The board of Ryerson University has voted to change the name of the Toronto school because of concerns about the man the institution is named after, and his connections to Canada’s residential schools.
In a post on the school’s website on Thursday, President and Vice Chancellor Mohamed Lachemi announced that the change comes as part of 22 recommendations from the university’s Standing Strong (Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win) task force.
Egerton Ryerson is considered one of the primary architects of the residential school system, and in recent years, staff and students had called for both the removal of his statue and for the university to change its name.
The statue of Ryerson, which once stood on the school campus, was toppled earlier in the year amid the discovery of unmarked graves due to former residential schools.
In response to the growing controversy, the university formed the task force to reconsider the school’s name, Egerton Ryerson’s legacy and other memorabilia on campus.
The group’s 22 recommendations included renaming the institution, sharing materials to recognize the legacy of Egerton Ryerson, and providing more opportunities to learn about original history and indigenous-colonial connections.
‘We got what we wanted’
Student activist Sam Howden, who is a Red River Métis and uses the / them pronoun, was one of a group of students who began referring to the university as “X University”, after publicly urging the school to change its name for years.
“We got what we wanted,” they said, calling the name change “pretty incredible.”
“But I really want to emphasize that this happened because of the actions of the students, because we were on the spot, because it was a direct action, and because we brought awareness and education to the members of the community and made sure that we centered experiences on indigenous peoples. . “
Howden said their father taught them about Egerton Ryerson’s connection to the residential school system before enrolling in the school four years ago.
“I never owned any equipment from the university for a reason,” they said.
Howden, however, was concerned about the school’s refusal to annihilate Egerton Ryerson in its announcement.
“The report provides a complete picture of the past and present memory of Egerton Ryerson, but the recommendations are not based on either vilification or justification of the individual,” Lachemi wrote, adding that the task force has shown how the school “can move forward and write it. next chapter in our history. “
Howden said it was important to acknowledge Ryerson’s “offense.”
“Beyond the name, we really need to see some action to better support indigenous students, staff and faculty members, and we really need to continue to put pressure on the institution itself not to try to distance itself from its history and take responsibility for it. “
SE | Singh says Ryerson University, which is voting to change its name, is ‘powerful’:
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called the name change a “powerful message” and said it was “welcome”.
“I think public institutions and public spaces should be named in a way that brings people together and makes people feel welcome and recognizes that there are some names that should be in history books, but maybe not in public spaces. “I think it’s a strong message and appropriate,” he told reporters.
Suze Morrison – NDP MPP for the Toronto Center, which includes the campus – recognized native activists, students and community members who were in favor of the name change, saying it was “a long time ago”.
“Our public institutions must take steps to change colonial practices that continue to cause damage to indigenous communities,” she said in a statement.
Morrison called for the name change to take place “as soon as possible.”