Speaking out: Removing racist's names from our public places is a good start

·3 min read

(ANNews) – Last week, the remains of 215 First Nation children were found buried in a mass grave outside of a Residential School in Kamloops, B.C.

In response to the tragic discovery, many have made calls across Canada to investigate all former residential schools in the country.

The UN even told the Federal Government and the Catholic Church to release all documents and information related to the Residential School system amid the findings.

There are also many calling to rename all memorial namesakes for some of the “Fathers of Confederation” of Canada — as the boot-lickers like to call them. This is because many prominent historical Canadian figures were racist, ruthless, cruel, brutal, inhumane, and evil towards the Indigenous populations of Canada.

For example, the first prime minister of Canada sought to assimilate all First Nations by introducing the Residential School system. “When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write,” said John A. Macdonald, the old white man on our $10 bill.

“It has been strongly impressed upon myself, as head of the Department, that Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men,” Macdonald said in 1879.

Schools and public memorials are being renamed in Alberta, Manitoba, Ottawa, and so on. For example, many at the Ryerson University in Toronto are calling for the school’s name to be changed because of Egerton Ryerson’s connection to the creation of the Residential School system.

In Alberta specifically, Mayor of Edmonton Don Iveson called for the renaming of a Transit Centre in the city as it is named after the Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin — an early supporter of the residential school system.

A motion will be put forward directing the city to remove references to the Bishop Grandin from civic signs and the station, said Mayor Iveson.

The motion will also include directions to:

– Cover the original mural of Grandin at the LRT station with orange

– Consult with the Grandin working circle for next steps

– Request the naming committee work with the circle to create recommendations for a new name or names for the station and district that contribute to reconciliation

“I’m hopeful this action will provide immediate relief as well as offer a clear timeline for when these next steps will unfold,” he said in the statement.

While calls for the removal of references to the Bishop Grandin have been happening for some time, Iveson said that “I think what has changed is hearts and minds and that has been made possible because this is so stark and unambiguous.”

Iveson said that he is committed to working with the people of Edmonton to discuss the removal of historical place names that are dedicated to those who “no longer reflect our diverse and inclusive community values.”

Jacob Cardinal is an LJI Reporter for Alberta Native News

Jacob Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alberta Native News

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