Residents of Canmore say they never meant to offend anyone when
they continued to call their local mountain Chinaman's Peak.
Most say that in fact it was so named to honour Ha Ling, a CPR
worker who won a $50 bet back in 1896 by scaling the mountain in
less than six hours. A town art gallery even took the name as a
way of appealing to tourists.
But many Albertans of Chinese heritage have taken offence at
the name. Derogatory. Insulting, they say. Perpetuating a
demeaning slur used to hurt them. If not intentionally, then
carelessly implying that the individual supposedly so honoured is
too unimportant to be identified by name.
What happens when some people find a name offensive and want to
have it changed and others do not? In Alberta, we have a process
to officially name our mountains, rivers, settlements-all the
geographic marks on our maps. And we have a process to change
them. This spring, people tested that process in Canmore.
The Alberta Historical Resources Foundation, a Crown Agency,
was set up in 1976 to assist community efforts to preserve the
province's heritage. Today, the foundation's board also makes
decisions about geographical names and recommends changes to the
Minister of Community Development. Staff of the Geographical Names
Program of the Historic Sites Service of Alberta Community
Development help prepare submissions to the board and the program
coordinator acts as an advisor.