Winnipeg is looking at removing the name of Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin from its roadways for his connection to Canada’s residential school system. (Photo from

Winnipeg looks to cancel Grandin

  • March 16, 2023

The Archdiocese of Winnipeg is taking a hand’s off approach as the Prairie city looks to erase the legacy of Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin from its map for his association with Canada’s residential school system.

On March 13, the Winnipeg executive policy committee reviewed a report proposing Bishop Grandin Blvd., an expressway that runs through the districts of Fort Garry, St. Vital and St. Boniface, undergo a name change due to the complicated legacy of its namesake.

Grandin (1829-1902), who served as shepherd of the Diocese of St. Albert from 1871 until his death, is widely credited for being a vital builder of the Catholic Church’s presence in Western Canada. Since the initial discovery of alleged unmarked graves near a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., on May 27, 2021, Grandin’s legacy has faced intense scrutiny because of his public championing of Canada’s residential school system.

Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon explained in a statement why the Church is staying out of this matter.

“In response to recent developments in the City of Winnipeg regarding the renaming of public properties which were named after Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin, the Archdiocese of Winnipeg believes that this is a matter for public policy not Church policy,” wrote Gagnon. 

“Properties such as Bishop Grandin Blvd. named after him were decisions taken by the City of Winnipeg or individual developers at the time. In recent years, there has been a focus on Bishop Grandin’s association with the residential school system in Canada and therefore a reconsideration of these previous decisions is now underway.”

The committee report proposes rechristening the road as Abinojii Mikanah, which translates from Ojibway as “children’s road.” Grandin Street in St. Boniface and the Bishop Grandin Trail in Winnipeg would also be outfitted with new Cree names — Taapweewin Way and Awasisak Mēskanow. Taapweewin means “truth” in Michif, and Awasisak Mēskanow means “children’s road” in Cree.

A group of Indigenous elders, residential school survivors, knowledge keepers and youth participated in the naming process.

Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham told CBC that renaming the streets is a better course of action than the contemplated alternative: to keep Grandin as the namesake and install accompanying informational signs that explain his complicated history. 

“I think if we’re sincere about making the changes along the path of reconciliation … then we need to take actions that go beyond putting up panels that someone may or may not ever see to educate people,” said Gillingham. “If we’re going to take the calls to action seriously, then we need to act, and this, to me, is action.”

Many Canadian buildings and businesses have already stripped Grandin’s name. Calgary, Edmonton and St. Albert Catholic Schools voted to choose new designations for schools formerly associated with Grandin. The City of Edmonton swapped Grandin LRT station for Government Centre station and removed a mural depicting the late bishop. Grandin Fish ‘n’ Chips in Edmonton rebranded as Prairie Fish ‘n’ Chips.

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