Winnipeg’s Cecil Rhodes School has a new name.
The Winnipeg School Division (WSD) said Wednesday the Weston-area school will now be known as Keewatin Prairie Community School following a year-long process to cut ties with the school’s controversial namesake.
Cecil Rhodes, the man, was an imperialist and white supremacist who was instrumental in the founding of apartheid.
“We’re very pleased to have a name that was chosen based on careful consideration and acknowledgement of the Truth and Reconciliation process,” said WSD board of trustees chair Betty Edel in a media release.
“We took the time necessary to ensure that changing the name of Cecil Rhodes was a community decision, and that the appropriate stakeholders were consulted and included in the choice of the new name.”
The name-changing process was started last May. The school had become the subject of a petition started a year earlier asking for the name change in light of its namesake’s history of racism and advocating white supremacy.
The petition, which received more than 1,740 signatures, called for the division to follow in the footsteps of institutions and organizations worldwide that have removed the name of Rhodes — among other controversial historical figures — from their buildings.
Rhodes was a British politician and businessman in southern Africa in the 19th Century, who was outspoken in his support of British imperialism and is reported to have called white Europeans “the first race in the world.”
His policies led him to be labelled as the “architect” of South Africa’s racist apartheid system by some historians, and he’s perhaps best known for his connection to the country of Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe).
The division says the Elgin Avenue school’s new name was chosen by a committee that received more than 100 suggestions from the surrounding community.
Principal Stormie Duchnycz says the school’s new name identifies with the school’s geographic location and honours the Cree and Ojibwe languages.
“There were many submissions that met our criteria, but the one that was chosen stood out because of the rationale,” Duchnycz said.
The division says the nursery to Grade 9 school’s new name will be effective as of Sept. 1, at which time signage at the school will also be updated.
— with files from Global News’ Keesha Harewood and Sam Thompson