Ryerson University's board of governors approves recommendation to change name

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TORONTO — Ryerson University, named after an architect of Canada's residential school system, has agreed to change its name.

The Toronto school's board of governors approved a motion on Thursday to accept all 22 recommendations from a special task force, including one to rename the institution.

"The (task force's) report provides clear recommendations on how the university can move forward and write the next chapter in our history," university president Mohamed Lachemi said in a statement Thursday.

"The report provides a full picture of the past and present commemoration of Egerton Ryerson, yet the recommendations are not based on either vilification or vindication of the individual."

The task force was formed in November 2020 to examine and address the legacy of Egerton Ryerson, who helped design both the public and residential school systems in Canada.

It recommended renaming the institution in a process that "engages with community members and university stakeholders." It also suggested sharing materials to recognize the legacy of Egerton Ryerson, and providing more opportunities to learn about Indigenous history.

Several Indigenous communities have announced that hundreds of unmarked graves have been located at the sites of former residential schools this summer.

A statue of Egerton Ryerson on the university's campus was torn down by angry protesters in response to the first group of unmarked graves that were uncovered.

The task force recommended that the university not reinstall or restore the statue and suggested instead that it call for proposals on how to rehome the existing pieces to promote educational initiatives.

The task force asked that the university develop an action plan by Jan. 31, 2022, to address and implement its recommendations -- a request the school said it would deliver on.

"I assure our community that a process will be put in place to ensure that the recommendations are carried out in an equitable, transparent, inclusive and timely manner," Lachemi said.

Earlier this year, Indigenous professors at Ryerson University asked the school to change its name and remove the statue of Egerton Ryerson from campus because of his role in the creation of the residential school system.

In a letter, co-signed by 17 professors, the group called on the university to address concerns the Indigenous community and students had expressed for decades about Ryerson's legacy.

Indigenous students in an open letter in May called on their peers, faculty and alumni to stop using the name "Ryerson'' in email signatures, correspondence and on resumes, urging the use of the term "X University.''

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

Egerton Ryerson's name has also been removed from other venues.

The City of Burlington is renaming Ryerson Park in what it calls a step toward reconciliation with Indigenous residents.

In 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.

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.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 26, 2021.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

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