Public board votes unanimously to rename Hamilton school named after residential school architect

Ryerson Elementary School will be renamed after a unanimous vote among Hamilton public school board trustees. Don Mitchell / Global News

An elementary school in lower Hamilton will no longer bear the name of one of the architects of Canada’s residential school system.

Trustees with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board voted unanimously to rename Ryerson Elementary School on Robinson Street at Monday night’s board meeting.

The motion to rename the school was introduced by Cam Galindo, board vice-chair and trustee for wards 9 and 10, and also included a recommendation to conduct a review of all of the city’s public schools that are named after individuals.

Read more: Kamloops residential school survivor urges others to seek professional help

In an interview on Global News Radio 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly Show, Galindo said he wrote the motion after the discovery of the remains of 215 children at Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia, which has sparked a wider conversation about Canada’s residential school system.

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Egerton Ryerson was one of the creators of that system.

“We definitely still have a long way to go,” said Galindo. “If we’re serious about truth and reconciliation, then we need to do more on Indigenous education so that all Indigenous students, staff and people in our community feel that they belong and that their identities are valued, recognized and affirmed in our schools and our community. And you can’t do that with a name like Ryerson above the front entrance.”

The renaming of Ryerson Elementary School, as well as the review of all HWDSB schools named after individuals, will be done in consultation with Hamilton’s Indigenous communities.

No timeline for the renaming and review has been established, but Galindo said the board will need to come up with a completely new process for doing that, given that this is unlike anything the board has undertaken in the past.

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Read more: Calls grow to rename Ryerson institutions across Ontario

He said he hopes this is a “watershed moment” in the conversation about how Canada has treated Indigenous people, not just historically but in the present day as well.

“The truth is, Indigenous communities have been expressing the intergenerational trauma of residential schools for a long time. And today, even just for a little bit, we’re listening, and I hope that we continue to listen.”

Other institutions named after Ryerson have been under pressure to change their names, including Ryerson University in Toronto.

A statue of Egerton Ryerson outside the school that was toppled by demonstrators over the weekend will not be replaced, according to the university.

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