EMBRUN – The township of Russell recently announced five open seats on the municipality’s Russell Namesake Rededication Committee with an application deadline of Jan. 26.

Those interested in sitting on this committee must be 18 years old, a Canadian citizen, and a resident of the township. In addition, there’s a stated preference for individuals who are bilingual. Applicants must represent themselves rather than an organization or business, and they must be available to attend meetings and other activities associated with the committee. This is an unpaid seat. The term will end when the new namesake has been approved by Russell’s municipal council.

The committee’s mandate is to receive and then research, evaluate, and verify submissions from residents for the rededication of “Russell” in someone else’s honour. The issue of Russell’s name arose roughly two years ago when people discovered the municipality was named after Peter Russell, a high-ranking administrator in the pre-Confederation government of Upper Canada who owned slaves. In response, hundreds of people signed a petition calling on the township to change the name.

It was noted by many that the municipality doesn’t represent the beliefs of its founder. It was also noted that legally changing the name would be complicated and costly, as it’s not just the township that’s been named Russell, but also one of the towns within the municipality and the upper-tier United Counties, as well. Those opposed to the idea of changing the name started their own petition calling for the name to remain the same.

“I’m proud to say that we’re not changing the name Russell. My notice of motion for keeping the name and simply changing the namesake was approved by the majority of council. This allows us to come together as a community now in finding someone who we feel is more deserving of that honour without costing anything to the taxpayer,” Mayor Pierre Leroux said during a July 6, 2020, Special Meeting Wrap-Up video posted to the township’s Facebook page. “As part of the notice of motion as well, Coun. [Mike] Tarnowski and Coun. [Cindy] Saucier made some amendments that will also see the creation of a Community Diversity, Equity and Inclusion volunteer committee similar to our Accessibility Committee or our Youth and Seniors Committees. This is to look at our community through that lens.”

To apply for one of the available Russell Namesake Rededication Committee seats, complete, sign, and submit a Committee Appointment Application Form to the clerk’s office (clerk.greffe@russell.ca) by 4 p.m. Jan. 26. The application can also be mailed via the Town Hall address of 717 Notre-Dame Street in Embrun. Forms are available on the committee webpage (russell.ca/en/your-township/committees.aspx) or by contacting the clerk directly, either via email or phone (613-443-3066, extension 2310). Only those selected will be contacted.