The City of Halifax has a street named Newfie Lane, and when a Halifax woman who is from St. Johnâs learned of the Middle Sackville street name and complained, the city replied thereâs no policy against offensive names.
© â Laura Bartlett/Special to The Telegram
A signpost marks the beginning of Newfie Lane in Middle Sackville, a community of the Halifax Regional Municipality.
âI appreciate this may not be the response you wished for, but for clarification the current Civic Addressing Policy criteria does not exclude potentially derogatory or offensive street names,â Jane Cooper, development operations manager for the Halifax Regional Municipality, replied to the ex-pat in an email.
The gravel lane is private, but the city mandated it be named. Itâs unclear when that officially happened, but the process began in 2011. There are a few houses on the street and its name appears to have been suggested by residents at the time who were from Newfoundland.
âThe name meets all the criteria set out in the guidelines of street naming and therefore was duly approved by staff,â the city official told the woman.
The woman, who does not want to be named, initially wrote to her city councillor expressing her dismay about Newfie Lane.
âI was looking in the paper today and noticed an advertisement for a house listing on âNewfie Lane.â I was surprised as I was raised in Newfoundland and was brought up (as with virtually everyone I know) to view âNewfieâ as a extremely derogatory term relating to Newfoundlanders. My husband and I assumed that it was a typo in the advertisement, but apparently there is a street in Middle Sackville with this name,â the woman wrote to her councillor.
âI recognize that there are some people who find the term more comical than offensive, but frankly that is not how it is perceived by many Newfoundlanders.â
âIt is viewed as particularly insulting and offensive when used by someone not from Newfoundland.â
Halifax Coun. Linda Mosher wrote back she was unaware of the street name, and sought an explanation for her constituent by passing on the concern to the manager of civic addressing, who passed it on to another official.
The St. Johnâs native told The Telegram she was astounded at the reply and said itâs soured her on Halifax, the city sheâs lived in now for more than a decade.
âI was hurt by this,â she said. âI love Newfoundland. It bothers me that someone could get this through the system with very little resistance.â
The city response further stated that because she doesnât live on the street, she canât ask the city to rename it.
âThereâs no provision to change the name if it does slip through the cracks and someone is offended by it,â the ex-pat said.
But sheâs not leaving the issue alone, nor the cityâs policy that appears not to guard against offence. In her email correspondence with the city, she even sent links explaining the issue surrounding use of the word âNewfie.â
âI felt shot down by the representative from planning,â she said of the official response. âIn todayâs day and age this is not acceptable. âŠ It wasnât resolved the way I thought it would be resolved.â
And she wants to see the policy change.
âIâm hoping that where thereâs a will, thereâs a way. I donât know how that impacts Newfie Lane. Is that going to be there for the rest of my life? Thatâs going to be there and Iâm going to be seeing ads in the paper and itâs going to eat away at me. âŠ But I donât see this as being over. I want this to be addressed.â
Real estate agent Melanie Leblanc told The Telegram that sheâs gotten lots of response to the listing.
âPeople like the name. They think itâs funny,â said Leblanc, who added she wasnât aware there was a negative implication. She said some of the interest in the split level home has come from Newfoundlanders.
Leblanc said as far as she knows, the lane was originally called Rosemary Drive, until the city wanted it changed.
While the St. Johnâs native acknowledged there are some people who like calling themselves Newfie, she said itâs the negative connotation â in the vein of Newfie jokes and poking fun â thatâs hard to take for so many more.
âIâm quite bothered by it all. Iâm more than a little frustrated,â she said.
âPeople are not flattered by it.â
Brendan Elliott, a spokesman for the Halifax Regional Municipality, said the four original residents of the road wanted Newfie Lane because of their ties to the province.
"I guess that in itself is the difficulty," Elliott said, noting what's objective or offensive can be in the eye of the beholder.
"It's a tough area to go to. What might be offensive to one person may not be to another."
Elliott said it would take a unanimous vote by the lane's residents to change the name.
Otherwise he said the offended St. Johnâs native can lobby council to have the rules of the street naming policy changed.
A typo in this article has been corrected