwell to put the city's name up for grabs in a referendum. The vote showed Alderman Bothwell in favor [sic] and everyone else against."
The man behind this discussion was Alderman George Bothwell, who was inspired by similar referendums across the country, such as Fort William and Port Arthur being renamed Thunder Bay. He motioned for Regina to do something similar, and the three possibilities proposed were Buffalo City, Riel City, and Wascana.
(Had we gone with Wascana, I could see us later debating if we should change it to "Oscana".)
When it was time to discuss the agenda item, Mayor Henry Baker asked Alderman Bothwell, "Are you sure you want to move this?" and Bothwell did. Alderman Wally Coates seconded it, saying he was curious about what Bothwell wanted to discuss.
After Bothwell expressed some concerns by his fellow Alderman that he may have been dropped on his head as an infant, or sustained brain injuries playing football, he said, "But I make no apologies for my ideas. Better to have 100 ideas and have 50 accepted, than not have any."
Bothwell said he had received one letter and four phone calls from residents asking about renaming the city. Their reasoning was pretty sound. First was the frequent mispronunciation of it. There was a possibility in the future, a tourism agency might use the name in a marketing rebrand that would make inappropriate innuendos out of the colloquial pronunciation. Changing the name now could prevent that from happening. In retrospect, it was actually impressively progressive foresight. Another reason was that the Latin term is anachronistic -- as in, being very old and outdated. Lastly, Bothwell said, it was tagged into the city by the Canadian Pacific Railway on August 23, 1882, and didn't reflect the actual people of the city.
Alderman C. C. Williams said that changing the name "smacked of separatism". Alderman Les Sherman also said the names Buffalo City and Riel City were even more anachronistic than Regina. After all, Riel had been executed over eighty years ago. Les Sherman continued: "Besides Riel didn't spend any time here, even if he hung around at the end."
Alderman Roy Wellman said more could be said about the motion, but "none of it good", while Alderman Matthew's disagreed, saying the discussion served the purpose as Reginas now have a better appreciation for their city name than they ever had before.
Ultimately, and unsurprisingly, the city did not change names. Yet, all these years later, we can see shades of the past with us again. Similar discussions, similar blunders, and similar jejune attitudes by the city council. Should Regina change its name? I think it's time to revisit the discussion. If we do, I actually really like the idea of Riel City. That way we don't have to change our YQR acronym and it can help preserve our city's rapidly fading history. It might also inspire somebody to put up a memorial for where Riel was executed, instead of just an approximate estimation.
But what would we think about it fifty years from now if we did that? Might there be some snide jokes about the homophone between Riel City and REAL City? Would it be a way of preserving our history and inspiring additional name changes, or have the opposite effect? Could it spur similar protests like that of 1969? Only time will tell (or probably won't, let's be real here).
But, what do you think about renaming the city? Do you wish we had done it in 1969? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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Categories: Canada, Regina, Saskatchewan