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Women are underrepresented in Ottawa's commemorative parks

There are 978 parks in Ottawa. All but 31 of them are named after men.

Heather Crowe Park is one of 34 named after a woman in Ottawa.

Metro Ottawa

Heather Crowe Park is one of 34 named after a woman in Ottawa.

Over the past couple weeks, residents have had the opportunity to weigh in on four commemorative naming proposals: William Bradley Park, Allen Frederick Moore Park, Lyndall Winters Trail, and the Susan Ruth Finch Meeting Room.

This is, in itself, unremarkable; it is part of the standard operating procedure when it comes to commemorative naming. You may notice something, however, if you look at the names attached: three of the four of them are named after men. 

In Ottawa, there is a striking gender imbalance in commemorative naming. Of Ottawa parks that are identifiably named after people — meaning, a first and last name are attached — only 20 per cent bear women’s names. (This calculation excludes parks named only after family names.) 

In an email, Kiel Anderson, manager of policy and technical solutions with the city, noted that city staff simply receive names from the community, rather than decide on names themselves. They do not, however, have a process by which they track representation among those names.

In 2015, councillors Diane Deans and Rick Chiarelli put forth a list of 11 names of women, amid a renaming blitz. “If they’d been men, they would’ve been commemorated by now,” said Chiarelli at the time.

In 2002, Ottawa adopted the Commemorative Naming Policy (CNP), designed to establish a single process and set of criteria by which city assets can be named after individuals who have demonstrated excellence, contributed to the community, or are important to the City of Ottawa. The policy was designed to ensure that the process of commemorative was transparent, timely and that naming proposals were being judged against consistent criteria.

The CNP’s stated goals are more bureaucratic than social, and the policy says nothing about who city assets are named after — just how they’re named. The has not improved the representation of women: Of the 47 parks named under the CNP since 2002, only nine have been named after women.

There are 10 names on the city's public list of approved commemorative names. None of them are female. 

By the Numbers

Total number of parks in Ottawa: 978
Number of parks named after an individual: 171
Number of parks named after a woman: 34

Number of commemorative street names: 101
Number of commemorative street names named after a woman: 21

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