A well-known retail area in Edmonton has undergone a significant name change to distance itself from a controversial historical figure.
“The property managers here at Oliver Square and Oliver Village have made the decision to change their name away from their original namesake of Oliver to a new name called Unity Square for both areas,” Oliver Community League president Robyn Paches said.
Paches said he’s been in constant communication with property owners BentallGreenOak about this change that has been in the works for a while.
“They’re changing the name away from Oliver because of the feedback they’ve heard from the community and because of what they’ve heard from indigenous people as well as marginalized communities in Edmonton,” Paches said.
Frank Oliver founded Edmonton’s first newspaper and is a namesake for schools, parks and an entire neighbourhood.
In addition to establishing the city’s first newspaper, Oliver created the Northwest Territories’ first public school system and then went on to a career in politics.
Oliver was an MLA and also an MP. It was during that time that he implemented an immigration policy banning Black people and another that chased the Papaschase First Nation off its land.
The community league, in partnership with several Indigenous groups, has also been advocating for the Oliver community to change its name and hopes this rebranding will also inspire other area businesses to make a change.
“This is a win for all of us, this is a win because we are once again having a very important conversation about this place, the names that we call it and also the history that we are a part of and more importantly to the future that we’re headed towards,” Uncover Oliver volunteer and member of Sucker Creek First Nation Hunter Cardinal said.
While this is a positive step for advocates, one business owner said he was not consulted.
“We didn’t get to discuss this with anyone, we didn’t know what’s going on here or what’s the name and how they came up with the name,” Mrs. Barber co-owner Amjad Alhellwani said.
Alhellwani said he did receive an email notice and despite the lack of consultation, he said he still supports the decision, but will now need to change his business’ name on several platforms.
“Our location is called Mr. Barber Oliver, even with that we’ll try to be with every business around here and change our name to the new name, which is the Unity Square,” Alhellwani said.
Alhellwani said he hopes the new name will be positive for businesses in the area.
As for the community league, it said after finding a new partner and after this next round of consultations, it will propose the new community name to council and hope to have that approved in the next year or so.
Global News reached out to property management for the square. They were not available for comment Sunday.