Public School Board gets in on the erasing of history

News 100 redBy Staff

June 17th, 2021



At the June 16, 2021 meeting of the Halton District School Board, Trustees unanimously approved a motion to rename Ryerson Public School on Woodview Road in Burlington in accordance with the Board’s Naming and Renaming Schools Policy and Governance Procedure.

Ryerson statue

Egerton Ryerson statue

The renaming process will begin in September 2021 to ensure the parent/guardian, student and broader community has the opportunity to provide their input. The process to rename the school will be completed by the end of November 2021. The current exterior school sign will be covered until a new name is chosen. Information and signage will also be posted to indicate a renaming process will take place in Fall 2021.

As part of the Board motion, the Chair of the Board will also send a letter to the Mayor of Burlington to inform her of the initiation of the HDSB process to rename the school, as the community park adjacent to the school bears the same name.

Ryerson Public School was named after Egerton Ryerson for his contributions to the Ontario education system, however, Ryerson was also instrumental to the design of Canada’s residential school system. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada concluded this assimilation amounted to the genocide of Indigenous people.

There have been growing calls to remove Ryerson’s name from public buildings and institutions and the HDSB has received formal requests to remove Ryerson’s name from the school. At their June 16, 2021 meeting, Trustees also heard a delegation from a Ryerson Public School parent in support of renaming the school.

As part of the HDSB’s Multi-Year Strategic Plan 2020-2024, the Board has committed to champion supportive and inclusive practices, and to promote knowledge and understanding of Indigenous perspectives and realities. One of the first steps taken is to assess how the HDSB can raise awareness.

“As Trustees, we need to lead by example and have the courage to approach these difficult conversations,” says Chair Andréa Grebenc. “As years have gone by and truths have been uncovered, we have a responsibility, in collaboration with our staff and communities, to reevaluate past decisions and address accordingly.

Ryerson H&S

Portrait of Egerton Ryerson

“The perspectives of the diverse communities of Halton must be valued and honoured. Indigenous students, staff and the broader community should be able to enter a school without being harmed by the HDSB upholding the name of a person that has contributed to genocide.”

Egerton Ryerson did more than contribute, he created the public school system we have today. Erasing history doesn’t mean it disappears – all we have done is hide it.

Ryerson was reported to have “done more than any other man of his day for the cause of public instruction in Ontario.”

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14 comments to Public School Board gets in on the erasing of history

  • david barker

    I find myself in surprising agreement with both the editor and Ms Hersh.

    Ms Ricittone I disagree with your assessment and ask whether all Ryerson’s achievements in the development of our education system are outweighed by his association with the residential schools?

    What then of the memorialization of Horatio Nelson. A hero of the British navy ib the 18th century in defeating the French and Spanish fleets and thus securing Britian was not to be invaded by Napoleon. A very large proportion of the hands serving on board were “press ganged” into service. These men were literally pulled from their homes, businesses, from pubs, from market stalls and forced into military service – military slavery.

    Should we be tearing down any acknowledgment of his life, of his acomplishments? I say no.

    Different times, different standards.

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn coined the word “unperson” in his book The Gulah Archipelago. It described the practice of the Russian communist party and its propaganda machine to erase those “disgraced” people from all official documents as if the people never existed. This is in effect what we are now witnessing here.

    Let’s hope Council does not cave to the pressure to rename Ryerson Park.

  • steven craig gardner

    The bigger decision that should be made STOP immediately naming anything after anybody because you just do not know. Beside the fact we usually name things for politiciansd who now a days are very well paid and do there job not worthy of a street or school or subdivision or community centre unless perhaps because of a HUGE donation to a hospital for instance and as soon as that money is used next donotrs name appears.
    We know as fact politicians at best are just the same as everyone else so there will be some bad appples. Name things after neighbourhoods (they too should not be named for people) or street they school is on. Any stop wit the statues already put up NICE works of art.

  • Alan Harrington

    Not sure “History is being erased” by renaming the school?

    In fact, MORE history is coming into the light, not less.

    The history remains.

    Egerton Ryerson was a traveling preacher who visited Burlington and gave religious services at our churches.

    If changing the name helps us become a better community, then let’s do it.

    How about naming the school after *Chloe Cooley*, a young local lady who changed history and is worthy of having a school named after.

  • I just saw your post about the HDSB “erasing history”. I’m going to assume you meant well by this, but I see this headline as insensitive to the Indigenous community that has been impacted by residential schools.

    Please correct your headline to be more accurate. Changing a name doesn’t erase history. I’d also add that the comment in the article about hiding what happened is also unnecessary.

  • Penny Hersh

    Does it now mean that Joseph Brant Hospital needs to change its name? Historical records indicate that Joseph Brant had slaves.

    • Phillip Wooster

      Penny, and what now to do with the Joseph Brant Museum. Our governments, including one known for its propensity for self-righteous virtue-signaling, have spent millions on this edifice to a slave-owner. What now?

      • david barker

        Quick Facts about the Joseph Brant Museum Transformation

        • The total project amount is approved at $11.4 million, which includes a contingency fund and allows for cost increases due to a winter construction period.

        • Funding includes
        $2.9 million from the City of Burlington
        $4.5 million from the Government of Canada
        $1.5 million from the Province of Ontario
        $2.5 million from the Joseph Brant Museum Foundation

        Source The City of Burlington

        Wooster, please don’t turn this into a Trudeau or Liberal thing. The Museum crosses party lines as does the Ryerson cancel movement.

  • Philip Waggett

    I have already suggested to Andrea Grebenc that the HDSB rename Craig Kielburger HS given the corrupt enterprise that he and his brother were running.

    • david barker

      Please state what accusations of corruption have been proven?

      • Phillip Wooster

        David, the two most notable instances that can be proven: 1. the Kielburgers were clearly lobbying without registering in contravention of the Lobbying Act. 2. the Kielburgers were perpetrating a fraud on donors by promising to name a school in Kenya after the donor; this wouldn’t be a problem except after the donor tour of the school, they then changed the name to suit a different donor (this lawsuit is ongoing).

        As for the parts of their cosy relationship with the Prime Minister, it is probably just a coincidence that federal payments to the WE organization increased tenfold after Trudeau became Prime Minister and that payments to Trudeau’s mother and brother only began after Trudeau became Prime Minister.

        However to a Liberal, the Kielburgers probably still qualify for deification.

        • david barker

          Last comment from me to you is:-

          Your words “the two most notable instances that can be proven”.

          “Can be” says to me they have not as yet been proven in any firm of judicial proceeding.

          Remember “innocent until proven guilty”

        • Philip Waggett

          I might add that the CRA is now investigating the Kielburgers are now facing a legal dispute with the CRA over charitable donation receipts that WE issued, totaling $1.8 million.

          • david barker

            Many individuals &/or entities get investigated/audited by CRA. That in itself does not mean the individual or entity has transgressed the tax act. There are numerous instances where a CRA decision against a taxpayer has later been overturned in tax court.

            An allegation is never to be taken as proof or suggestion of guilt.