Filipino group asked city to rename Fraser Street

Argument based on demand to recognize Vancouver's growing Asian communities

Should Fraser Street be renamed Rizal Street to honour Dr. Jose P. Rizal, a national hero from the Philippines? A group of Filipino organizations pitched the proposal to the city, but the likelihood of a name change appears remote.

Rizal pushed for reform in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era, but was executed by the Spaniards Dec. 30, 1896a date now known as Rizal Day, a national holiday in the Philippines.

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The Confederation of Filipino Canadian Associations (CONFICA), representing five Filipino seniors organizations, submitted their name change request in a six-page letter dated Oct. 25, 2011, arguing that city streets include names of explorers and traders, while communities of non-Caucasian descent arent well represented.

The request was discussed at Vancouvers recently formed Civic Asset Naming Committees inaugural meeting July 5.

CONFICAs letter notes that North Arm Road was renamed Fraser Street in 1910 after explorer and fur trader Simon Fraser and that German and Polish immigrants once populated the neighbourhood. But today many residents are from Asian backgrounds.

Fraser Street population has higher than average Chinese and East Indian communities as well as [an] exploding growing Filipino community, the letter explains.

Vancouvers ethnic diversity is one of the primary contributions to the unique character of the city... Asians are by far the largest visible minority demographics with nearly 94,100 Filipinos resid[ing] in the Greater Vancouver. The Asian population exploded in the past decade, accounting for 52 per cent of the citys growth.

CONFICA acknowledged the challenges a name change would create for residents and business owners, but noted city council could defer the effective date of compliance for two to three years to give time for them to adjust.

The Filipino communitys goal is just to have a cultural land mark and presence in a neighbourhood that is strong, visible and consolidated with a compact and critical mass [of] community members and leaders, by naming Rizal Street as petitioned. This is about Filipino-Canadians emerging with the mainstream, sharing its culture and heritage, the letter stated.

Coun. Andrea Reimer attended part the naming committees first meeting.

My advice to them was council didnt provide the committee with a mandate to rename civic assetsthat should they want to rename city assets, then they would have to make some sort of request to council, Reimer told the Courier.

Its a broad discussion [at the committee]. They feel like they have more than enough work without renaming existing assets and there are some fairly serious implications to renaming existing assets, practical implications. Everyone on the street and every business would have to change their letterhead and business cards, plus emergency services. And theres that very real emotional attachment to a name.

The naming committee concluded it doesnt have the authority to rename existing streets and therefore couldnt approve CONFICAs request.

CONFICA has been notified of the Civic Asset Naming Committees decision.

noconnor@vancourier.com

Twitter: @Naoibh

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