Dysart et al took steps to confront the legacy of Sam Slick Park’s namesake as the cultural resources committee debated whether to rename it.
The municipal committee discussed the controversial figure April 22, coming to no decision but opting to create a subcommittee to make recommendations. The name garnered attention last year when a Nova Scotia town removed Sam Slick iconography. That was due to the alleged racism present in the character’s book, The Clockmaker.
Thomas Chandler Haliburton, the namesake for the County and village, created the character, with Slick’s stories compiled in The Clockmaker. It originated many famous sayings but has faced modern criticism for using the N-word and questionable depictions, such as an escaped slave longing for his former servitude.
Committee member Kate Butler said there is an opportunity to educate people on the issue.
“Talk about the fact that we don’t see things in the same way anymore. We’ve learned a lot. We’ve grown a lot,” Butler said, adding the original intention of the park’s name was to harken to Thomas Chandler Haliburton and his work.
The Rotary Club of Haliburton originally created and named Sam Slick Park, situated across from Haliburton Highlands Secondary School. A plaque at the location discusses that history.
Mayor Andrea Roberts said she read halfway through The Clockmaker but was not necessarily convinced a renaming is needed.
“It’s muddy water and I personally can’t relate to it because that’s not my lived experience and I’m trying to be as open-minded as possible,” Roberts said. “What is the message we’re sending to our community right now? While I read some of it, I still have no more conclusive answer to make that decision that we should not call it Sam Slick Park anymore.”
The committee discussed adding a secondary plaque to further contextualize the name.
“We’re aware of it and we need to deal with it in some way,” committee member Jim Blake said. “We don’t need to have any complaints to be progressive and move ahead.”
Member Shelley Schell said the municipality should address the issue, but she was concerned about removing history.
“What is correct and what is culturally appropriate changes as times go by,” Schell said. “A qualifying or a disclaiming statement would address the issue and that would relay current sensitivity but not eradicate history.”
Member Anna Babluck said she would like to rename the park but have a plaque explaining the history and former name.
“When we know better, we do better,” Babluck said. “Characters matter and what we choose to celebrate and portray, even if it’s certainly accurate, it matters. And it reflects on us and our values.”