Polish government steps into Toronto Roncesvalles Festival renaming debacle

The Polish Consulate General in Toronto has weighed in on the renaming of the Roncesvalles Festival, backing their support for not removing the word ‘Polish’ from the event’s name.

This is getting serious.

In case you missed it, the long running Roncesvalles Polish Festival announced last month that for 2022 and moving forward it would now be known as just the “Roncesvalles Festival.”

This resulted in an (unsurprising) uproar from the city’s Polish community, which was perplexed as to why the festival was renamed, given the fact that it still features mainly Polish cultural acts and food sales, and that Roncesvalles has historically been known as the heart of the community.

Now, the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland has written a letter to the chair of the Roncesvalles BIA expressing their disappointment.

“The Polish community is one of the most numerous foreign ancestry groups in Ontario,” read the note.

“Since many years the Roncesvalles Avenue is well known as the center of Polish community with prominent Polish institutions, businesses and St. Casimir’s Catholic Church located there. This is why the largest Polish Festival in North America has been annually organized on Roncesvalles Avenue.”

The letter goes on to explain that removing the word ‘Polish’ would have irreversible consequences for the event, such as reduced attendance.

The Consul General, Magdalena Pszczolkowska, also highlighted the fact that May 2022 was celebrated as Polish Heritage Month for the first time in Ontario history.

“Bearing in mind the above-mentioned reason which are reflecting opinion of the great Polish community, I would like to ask you to keep the historical name of the festival – the Roncesvalles Polish Festival,” finished her note.

It was also written to the attention of the ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Canada, Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism Michael Ford, MPP for Etobicoke Center Kinga Surma, MPP for Parkdale-High Park Bhutila Karpoche and MPP for Mississauga-Centre Natalia Kusendova.

The letter comes in the wake of a petition demanding the festival name return to its original status.

The petition’s creator, Mike Ostrowski, told blogTO the removal of the Polish name would “diminish” the festival into becoming a “generic capitalistic festival attended by few.”

“The Roncesvalles Polish Festival is the largest Polish festival in North America with over 350,000 annual visitors. By removing its ‘Polish’ character, the Roncesvalles BIA is erasing a symbol of Polish-Canadian culture and undermining Polish identity in Canada,” read Ostrowski’s petition , which has now racked up almost 3,000 signatures.

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