Thames Valley District School Board trustees voted Tuesday to proceed with renaming Ryerson Public School after calls from the community.
During Tuesday night’s board meeting, trustees unanimously approved a motion to rename the school located on Waterloo Street in London, Ont.
Ryerson Public School was named after Egerton Ryerson, who was instrumental in designing Canada’s residential school system.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada concluded this assimilation amounted to the “cultural genocide” of Indigenous people.
The recent discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Residential School has renewed calls to investigate the grounds of all residential schools and re-examine buildings and statues erected in their founders’ names.
The decision to rename the school goes back by the Ryerson School Council community, which on June 7 met and majority voted to support a name change.
“As society changes, as we learn to better understand the impact, we must also be prepared to change our institutions to ensure they are welcoming places for all of our students,” trustee Corrine Rahman said.
Rahman, who drafted the motion, said that though Ryerson had also helped to create the public school system, his work in establishing residential schools and the impact they had could not be overlooked.
The motion called on TVDSB to engage in the consultation process, as outlined in the board’s naming of schools procedure, to rename Ryerson with input from the public and participation from First Nation community members.
Trustee Peter Cuddy said that as of late, the name of the school has become “an unwanted distraction for students and staff alike.”
Last week, the school’s sign was removed and it was vandalized over the weekend.
Another motion, calling for a review of all schools, facilities and learning environments within TVDSB that are named after people, was also unanimously approved by trustees.
The motion, put forward by trustee Sean Hunt, will see the review start with Ryerson Public School and Sir John A. Macdonald Public School.
The review, the motion reads, is to ensure compliance with the board’s policy that school names “reflect (TVDSB’s) commitment to promote human rights, equity and inclusive learning environments and honor the diversity of TVDSB schools and community.”
“As a trustee, I think there are very few challenges that are solved with the maintenance of the status quo, and we have heard of the real impact and trauma of schools named after individuals who established the residential school system,” Hunt said.
“If we were to establish new schools today, with our policy I don’t think we would make the same decision.”
Indigenous trustee Carol Antone thanked Hunt for putting the motion forward.
“On behalf of the First Nations and Indigenous people, it’s very difficult, the stories of the families of the children in residential schools, and the loss of our language,” Antone said.
— with files from Matthew Trevithick and Rick Zamperin