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The Waaban Crossing: a new name for a new dawn

Kingston’s Third Crossing will be newly dubbed the “Waaban Crossing” when the bridge officially opens in a public ceremony in the autumn of 2022. The new official name honours the rich Indigenous history and continued vibrancy of the Indigenous community in Kingston.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday evening, Mar. 22, 2022, City Council passed a motion confirming the bridge’s proper name, which is pronounced ‘WAHban.’ The community-selected name for the new bridge – which spans the Cataraqui River from the foot of Gore Road in the city’s east end to the foot of John Counter Boulevard in the north end – comes from the Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) language. 

A rendering of the finished Third Crossing, which will now be called the Waaban Crossing, the City of Kingston announced on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2022. Image via the City of Kingston.

Jennifer Campbell, Director of Heritage Services for the City, described the meanings of the new name: “It was most beautifully explained to me, as this moment where anything’s possible, as night slips into a new morning and opportunities are provided at that moment of transition… an easterly direction towards the morning sun… that moment where day and night intersect and both exist.”

The naming engagement process involved 942 community participants and included six in-depth meetings with Indigenous community members. 725 residents completed surveys on the names and naming themes, and 188 student submissions provided feedback to guide the final name selection. The name is seen as a hopeful metaphor for a brighter future for all. The use of “Third Crossing” will continue until the bridge construction is complete and the bridge officially opens at the end of 2022.

“Waaban is just such a beautiful word with a deeper meaning than dawn — it’s an awakening of life when everything responds to the rising light, it’s the gratitude for having another day to live,” shared one community engagement participant.

In July 2020, Kingston City Council committed to naming Kingston’s Third Crossing in a way that would reflect and celebrate the stories and contributions of Indigenous communities in this region, both past and present. This naming of the new bridge is an important symbolic action and a commitment to the journey of reconciliation, and to broadening the histories and cultures that we honour and reflect across our community, Campbell explained to the press this morning, Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2022, in an online announcement.

“As a City, we’re broadening our understanding of Kingston’s history by incorporating more Indigenous stories, and by facilitating space for a community dialogue that values and prioritizes reconciliation,” said Mayor Bryan Paterson. “Naming the City’s largest-ever infrastructure project as the ‘Waaban Crossing’ is a symbolic step towards these important goals. This is about building bridges, not only from one shore of the Cataraqui River to the other, but within our community as we work toward mutual understanding and inclusion.”

The Mayor also stated, “It’s a delight to be able to chat with you this morning, particularly given Council’s unanimous approval last night of the new name… I have to say that the Waaban Crossing has [already] been really well received by the community… I’ve seen lots of really positive feedback… It’s a great name that really speaks so much to the direction that we’re going as a community… [I think it was] a really important decision that we would rename the third crossing with an Indigenous name to reflect the history and culture of Indigenous peoples here in our community and our surrounding region. It is a great testament to that work for collaboration, and all work and efforts toward reconciliation.” 

The naming of the Third Crossing was a result of over two years of consultation on how to expand the histories we celebrate as a community to include more Indigenous stories and experiences. Specifically, engagement on the name commenced in February 2021 and was facilitated with the support of First Peoples Group with a commitment to implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action. 

“The City of Kingston is proud to honour and celebrate Indigenous Nations, communities, and Peoples in and around Kingston,” said Campbell. “The naming of the bridge is a symbolic action, but it speaks to a shared commitment across the community: a commitment to break through systemic barriers. Reconciliation is a partnership that requires all of us to commit to learning, sharing, and working together toward a stronger tomorrow.”

“[The name will] reflect on the eastern direction, particularly the morning light that rises at dawn and the transition to a new day… So the name is a really hopeful metaphor for the relationship that is being built in Kingston and for the future that is ahead of us all,” she added.

The Waaban Crossing bridge is the largest infrastructure project the City has ever undertaken and is being funded by all three levels of government, with each contributing $60 million. According to the City’s website, the new 1.2-km, two-lane bridge is meant to improve emergency services, increase active transportation through a multi-use pedestrian and bike pathway, create greater business connectivity, and enhance the quality of life for the residents and visitors of Kingston. The design will include informational and artistic elements on both sides of the bridge and along its corridor, emphasizing the meaning of the Waaban Crossing and its origin, along with park benches, banners, plantings, and other elements.

In a release, The City emphasized that it is committed to working with Indigenous Peoples and all residents to pursue a united path of reconciliation, noting, “The City of Kingston acknowledges that we are on the traditional homeland of the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee. and the Huron-Wendat, and thanks these nations for their care and stewardship over this shared land.”

Residents can access the City of Kingston website to learn more about the City’s reconciliation initiatives. Learn more about the naming process and the six steps of the Third Crossing Naming engagement project at Get Involved Kingston.

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