Dysart et al council is seeking further information from a citizen-led subcommittee that recently recommended the municipality consider renaming Sam Slick Park.
First unveiled in the early 1960s, the park is named after the character Sam Slick, who is featured in several stories written by Thomas Chandler Haliburton – a judge, politician and author for whom Haliburton village and the County of Haliburton is named. Earlier this year, concerns were brought to council that some of these stories, and specifically storylines surrounding Slick, are misogynistic and racist.
The committee recommended the park be incorporated as part of Head Lake Park, possibly with the designation of Head Lake Park West to avoid any potential confusion, given there is already a Head Lake Park in that area.
In explaining its decision, the subcommittee stated other municipalities across the country were taking measures to rename places and events inspired by individuals with a controversial past. The community of West Hants Regional Municipality in Nova Scotia, for example, recently renamed its annual Sam Slick Days event to Windsor-West Hants Summer Fest after being made aware of the contents of Haliburton’s stories.
Some members of council, notably Walt McKechnie and John Smith, were uncomfortable with the idea of renaming the park.
“I know a lot of things have changed in our world, but tearing things down and changing names … I just worry what’s next [that’s] going to change,” McKechnie said. “This perfect world … we’re all not perfect. Needless to say the character Sam Slick wasn’t. This perfect world that people want Walt McKechnie to live in, that doesn’t exist in Walt McKechnie’s life. I don’t know what we’re trying to accomplish by this.”
He added, “I think, in some way, the name Sam Slick should still be part of the park.”
Smith agreed with McKechnie, echoing the sentiment that, by changing the name of Sam Slick Park, council may be opening themselves to more trouble down the road.
“I don’t want someone next coming forward with a proposal to change the name of the Village of Haliburton, of the County of Haliburton because of what Thomas Chandler Haliburton wrote 200 years ago,” Smith said. “This is a slippery slope.”
McKechnie felt it was important that Dysart embrace its history and “learn from the mistakes that were made, rather than eliminate them.”
Mayor Andrea Roberts noted that, should council decide to keep the name Sam Slick Park, a plaque could be erected explaining the origins behind the name and acknowledging that the views outlined in the book are “totally different” to how people feel towards different cultures today.
Council asked staff to touch base with members of the sub-committee to see if they could send a representative to a future meeting to further discuss the issue.
Deputy mayor returns
Roberts kicked off last week’s meeting with an announcement that Pat Kennedy would be returning to his role as deputy mayor effective Oct. 1.
Kennedy took a leave of absence from council earlier this year to deal with some health issues.
“We’re all very excited and pleased that deputy mayor Kennedy will be returning back to his duties, both here at Dysart and at the County,” Roberts said. new 5,000 sq. ft. dining hall, commercial kitchen and dishwashing room. The project is expected to begin next spring.