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Group asks for referendum vote on renaming Powell River

A name change might be in Powell River’s future, but some residents are asking for a referendum before the decision to proceed is made.

The name change, brought forward by the City of Powell River and Tla’amin First Nation, would address the word “Powell”. The name comes from Israel Powell, who was Canada’s Minister of Indian Affairs between 1872 and 1899.

Dean Gerhart, one of the group’s members, asked for the referendum at the next general election at a committee of the whole meeting Wednesday.

“Our objectives of the committee are to have local government conduct assent voting, a referendum, for such an important and controversial subject as to the changing of the name of Powell River,” said Gerhart. “And to have all eligible voters be provided with the opportunity to vote in the referendum on the question of a name change for the city of Powell River.”

He added the group has started a petition, urging council to conduct the referendum.

A survey is currently underway for residents of Powell River to fill out on the topic of renaming. Residents are encouraged to fill it out to provide feedback on the idea.

Gerhart said, however, that multiple people have said they could complete multiple surveys online. Although Gerhart said he can’t verify those claims, he says an individual can put in multiple survey entries if the postal code is changed.

He added that he feels there is a lot of rhetoric going around in the community. He says this concerns him having grown up in the city.

“I was born and raised in Powell River, I played soccer with my native friends for many years and in all my life I actually never heard the rhetoric that is occurring today,” he said. “It disturbs me that that is actually going on.”

He said he hopes the city will “give it very serious concern about conducting a referendum when the time comes,” adding that people want to vote.

Councillor Cindy Elliott said the option of a referendum is on the table, however, the decision likely won’t come fast enough for the group.

“I’m happy we’re moving forward with the conversation. I don’t think it will be quite as short as what some people think it will be,” said Elliott. “I think we’ll have a few votes along the way including for our next council before we solve this issue.”

She added they would like ideas as to how to proceed.

Councillor George Doubt also added they are gathering information for the topic and it is one step in the process.

READ MORE: Public engagement begins regarding possible name change for Powell River

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