On Monday, Edmonton city council unanimously passed a motion to cover up the Grandin LRT mural and to remove the Grandin name from the LRT station. By Tuesday morning, the mural was already covered in orange.
The motion from Mayor Don Iveson, passed in a vote of 13-0 in support.
“Like many Edmontonians, I am concerned about the Grandin LRT Station mural and sites bearing the Grandin name, including the station,” the mayor said in a statement June 3.
“It is time to take this action.”
Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin was an early advocate of the residential school system who lobbied the Canadian government to fund residential schools in the late 1800s.
In response to the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children buried in unmarked burial sites at a residential school in Kamloops, B.C., there have been calls across the country and right here in Edmonton to rename schools, train stations and other public places that are named after the architects of the residential school system.
Coun. Aaron Paquette said he wasn’t sure if he would speak at Monday’s council meeting.
“My family has been reliving a lot of trauma this week, like pretty much every Indigenous family across Canada,” he said. “But I have to talk.
“This is a time when we decide who we are as a people and as a family and as a society.
“We decide who we elevate in the eyes of our children. Who do we tell them to emulate? And it’s as simple as that,” Paquette said, in support of Iveson’s motion.
“I’ve heard leaders who should know better talk about cancel culture, as if this is an intellectual exercise and an attack on values. When you elevate people who are the architects of terror, of murder, of illness, of abuse, of genocide, and all manner of monstrosity, you clearly say what your values are.
“Our values as a society — our care for each other — far outweighs this discussion,” he said.
“Indigenous people, and their friends and allies, were ready for this conversation 10 years ago, 100 years ago. For Indigenous people, this history is very much present and constant.”
Paquette said he hopes this action sends a clear message that Edmonton values community and culture.
He hopes to see some action taken quickly and some — like ongoing conversations around the deeper issues at play — continue to progress slowly and respectful.
“I agree with residential school survivors, their families and the thousands of Edmontonians from all walks of life who are calling on the city to address the mural and remove his name from the LRT station and area,” Iveson said June 3.
“The legacy of residential schools unambiguously represents cultural genocide in this country.
“It’s not just Indigenous Canadians asking for it and a small number of allies amplifying it — it is a very widespread societal demand and I suspect it will weigh heavily on most, if not all, councillors.”
During Monday’s emotional council meeting, Coun. Ben Henderson said the horrific news from Kamloops pushed the process of truth and reconciliation forward.
“It was as much about truth as it was reconciliation,” he said. “(For) those of us who did not live this horror, to understand it as fully as we could.
“I think that is, in part, what has happened to us in the last week. We have taken, as a country, another step towards understanding something that we will never fully understand.
“It is really important to remember these things, but that is very different from celebrating them.
“We’ve ended up… in a whole bunch of these naming situations… celebrating something that is quite devastating — and we’re only beginning to understand how deeply devastating — to huge portions of our population.
“And if we continue to celebrate them, we can only be sending two messages: either we agree or we’re minimizing just how devastating that was.
“This is not about erasing people or their choices or the past from history — we do that at our peril — this is not about cancelling that. But we don’t have to celebrate things that are so painful for so many.”
The Francophonie jeunesse de l’Alberta board of the day commissioned mural in 1989. It depicts Bishop Grandin and a nun removing an Indigenous baby from their family. Behind them, is Bishop’s house, according to the Francophonie jeunesse de l’Alberta.
FJA said the mural was designed to honour Grandin for his contributions to French culture, language and religion.