Are we confusing the criteria used to determine Burlington’s BEST with sentiment? Has Council gotten all warm and fuzzy?

By Pepper Parr

February 4, 2014


This is a little awkward.  How does one write about a person they have never met, who is no longer alive and who is being recommended for a level of recognition few in the city ever receive?

The Halton Regional Police Association have recommended that Bill Henshaw be recognized for his police service by having the street the Burlington police detachment station is on re-named and called Constable Henshaw Boulevard.

They have asked city council to rename Southampton Boulevard, a street that has no residence and serves as the entrance into Headon community that is west of Walkers Line and south of Dundas.

According to city planner Bruce Krushelnicki this has been done just once before in Burlington.

William Charles Henshaw

Charles William Henshaw was also current Chief of Police Steve Tanner’s training officer.  His colleague Pail Lacourse, Chief Administrative Officer of the Police Association told Council that Henshaw “didn’t aspire to be promoted” – he was a front line officer with a soft spot.

Constable Leslie Bayliss served with Henshaw and told of a Christmas Even in 1999 when a lovelorn American drove up from Buffalo to meet the woman he hoped to marry but had never met.  Bayliss described that night this way.  The man knocked on the woman’s door, she took one look at him and shut the door in his face.  The man didn’t know what to do and he had a problem – there wasn’t enough gas in the tank of his car to get him back to Buffalo.  He asked the police for help and Constable Henshaw used his credit card to put gas in the man’s car.

That story says more about the woman who slammed the door and the man who knocked on it than anything else.  Does it say enough about a man the police want to have recognized?

Many ask why not name the park to the south of the police station after Henshaw?  Much was made of the comments from the delegations but no reference to the letter that was part of the Standing Committee agenda from a resident that did not think the street should be renamed.

The staff report did make reference to the fact that most of the residents that were aware of the idea of renaming the street were opposed.

Councillor Lancaster, who was chairing the meeting, put on her best Miss Canada smiled and said she was proud to move the motion to rename the street after the police Constable.  And it was a nice thing to do.  Is it the right thing to do?

Councillor has a practice of ignoring what her constituents have to say.

When the city hands out its Burlington’s Best awards later this year – is the focus not on the “best”? We do not take anything away from Constable Henshaw – he appears to have been a fine police officer who died far too young.  The man is not the issue – it is the policy and the way the residents who will be inconvenienced for some time by a street name that is the concern.

One resident wrote saying “I have been a resident of this area for more than 20 years and the residential area was established long before the police station was built on Southampton Blvd.  Changing the name of a long existing street is confusing an inappropriate for the residents of the area.”

Another 45 year Burlington resident was “disappointed” that the Halton Regional Police Association is requesting that Southampton Boulevard’s name be changed. “I have never heard of Constable Bill and cannot understand any significant local reason for renaming a street after him.”

The resident felt that renaming Newport Park to the south of the police station would be more appropriate.

The Police Services Board sent council a letter asking that  “a well-respected, long serving member of the Halton Regional Police Service who died while on duty” be recognized with something that would be “most fitting to honour his service to the community”.

Councillor Dennison had no problems with the idea but he did want to see a sign placed beneath the new street name sign saying “Formerly Southampton Blvd” and kept in place for at least 24 months.  His amendment was accepted.

It wold be interesting to see the data on just what residents had to say.  This Council wanted to go along with a police association request that was brought to council by its Police Services Board representative Councillor Craven.

A lovely idea – but it is an appropriate one?

Background links:

Bill Henshaw – a cop who worked his beat.


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1 comment to Are we confusing the criteria used to determine Burlington’s BEST with sentiment? Has Council gotten all warm and fuzzy?

  • Street names often have meaning, but not always.

    The Burlington Historical Society published a book entitled “Burlington’s Streets – What’s Behind the Name?” – one of its co-authors was Les Armstrong (his recent death and work with the Freeman Station was profiled by James Smith:

    “Southhampton” was officially chosen in 1989 when the plan of subdivision was first registered. But why?

    According to the Society’s research: “A British place name was selected for this street. In England, this port city had been the main port of departure, when the White Star Line moved its base there in 1911. The Mayflower set sail from here in 1620. This street is a departure or entry “port” of Headon Forest.”

    The name seems a bit disconnected to Burlington (other than it reminds us of our British roots), and merely part of a convenient theme (e.g. nearby is Northhampton, plus Aberdeen, Newport, et al.). I doubt many citizens get the intended “port” reference.

    In my view, and simply put, this is a heritage moment.

    While I appreciate the familiarity/convenience factor raised by local residents not wanting change – a street name is a relatively small but important way for the City to do more about promoting and preserving the legacies of Burlingtonians, especially community builders from our recent past.

    For example: if “Southhampton” changes to “Henshaw”, perhaps the City should also consider a new name for the corresponding “Northhampton” to provide balance?

    While another location for this street name could be more appropriate – “Mulkewich” sounds right to me.