What’s in a street name?
In Whistle Bend, vessels that once plied the waterways of the north, ferrying goods and people between communities, are the street namesakes connecting Whitehorse’s newest neighbourhood.
Two of those street names — Gypsy Queen Lane and Peep Street — could soon be changed after concerns were cited over the terms gypsy and peep.
Coun. Michelle Friesen brought the concerns forward with staff just before Christmas. Staff brought the change forward at the Jan. 10 council meeting.
The bylaw would change the names to Scotia Lane and Omega Street.
Pat Ross, the city’s manager of land and building services, told council in a report that the theme of naming streets in the neighbourhood after historic boats came about when the initial planning was done for Whistle Bend.
The Gypsy Queen, he said, was a sternwheeler that operated in 1898, providing transport to the goldfields of the Klondike. In nautical terms, the gypsy refers to a notched ring connected to the chain on the anchor.
Peep was a steamship that operated in 1909 in British Columbia.
The street names were adopted as part of the Phase 6 subdivision process.
“Concern has since been raised that the term ‘gypsy’ can be considered an inappropriate and derogatory term for the Roma people,” Ross said. “Concerns have also been raised that the word ‘peep’ is often associated with terms such as ‘peepshow’ and ‘peeping Tom,’ which has sexual connotations.”
Given the concerns, Scotia Lane and Omega Street are now being put forward.
The Scotia operated from 1898 to 1918 from Atlin, B.C. through Taku Arm to another boat at Bennett Lake.
The Omega operated on Bennett Lake during the construction of the White Pass railroad.
While there are eight private lots on Gypsy Queen Lane that will need a change of address, Ross noted homes there are still in the construction phase with one contractor overseeing the work.
Lots on Peep Street have not yet been available for sale.
Ross said officials have spoken with the contractor and all documents associated with the building projects there would be changed to reflect the new street names should it go ahead.
Ross also cited the importance of considering the change ahead of the next Whistle Bend land lottery when lots on both streets will be available for purchase.
The city will be responsible for changing the street signs.
During council discussion following the report, Ross confirmed that residents can bring forward suggestions for street names at any time. While it doesn’t mean the suggestion will immediately be used, it will be added to an ongoing list of potential names that could be brought forward at a later date.
Council will vote whether to move forward with the bylaw at its Jan. 17 meeting.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at email@example.com