The Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) should immediately rename Sir John A Macdonald and F.D. Roosevelt public schools and review the names of 12 others that have ties to racism or colonialism or have no relevance to community members today, a committee has recommended.
The school name review committee is bringing its recommendations to the board of trustees on Tuesday. It comes after the board changed the name of Ryerson Public School to Old North Public School following consultation with the committee.
“Macdonald’s history or racist and discriminatory politics exploits is inconsistent with Thames Valley’s values and commitments in relation to human rights and equity,” the committee wrote.
“F.D. Roosevelt’s historical connection to racism and a controversial approach to Jewish refugees during the Holocaust is inconsistent with Thames Valley’s values and commitments to human rights and equity. As an American historical figure, Roosevelt’s legacy has limited relevance to the Thames Valley community.”
The committee recommends reviewing the following school names because the person the school is named after doesn’t have an explicit connection to Canada, their legacy is linked to colonialism or racism, or their life and work may have limited relevance to the community today:
- Lord Elgin Public School
- Lord Nelson Public School
- Lord Roberts French Immersion Public School
- Prince Charles Public School
- Sir George Etienne Cartier Public School
- Lord Dorchester Secondary School
- Montcalm Secondary School
- Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School
- Princess Anne French Immersion Public School
- St. George’s Public School
- McGillivray Central Public School
- Victoria Public School
Oppression, discrimination, harm
Many school boards across Canada have undergone similar name reviews after increasing concern in recent years about schools named after historical figures who held racist beliefs. Ryerson University was renamed Toronto Metropolitan University because Egerton Ryerson was one of the architects of the country’s residential school system.
Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A Macdonald, oversaw the forcible relocation of Indigenous people and the development of the residential school system.
F.D. Roosevelt, the 32nd American president, oversaw the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War and the prevention of Jewish refugees from coming into the United States during the war.
There are 67 schools and learning centres and 28 learning environments, such as rooms or gyms, named after individuals in the TVDSB.
The name review committee was tasked with answering the following questions, among others:
- Was/is the individual after which the school or learning environment is named actively involved in perpetuating, or representative of, a legacy of oppression, discrimination, or harm?
- Is the individual, and/or the individual’s contributions or life’s work, historically significant in the sense that their contribution or work has had a positive impact? “Positive impact” is to be understood through the lens of equity and inclusion, decolonization, anti-racism and anti-oppression – are the individual’s contributions considered to support these principles or undermine them?
- Does the individual’s identity, contributions, or historical legacy reflect or align with the TVDSB’s values and commitments in relation to Indigenous rights, human rights, equity and inclusion?
- Is the individual’s identity, contributions or historical legacy relevant to the Thames Valley community?
The committee recommends that the board get community input regarding the 12 other schools by December. The decision to review the school’s name should be at the school or community’s discretion.
The board of trustees will discuss the name changes and the committee’s recommendations at their Tuesday meeting.