Ottawa Ontario - Critics say the city had the opportunity to select more diverse names for its Confederation Line LRT and Trillium Line trains, judging by the full list of nearly 2,000 entries submitted by children.
Community organizer Rachel Decoste and Jeremy Dias, the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, wrote to Mayor Jim Watson last month criticizing the lack of diversity in the 40 winning entries selected by the city.
Twenty other people from the community also put their names to the complaint.
After reviewing all of the entries, which are now posted on OC Transpo's website, Decoste and Dias believe the city missed a chance to reflect the region's diversity.
"I'm looking at a list of over 25 names of diverse folk, wondering why none of these names were included," Dias said.
In citing some examples, Dias pointed out on the list indigenous war hero Tommy Prince, retired Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Henry Burris, former South African president Nelson Mandela, singer Alessia Cara, French-Canadian folk hero Joe Mufferaw, astronaut Roberta Bondar, and anti-slave activist Mary Ann Shadd Cary.
Dias was shocked to see that someone suggested his name.
"It's a huge honour to think there's young people in the community who think I'm cool enough to have my name on a train," he said.
Decoste said the selection committee could have done a better job of putting more names on the winning list reflecting local people of colour, indigenous people, and francophones.
"They had choices and it's concerning to me that nobody in that jury thought about representation when they were choosing 40," Decoste said.
Decoste applauded the city for reaching out to youths in an initiative, but she questioned if a naming contest was the best way to go about doing it.
"I hope they continue reaching out to youths in other ways that are maybe more meaningful," she said, suggesting mentorship programs, summer job programs, and recreation programs.
"Perhaps that's a better way of spending our tax dollars and money than getting Trainy McTrainface 20 times as a suggested name and other deleted entries that were too vulgar to include in this list."
There were several variations of Trainy McTrainface entered in the contest, which was open to children aged 16 or younger.
They included (as entered), McTrain Face, Mr. McTrainyface, Trainy McTrain, Trainey McTrain, Train McTrainface, Boaty McBoatFace, T mcTrainface, TroliMcTroliFace, Late McLateface, and Tooty McTootface.
The suggestions were all over the map, although there were several duplicates that played on the names of Watson and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
One child said former mayor Larry O'Brien's name should be on a train.
The rules of the contest, the names were to be short, reflect people, animals, the natural world, culture, or history, bilingual or easily translatable, positive, easy to remember, and not vulgar, must have made rejecting many of the ideas easy for the judges.
No one will be riding Chuck Norris, Nickeltrack or the Queen's Beaver to work when Ottawa's LRT line opens in November.
Same can be said for Darth Vader, Choobacca, and Santa Claus.
The city received 1,899 submissions and selected 40 names for the 40 trains on the Confederation Line and Trillium Line.
The city announced the winners on 24 Feb 2018 but it wasn't until recent days that Transpo made available the complete list of entries.
The names, which serve as informal ways to recognize the trains, will be placed on the vehicles this year.
The city said all of the winning names followed the contest rules.
"As the contest outlined, the city selected 40 names, six for the Trillium Line and 34 for the Confederation Line, from the nearly 2,000 submissions by local children and youth," according to Kim MacEwen, manager of business support services.
"City staff did not have an influence on the names submitted. All 40 names will appear in the language they were submitted and will be translated in both English and French on all train cars."
Four city reps were on the judging panel for the final 40 names, Coun. Stephen Blais the chair of the transit commission, Coun. Keith Egli chair of the transportation committee, Pat Scrimgeour the director of customer systems and planning for Transpo, and Livia Belcea the mayor's press secretary.
Having a more diverse selection committee could have helped, but it wasn't the best idea to ask children to name the trains in the first place, Decoste said.
"We're not blaming the kids by any means for this list of names," Dias said, but he thinks the city missed an opportunity to start a conversation about Ottawa.
"This is not a joke. This is an opportunity to celebrate leaders in our community and recognize the diversity of our city," Dias said.
The Stage 2 rail expansion will add 38 trains to the Confederation Line by 2022.
The city hasn't said if those trains will get names, too.
Trillium Line selected train car names: