Pierre Elliott Trudeau:
Highest peak to be Trudeau Mountain
PM plans new name for Mount Logan
Thursday, October 5, 2000
PAUL ADAMS and TU THANH HA
With reports from Gay Abbate and John Saunders; in Toronto and Canadian Press
OTTAWA and MONTREAL -- Canada's highest peak, Mount Logan, will be renamed Pierre Elliott Trudeau Mountain.
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien made the announcement after a cabinet meeting yesterday.
The British Columbia government immediately dropped plans it had announced earlier to name a mountain 1,900 kilometres away for the late prime minister.
Geographers bristled at the idea of rushing to rename a prominent piece of Canada that was named more than a century ago.
Mr. Chrétien said he and Mr. Trudeau had planned to climb the 5,959-metre mountain in Yukon's St. Elias Range, but had been unable to find the time to take the training necessary. He said Mr. Trudeau, a renowned outdoorsman, had refused to contemplate taking a helicopter part-way up the peak.
"He said if we do it, we'll do it the only way: We'll start at the bottom and go to the top," Mr. Chrétien said. He told reporters that he had informed Mr. Trudeau's son Sacha about the decision by telephone and he had been "extremely pleased."
Mr. Chrétien said that another mountain nearby in the park would be renamed for geologist Sir William Logan (1798-1875), the first head of the Geological Survey of Canada.
Provincial and territorial governments normally have the last word on place names within their boundaries, but since Mount Logan is in Kluane National Park, control over its name rests jointly with Ottawa and Whitehorse.
Jeff Hunston, who heads the Yukon Heritage Branch, said last night that the territory's Liberal government would probably agree, in part because many northerners "have a lot of respect for Mr. Trudeau's accomplishments on our behalf."
Mr. Hunston sits on the Geographical Names Board of Canada, a federal-provincial-territorial body that acts as the country's place-names referee. He cautioned that the board takes a dim view of renaming things abruptly.
"Yep, we do. We have guidelines and procedures."
Another board member, Gerald Holm, Manitoba's provincial toponomist, was more emphatic.
"I'm not saying that Pierre Elliott Trudeau does not deserve to have a feature named after him. I'm just saying that there are processes in place to try to control this type of naming following a grieving period. . . .
"I'm quite certain that rest of the board would be in my position as well. We would certainly frown on the renaming of such a prominent feature in Canada's history."
However, the board cannot veto a change legislated by the governments concerned, he said.
British Columbia had wanted to name its mountain after Mr. Trudeau and his son Michel, who died nearly two years ago in an avalanche near the Kootenay Glacier.
Also, Canada Post is looking at plans to issue a special memorial stamp to honour the former prime minister.
Six months ago, suburban Dollard-des-Ormeaux in Mr. Trudeau's hometown of Montreal named a street after him.
It is also certain that a public place in Montreal will be named after Mr. Trudeau, said Suzanne Lavigne, a researcher for the toponomy board of the City of Montreal.
"In giving names to public places, Mr. Trudeau is a given, that's very clear," she said.
What's less clear is the choice of the location, which could turn into a delicate political issue.
The Montreal Island is already a heavily-developed area, so it is unlikely there would be new projects that would be of a big enough scope to bear the Trudeau name.
Renaming a major, existing location is trickier.
Montreal City Hall set off a political storm in 1987 when it renamed a busy, well-known thoroughfare, Dorchester Boulevard, after the late separatist premier René Lévesque, just a month after his death.
Beyond the touchiness of a city divided on national-unity politics, changing a major street can be a headache for residents and businesses that must update addresses.
In the wake of the Lévesque controversy, the city has decided to wait at least a year after someone's death before submitting the name for a public location.
Nonetheless, matters can be fast-tracked. After another Quebec great, former Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau, died last August, it only took three months for the city to decide it wanted to rename the park at the Expo 67 site.
However, it was only this August, a year after Mr. Drapeau's passing, that the change was made official.
The city of Toronto wants to honour Mr. Trudeau by naming a significant city landmark after him. Council will seek public input to choose the memorial, but no decision will be made until next year.