This could be one of the last years for Grade 6 students to graduate from Ryerson Elementary School in South Winnipeg.
A motion to change the name of the school – linked to Egerton Ryerson, one of the main architects of Canada’s residential school system – is on the agenda for Thursday night’s meeting of the Pembina School Division board Trails.
When what are believed to be the anonymous graves of 215 children were discovered on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia two weeks ago, the division knew it was time to review the name. , said Superintendent Ted Fransen.
“The situation in Kamloops was, in a way, the straw that broke the camel’s back. We are certainly aware of the history of the school name and we were aware that we had to be sensitive to it.” , did he declare. mentionned.
“So when the Kamloops situation unfolded… there was no doubt in the minds of our school trustees, as a school board, that they needed to review this. “
Senior division administrators, parents, community members and even some students have also started asking questions about what should be done, Fransen said.
“It was really a groundswell,” he said.
“The students understood this very quickly and asked their teachers if they could discuss it in class.
Students in grades 5 and 6, along with their teachers, will share letters with administrators at Thursday’s meeting, Fransen said.
Egerton Ryerson – the namesake of Ryerson University, Ryerson Press and the Township of Ryerson of Ontario – was a prominent figure in the creation of the public education system in this province, but also a leader in the establishment of schools separated with forced assimilation of indigenous children.
The National Center for Truth and Reconciliation estimates, based on death records, that at least 4,100 children died in schools from the opening of the first in the 1870s until the closing of the last in 1996, but said the true total is likely much higher.
Outrage over the discovery in Kamloops led to a statue of Ryerson on the Ryerson University campus in Toronto covered in red paint and the words “Dig them up” and “215”. He was then run over and beheaded.
The Ryerson University School of Journalism announced it would rename the magazine Ryerson Review of Journalism and The Ryersonian newspaper after conversations with students who the school said believed the “horrible legacy” of the system to be. residential school was too important to continue to use the name in their headers. .
Named for the local street
As for the Ryerson School in Winnipeg, Fransen wanted to make it clear that the name comes from Ryerson Avenue, the street in the Fort Richmond neighborhood where the school was built in 1972.
The neighborhood, around the University of Manitoba, has streets named after other universities, including Acadia and Dalhousie.
“So the school would not have been named after Mr. Ryerson,” Fransen said. “I was not there when the name was chosen, but it would not have been chosen because of an appreciation for Ryerson the person.”
If the board votes to change the name, the division will consult with the community through an online survey to find a new name and then bring it to the board for a recommendation, Fransen said.
It is not certain that the change can be made by the start of the next school year, given that it is already June.
The City of Winnipeg has not said whether Ryerson Avenue is also being considered for a name change.
However, Mayor Brian Bowman said the time has come for the Winnipeg Reconciliation Trip to revisit the name of Bishop Grandin Boulevard.
Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin, a Roman Catholic priest, believed that First Nations people should be “civilized” and saw residential schools as the way to achieve this.
In the late 1800s, he lobbied the federal government to fund the construction of schools, which saw children torn from their families and stripped of their identities in what has been decried as cultural genocide.