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Mixed reaction to petition calling on renaming Ottawa street in front of Russian embassy after Alexei Navalny

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An online petition, calling on the City of Ottawa to rename a portion of Charlotte Street in front of the Russian Embassy to 'Navalny Street,' in honour of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, now has nearly 10,000 signatures – but not everyone is in favour of the idea.

"As someone deeply moved by the courage and resilience of Alexei Navalny, I am initiating this petition to rename a segment of street in Ottawa," the petition organizer said on the crowdsourcing platform Change.org.

"The proposed change is to name the stretch of road on Charlotte Street from Wilbrod Street to Range Road as 'Navalny Street' (about a 100 metre stretch of Charlotte Street), which is right in front of the Russian embassy."

On Friday, as supporters of Ukraine demonstrate in front of the Russian embassy, some spoke in support of the online petition to change the name of the street it sits on.

"I did sign it and I passed it along to a few others," says Judi Ward, who comes to the embassy every day. "He was fighting for his country, for freedom, for democracy. And he was so brave," she says.

The street is named after Princess Charlotte, the only child of King George IV. It also holds significance for the city as it honours the city's first female mayor, Charlotte Whitton.

And Charlotte Vance is all for changing the name, "I think it's a great idea," she says. "I think it's a great idea because it would be nice to have all their mail delivered to Navalny Street."

Supporters of Ukraine demonstrate in front of the Russian Embassy on Friday, March 1, 2024. (Peter Szperling/CTV News Ottawa)

But not everyone agrees.

"Although he was for Russia, he was not for Ukraine's independence," says Oksana Bashuk Hepburn, who is a Canadian with Ukrainian heritage. "I think there are many streets in Ottawa that could be named Navalny. I think we should have Navalny, but not here."

Coun. Stéphanie Plante is also not in favour of changing the name of the street.

"I would suggest that most people of Ukrainian origin would be against it. And the Belarusians, because he didn't think too kindly of them either," she tells CTV News Ottawa. "So it's a nonstarter for me, personally. My husband is Ukrainian-Canadian. We have Ukrainian family. Mr. Navalny, while he was very successful at getting under Mr. Putin's skin, he held some pretty reprehensible views about Ukrainians and the annexation of Crimea and the invasion which happened two years ago."

There have been several other name change proposals for the street since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, which marked its second anniversary on Saturday.

In March of the same year, the city installed "Free Ukraine" street signs in front of the embassy, located in the Sandy Hill neighbourhood. The signs were symbolic in nature and not a permanent change. Former Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said at the time the signs were a way to "denounce (the Russian) government's actions and to stand with the people of Ukraine."

In Ottawa, a name change must go through a commemorative street naming process, which includes staff vetting requests for a street name, a 30-day public consultation period and a report to council.

On Friday, The City of Ottawa confirmed to CTV News Ottawa, it has not received any formal applications for the renaming of Charlotte Street.

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