A search for possible school names is underway to replace the title of an elementary building in Winnipeg that pays tribute to an architect of the residential school system.
Pembina Trails School Division launched an online survey this week to collect pitches and rationale from staff and families at Ryerson School, as well as area residents. The K-6 school, at 10 Ryerson Ave., will be renamed with community input, after ongoing consultations wrap up Oct. 6.
“This has been an incredible opportunity for all of our schools and our students across the school division to think deeply about the importance of a name and also, the bigger issue of honouring and respecting the calls to action that came from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” said Ted Fransen, superintendent of Pembina Trails.
“This is not just a name change. This is much bigger than that.”
Egerton Ryerson (1803-82) was a teacher and Methodist church leader whose ideas about education influenced the design and implementation of residential schools, as well as the public school system in Ontario.
Ryerson became a popular namesake for educational institutions across the country — among them, a university in downtown Toronto that announced earlier this month it will have a new title before the start of the 2022-23 school year.
In Winnipeg, questions were raised about the local school’s name after the discovery of 215 children buried in unmarked graves near a residential school site in Kamloops, B.C.
Pembina Trails trustees unanimously approved a motion to create a committee to consider the name in June.
Per division policy, schools must be named after the street on which the building faces, the historical or current name of the area it is located in, a name symbolic of its unique programming, or a historic figure renowned to the community or whose societal contribution is “recognized and valued.”
Fransen said there has been a groundswell of support throughout the renaming process. One day after the survey opened, he said more than 600 submissions had been received.
Pembina Trails is dedicating the last week of September to activities and talks related to truth and reconciliation.
Manitoba has announced classes will be cancelled on the last day of September — formerly known as Orange Shirt Day — so communities can observe Canada’s inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and reflect on the ongoing legacy of residential schools.
Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press