Residential school principal's name being removed from Prince George street

·3 min read
A memorial to residential school victims is displayed on the steps of Prince George, B.C., city hall in June 2021.  (Andrew Kurjata/CBC - image credit)
A memorial to residential school victims is displayed on the steps of Prince George, B.C., city hall in June 2021. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC - image credit)

Prince George city council is moving forward with plans to remove the name of a former residential school principal from a high-traffic street in the northern B.C. city.

O'Grady Road is set to become Dakelh Ti, which translates to "First Nation Road" in the Dakelh language of the local Lheidli T'enneh First Nation.

The name change comes at the request of Lheidli T'enneh First Nation Chief Dolleen Logan and has already received council's unanimous support.

O'Grady Road, in the city's College Heights neighbourhood, was named after John Fergus O'Grady, a now-deceased Catholic bishop who served as the first-ever head of the Prince George Diocese for the Catholic Church from 1956 to 1986.

Before that, he was principal of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, where the Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation is investigating potential unmarked burial sites detected using ground-penetrating radar last year.

O'Grady's legacy — and that of many other individuals associated with Canada's residential school system — is being re-evaluated in the wake of that announcement, which was followed by several others from First Nations across Canada who said they had found potential gravesites of children forced to attend residential schools.

"His [O'Grady's] name is synonymous with crimes against Indigenous children," Logan wrote in her letter requesting the name change last year.

"Our members and other Indigenous citizens of Prince George are forced to relive residential school trauma every time we shop at the stores in the College Heights area where O'Grady Road is located. If we are ever to begin a journey toward true reconciliation in Prince George, the name O'Grady Road must be changed."

The official renaming will be set for a future date in consultation with the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation and local residents.

The city has already communicated the change to emergency service providers and says utility companies, including Telus, Shaw, Fortis B.C. and B.C. Hydro, will update its records at no cost to residents of the city. Canada Post will provide complimentary mail forwarding services for one year.

UBC considering removing honorary degree

O'Grady's tenure at the Kamloops residential school came to light when a letter attributed to him was posted to the B.C. Teacher's Federation website and then circulated on social media.

Dated Nov. 18, 1948, the letter tells parents that their children are expected back at the school by Jan. 3, once Christmas holidays end. If they do not return, the letter states, they will not be allowed to go home for the next Christmas.

The letter informs parents that seeing their children over Christmas is a "privilege which is being granted" by the school and government.

The exact origin of the letter is unclear, but it highlights the conditions that Indigenous families were subjected to under the residential school system, with children being taken from their parents with no ability to bring them home.

Its circulation also prompted the University of British Columbia to review the decision to grant O'Grady an honorary law degree in 1986.

In an update posted May 24, the university said a subcommittee appointed to review the issue had recommended UBC's Senate rescind its approval of the degree.

A 30-day consultation period on the issue is currently underway.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting