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Petition calls on Ottawa to rename street outside Russian Embassy in honour of Alexei Navalny

The city of Ottawa installed "Free Ukraine" signs on Charlotte Street, across the street from the Russian Embassy. (Leah Larocque/CTV News Ottawa) The city of Ottawa installed "Free Ukraine" signs on Charlotte Street, across the street from the Russian Embassy. (Leah Larocque/CTV News Ottawa)
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An online petition is 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, who died last week.

"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."

The organizer says they are hoping the name change would only impact the embassy grounds, without affecting other homes or businesses in the area.

Navalny, who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests as President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest foe, died Friday in the Arctic penal colony where he was serving a 19-year sentence. He had been behind bars since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow to face certain arrest after recuperating in Germany from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.

FILE - Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny takes part in a march in memory of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow, Russia, on Feb. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)

The petition organizer says the change would "serve as a constant reminder for Russia about their brave citizens who stood up for democracy against all odds."

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."

NDP MP Charlie Angus presented a motion in the House of Commons that same month calling on the street to be renamed to 'Zelensky Boulevard,' in honour of Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky. The motion received unanimous consent in the house.

However, there has not been any notices in any official capacity from the city on whether or not it was moving forward with the proposed change.

Those looking to rename a street have to pass through several regulatory hoops imposed by the city. A change to Charlotte Street could be a drawn-out process, considering the street's historical significance.

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.

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.

The City of Ottawa says it has not received an application to its Commemorative Naming Program.

"It should be noted that the Commemorative Naming Program is currently on hold until a new policy will be brought forward later this year," said Dan Chenier, the city's general manager of recreation, cultural and facility services in a statement.

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Josh Pringle and The Associated Press

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