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Wilfrid Laurier University to examine ‘complex legacy’ and current impact of namesake

A Wilfrid Laurier University sign. Ahmad Fareed Khan / Global News

Southern Ontario’s Wilfrid Laurier University says it will examine the “complex legacy” and present-day impact of its namesake in a new, multi-year public history project.

The Waterloo, Ont., institution says it aims to better understand who the former prime minister was in order to recognize the effect of its affiliation with his name.

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It says the Laurier Legacy Project will involve research into his life and era, “and the ways that the past continues to influence the present day.”

The university says two postdoctoral fellows will take part in the project, one to examine Laurier himself and the other to conduct archival research on the school and its antecedent institutions from 1911 to today.

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It says the project will also include a visiting professor, who will be an Indigenous scholar working on Indigeneity or decolonization in a historical context or in the context of historical legacies of current issues.

The school says there will also be specific processes allowing its community to engage with the project and deepen its understanding of Laurier “as a nation-builder and as a contributor to systems of racism and discrimination.”

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Barrington Walker, the university’s associate vice-president of equity, diversity and inclusion, said the project comes at a “pivotal point” in Canadian history.

“This is a time when many are asking difficult questions about our founding colonial institutions, including universities,” he said in a statement.

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“The Laurier Legacy Project will take a critical and research-based look at the histories of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, his era, and our institution. Our ultimate goal is to reflect upon our current-day values and our future.”

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