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There's a new proposal to rename Place des Festivals to honour jazz pianist Oscar Peterson

Montreal's municipal political party Ensemble Montréal proposes that the city should change the name of Place des Festivals to honour the jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.

JP Karwacki
Written by
JP Karwacki

The debate on where to memorialize Oscar Peterson's name in Montreal on a significant landmark—somewhere—continues.

On October 7, the Montreal's municipal political Ensemble Montréal will be proposing to rename the downtown's public space for festivals in honour of the Montreal's famous jazz pianist and composer Oscar Peterson, making the name "Place Oscar-Peterson". It's a motion that will be tabled at the upcoming October Municipal Council meeting on October 19.

"It's the least we can do to honour such a jazz legend, a man considered to be one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time," said Lionel Perez, the leader of Ensemble Montréal, in a press release on October 7. "This Montrealer by birth, raised in the Little Burgundy neighbourhood with his brothers and sisters, richly deserves his place in Montréal's toponymy, in thanks for all the prestige he bestowed upon our great city and on Montréal's Black community."

Last June, an online petition was circulated by Little Burgundy resident Naveed Hussain to rename the Green Line's metro station Lionel-Groulx after Peterson, who passed away in 2007. It received 27,000 signatures.

The City of Montreal, however, responded that the change was not likely, with spokeswoman for Mayor Valérie Plante Geneviève Jutras telling the CBC that the names of metro stations are based on geographic references (as in the names of nearby streets or institutions), and that "adding that these names, easily recognized by users, are important to the metro network."

"Linking my husband's name with this marvellous, world-renowned Montreal Jazz site is fantastic. Montreal is his hometown," said Peterson's widow, Mrs. Kelly Peterson. "This is where he learned to play the piano, where he gave his first concerts. Montreal was the springboard to his exceptional international career, and the city he proudly recognized throughout his life. I'm so very grateful for the efforts being made to honour his memory and his legacy with dignity. Oscar would be deeply humbled and honoured to be remembered in this way." 

Anyone hoping to attend Montreal's Municipal Council meeting on October 19 can do so for free. The meeting will take place between 1pm and 5pm.

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