During its regular meeting on September 8, Russell Township council considered a draft of a framework for rededicating the town to a new namesake. In July last year, the original namesake Peter Russell was officially removed from the position by council vote, due to his ownership of slaves and the increasing controversy about keeping people like him in positions of cultural significance.
Council considered the creation of an ad-hoc vetting committee comprised of residents, whose purpose will be to receive incoming submissions and research them for namesake suitability. The submission must come from a township resident, and the nominee must have Russell as a first, middle, or last name. The pros and cons of each nominee must be weighed against each other, and the person nominating the historical figure must say why they think this person is worthy of the honor.
Mayor Pierre Leroux noted that the namesake does not have to be a single person. He put forward the possibility of rededicating a group of people with the name “Russell”, like a family or an organization, or even rededicating the town every year to a different historical figure that council thinks is worthy of the honor.
Councillor Cindy Saucier noted that restricting the nomination to historical or local people may be a good idea. She brought up Russell Crow as someone who could theoretically be nominated but may not carry the cultural significance that the township is looking for. This was taken into consideration, but Leroux also said that this is a community decision more than anything, so if the community wanted to rededicate the town to Russell Crow then that will be something that council will have to consider.
Councillor André Brisson abstained from commenting, saying that he did not think the rededication needed to be changed at all. Leroux reminded him that council had already voted, and so the rededication will happen.
Council also considered a 30-day submission period followed by a 30-day reviewing period, during which they would hold a “Russell Recognition” event to allow residents to showcase their nominations. Residents would be able to set up a booth in a manner similar to a science fair and explain to visitors why they think their nomination deserves to have the township dedicated to them. There will also be a booth dedicated to Peter Russell, explaining exactly why he does not share the values of the township and why the dedication is being changed.
Council was undecided on whether the committee was to be ad-hoc or a subset of the Diversity Committee, and Mayor Leroux said he would confer with officials to work out a solution and resubmit the draft for consideration.