Burlington asks for help to rename park named after architect of residential schools

·2 min read

A southern Ontario city wants the help of local residents as it renames a park named after an architect of the residential school system.

The City of Burlington has asked residents to send in suggestions for a new name for Ryerson Park.

The park is named after Egerton Ryerson, who helped design both the public and residential school systems in Canada.

After local school trustees voted to change the name of nearby Ryerson Public School in June, city council moved to change the park's name.

"This was done out of respect for Indigenous residents in our community, particularly following the recent discovery of mass graves at former residential schools," the city said in a statement.

The move is part of an effort to follow the recommendations set out in the 2015 report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada on the notorious residential school system, the city said.

"In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada concluded this assimilation amounted to the genocide of Indigenous people," the city said.

"Our Indigenous community should enjoy our parks and public spaces without a reminder of this. Renaming our city park is one step we can take toward reconciliation with our Indigenous residents."

The final report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission detailed widespread mistreatment at Canada's residential schools, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse, and more than 4,000 deaths at the institutions.

The City of Burlington said it is accepting submissions for a new park name on its website until Sept. 11.

Voting on a new name will begin on Sept. 20 until Oct. 1. The city said it would then deliver a recommendation to council in November.

Burlington's move follows similar efforts elsewhere.

In nearby Hamilton, the public school board voted this summer to rename Ryerson Elementary School and said it will review the names of all its facilities to ensure they align with current values.

In Toronto, a statue of Ryerson at Ryerson University was ripped down in June and the school said it has no plans to replace it.

The university's school of journalism said in June it would rename two of its publications, the Ryerson Review of Journalism and the Ryersonian.

The school said Egerton Ryerson was "indisputably" one of the architects of the residential school system.

Municipalities across the country have removed other statues, plaques and names of those who helped create residential schools.

Much of that effort has been focused on former prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald, another architect of the residential school system.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 25, 2021.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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