Construction of the replacement building to Mills Memorial Hospital is well underway. (Photo courtesy of Northern Health)

Construction of the replacement building to Mills Memorial Hospital is well underway. (Photo courtesy of Northern Health)

Naming of Terrace’s Mills Memorial Hospital under discussion by Northern Health

Mills Memorial Hospital is named after Dr. Stanley Mills, who arrived in Terrace in the late 1920s

There could very well be a new name or names attached to the replacement for Terrace’s Mills Memorial Hospital now well into construction.

In a brief statement, the Northern Health Authority says the naming of its $632.6 million replacement to the current outdated and inadequate Mills Memorial Hospital has already been discussed within two advisory groups set up by the health authority to provide advice and guidance. The first group taps into the broader community while the second group is Indigenous-focused.

Northern Health does not release the minutes of its committees or the topics discussed, so the substance or depth of any discussions is not known.

“Northern Health recognizes the name of the new hospital is a topic of significant interest and importance for many people and requires careful consideration,” Northern Health said in its statement.

“Given that there are 20 to 21 months before the opening of the new hospital, Northern Health expects to finalize the approach for naming later this year,” the statement added.

The current hospital building takes its name from Dr. Stanley Mills who arrived in Terrace in the late 1920s. Together with his wife Edith, who was a nurse, the couple provided care to area residents for decades.

The couple retired in Terrace and both lost their lives in a fire at their residence in 1961.

There is one other name associated with the current hospital now — the education room is named after Kitsumkalum elder Vera Henry.

Discussions around additions or changes to the new hospital building follow the growing trend to provide Indigenous-focused names and descriptions to buildings and services. The practice has been gaining ground since the provincial government adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into law and has made the declaration a central part of provincial policy decision-making.

But the new hospital would not be the first local public sector enterprise to use Indigenous names. Coast Mountain College did that with the buildings on its Terrace campus years ago and Indigenous art forms a prominent part of building projects undertaken there in recent years.

Northern Health uses a provincial policy adopted in 2018, and predating the adoption of the Indigenous rights declaration, when it comes to naming structures.

Over four pages, the policy sets out a consistent set of what can be done and what cannot be done. Suggested names must be approved by the provincial government.

In the case of a single building or structure, portions of the building or structure can be recognized through specific name recognition.

“All naming recognition shall be consistent with the government’s values and objectives, and must uphold the integrity and reputation of the government,” reads a core provision of the policy.