The Town of Oakville may be backing away from plans to rename the Bronte Veterans Garden following opposition to the idea.
In a report scheduled to come before council on Monday, Jan. 30, town staff recommend the renaming of the Bronte Veterans Garden to Ralph Robinson Memorial Veterans Garden be withdrawn and instead a plaque be established at the 465 Bronte Rd. garden in recognition of the contributions of the late councillor.
Town Director of Parks and Open Space Chris Mark noted in the report the recommendation not to change the name came following consultation with the Bronte Legion.
He also said that following further consultation, there was “tremendous support” to install a plaque recognizing the late Ward 1 councillor Ralph Robinson, who served on town council for 36 years.
Oakville council voted unanimously during a Nov. 15, 2021 meeting to change the garden’s name in recognition of Robinson’s lifetime of service and his work to help make the veterans garden a reality.
While no one spoke against the motion during that meeting, on Dec. 5, 2022 Tara Hambly, president of the Halton Elementary Catholic Teachers Association, sent a letter to the mayor and councillors condemning the name change.
In the letter she noted it was the students of St. Dominic Catholic Elementary School who came up with the idea for a veterans garden and it was the students who raised the money to create it.
Hambly noted the name Bronte Veterans Garden was also selected by these students.
“By changing the name to honour a politician, you are taking away from the purpose of the garden, which was to honour veterans who fought for our freedom,” wrote Hambly.
“It also completely undermines all the work the students of St. Dominic did to get the garden … What you have done is shown students that they can put in the work on something and someone else will be given the credit for it. Not the life lesson we want for our students.”
Hambly also pointed out her organization donated funds to help create the Bronte Veterans Garden and wrote that if the name change goes ahead, the group wants those funds back.
“We did not give money to have a garden dedicated to a politician,” she wrote.
Hambly was not the only person who had issues with the name change.
Former Bronte Legion president Gene Reed also spoke out against it.
“Ralph was a friend of mine and if he knew this was going on, I think he would be quite devastated,” said Reed.
“It would be kind of a travesty if that park was taken away from those kids.”
Robinson’s family could not be reached for comment.
Ward 1 town and regional Coun. Sean O’Meara, who along with former Ward 1 councillor Beth Robertson brought forward the 2021 motion calling for the name change, said he would be supporting town staff’s motion to keep the Bronte Veterans Garden’s name the same.
He noted over the past year council has heard from the community about their desire to commemorate Robinson appropriately.
“We have a motion from the legion supporting a plaque at this location and have worked to recognize all community partners who brought the garden together that is in a town park,” said O’Meara.
“We look forward to those relationships continuing and in recognizing the role councillor Robinson played, not just with the garden, but throughout our entire community over his 36 years as councillor.”
The staff recommendation to keep the name of the Bronte Veterans Garden the same was well received by Hambly.
While she argued it would make more sense for a plaque commemorating Robinson to be placed at town hall or somewhere else that was special to him, she said placing the plaque at the veterans garden is a better outcome than a name change.
Reed said he was happy with the staff recommendation to remember Robinson with a plaque at the garden.
If the recommendation is approved by council at the Jan. 30 meeting, the plaque will be installed at the garden in the spring of 2023.