Committee votes to rename Paul Haggis Park

Photo of Paul Haggis Park by Rebecca Chouinard.

In the wake of a civil lawsuit that accused him of sexual assaults, London native Paul Haggis could see his name removed from a south end park.

At city hall on Tuesday night, the  Community and Protective Services Committee voted unanimously to begin the process of renaming Paul Haggis Park.

Elizabeth Peloza, the councilor for Ward 12, put forward the motion at Tuesday’s meeting. Throughout her tenure, Peloza has continuously advocated for making London a safe place for women and girls.

“My motion was also supported by the London Abused Women’s Centre. There was a letter of support on the public agenda, and several people in the community have reached out as they have followed this news story themselves, encouraging council to keep following it and take appropriate action,” she said. 

The south-end park was named after Haggis around 2011. Haggis was born and raised in London, but later pursued his career in Hollywood and became a well-known screenwriter, film producer, and director.

Since 2017, multiple women have come forward to accuse Haggis of sexual assault and misconduct. Earlier this month, a New York jury found him liable for rape and he was ordered to pay a total of $7.5 million in compensatory damages to the victim, and an additional $2.5 million in punitive damages.

Removing Haggis’ name from the city park has been in discussion for a few years, but now that a judgement has been rendered in his New York civil suit, Peloza says the time is right for London city officials to take action.

“People question ‘Is it worth it? Does it actually matter to anybody?’ and we hear that it does. It’s never a comfortable conversation, especially explaining to someone who hasn’t been victimized why it matters,” said Peloza. “The conversation needs to keep happening. There’s a really high possibility most women have encountered some sort of abuse or unwanted attention in their life span, and this action does matter.”

Jennifer Dunn, the executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, has voiced her support for removing Haggis’ name from the public space.

“[We] are pleased with the outcome from the committee meeting last night, a unanimous decision to rename Haggis Park is exactly what we want to see, it is exactly what women and girls in our community need to see,” Dunn commented. “Women in our community deserve to feel protected by the City of London and by the decisions makers in our City.”

The Community and Protective Services committee passed Peloza’s motion without dissent. It will go to the city council for a full vote on December 13 before any action can be taken.

According to Peloza, London is making widespread efforts to remove other harmful titles from the community. “The city is also reviewing our street naming policy that we follow, and that will come back for further review of council consideration in early 2023,” Peloza said.