The province has officially changed five racist place names in Greater Saint John with the word Negro in them and replaced them with names that reflect black history in New Brunswick.
"We as the descendants have to respect the fact that they went through an awful lot, so the least we could do is rename a negative with a positive," says the New Brunswick Black Society's Ralph Thomas, a driving force behind these name changes.
One of the changes is Negro Lake in Grand Bay-Westfield which has become Corankapone Lake, in honour of Richard Wheeler, whose African name was Corankapone. This man brought other members of the black community in Westfield on foot to Halifax to board a transport ship in 1791 bound for Sierra Leone in search of a better life.
"The things he did, he walked over land which took 15 days to walk from here to Nova Scotia," says Thomas. "He is a hero, he could be considered our first black activist in the province of New Brunswick in the 1700s."
The other name changes include:
- Little Negro Lake in Grand Bay-Westfield is now Richards Lake
- Negro Brook in Grand Bay-Westfield is now Black Loyalist Brook
- Negro Head in Saint John is now Lorneville Head
- Negro Point in Saint John is now Hodges Point
Premier Brian Gallant made the announcement at PRUDE in uptown Saint John, where representatives of all members of government along with the black community were in attendance. He admits they were surpised to learn that these offensive place names existed in the province.
"This does not reflect the values of New Brunswickers and therefore when we went to the different levels of government, we went to different community leaders everyone was on board right away," says Gallant.
He says that there are still offensive name places out there in New Brunswick, and to deal with this we must cooperate with communities and community leaders.
As for when we can start to see signage reflecting the changes:
"Hopefully right away, we think it's very crucial to ensure that when we do something of this nature that we demonstrate that we're taking it seriously and we do it right away," says Gallant.
"It means a lot, words matter."