As conversations continue across the continent about the removal of statues and names with racist histories, a petition with almost 10,000 signatures is calling new attention to racist place names in Quebec, especially those that incorporate the N-word. Even though Quebec officially stripped these places of that word in 2015, it still shows up in searches. On Google Maps, for example, a lake in the territory of Lac-Lenôtre, Quebec, and rapids in the town of Sainte-Thérèse-de-la-Gatineau still have the name.
The Quebec Toponymy Commission told MTL Blog that, officially, "no [...] place name that contains" the word in either French or English "remains" and that it "no longer [appears] on official Government of Quebec maps or in signage."
The problem now, it says, is that the former names "may still appear in some places, particularly on some maps produced by private publishers, since the Commission's decisions do not apply to these maps on a mandatory basis."
"The Commission, which does not have the legal power to compel private map publishers, has asked Google several times over the years to remove these names. Other bodies, such as MRCs and municipalities, have also asked Google to withdraw these names."
MTL Blog reached out to Google Maps for a comment but did not receive a response before publication. This article will be updated.
Rekeisha George, who wrote the petition, told MTL Blog that she and a friend discovered the names after reading about the movement five years ago to remove them.
"I began googling the locations and could still find them on maps, we could still check the weather in the locations and as of last week," she said.
But she also says the Commission has not acted fast enough to replace the names, something it promised to do in its 2015 decision.
"On the back of Premier Legault refusing to use the word systemic racism when it came to Quebec, this deeply offended me knowing they had a job to do five years ago and simply didn’t do it."
In her petition, she writes that "it is a personal insult to both the Black community in Canada and Quebec, where attempts to bridge the gaps of inequality for minority communities have largely been ignored."
There have been other petitions to remove problematic names and monuments in Quebec.