Reader takes exception to language used on part of the city web site

By Perry Bowker

September 12th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

Mr Bowker sent us a note, saying: “I finally lost my temper. You are welcome to publish my thoughts.
Perry had received a note from the Get Involved section of the city web site, probably because he asked to have his name placed on a list of people who wanted regular updates.

I was dismayed to see the authors of this e-letter carelessly parroting the social media falsehoods about Ryerson. I know it is fashionable to jump on the bandwagon to lynch this man in absentia, but I expect more from representatives of my city.

The name of the school will be changed.

To wit, “mass graves” – this phrase deliberately invokes the image of bodies piled into a hole in the ground. Even the indigenous people are careful to describe what has been found as multiple unmarked graves, and caution against assuming they are all indigenous children who were killed at the schools.

Next: “Ryerson was also instrumental in the design of Canada’s residential school system.” Hardly. Ryerson was instrumental in designing the Ontario public education system, for the benefit of all Ontarians including the indigenous band of which he was an honorary member.

He was long dead before later governments of the day created residential schools as we now know them.

This careless and casual misuse of known historical facts does no credit to our collective efforts to reconcile with our indigenous fellow Canadians.

My vote. Rename, or more properly, re-launch Ryerson Park with proper respect for what the man stood for and where we are today.

Related news story:

HDSB trustee rationale for changing the name of a school

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8 comments to Reader takes exception to language used on part of the city web site

  • Blair Smith

    I urge anyone interested in the current impassioned debate over the role of Egerton Ryerson in the foundation of the residential schools to become very familiar with both the man and his times. I applaud the effort of Mr. Bowker to provide some balance to the argument and I’m quite disappointed by a recent post in a local blog that claims Mr. Bowker to be “wrong, wrong, wrong”. Surely, it is a time for a well-educated, intelligent historian to provide access to an objective history over the easy appeal of hand-wringing histrionics.

    The case of Adolphus Egerton Ryerson is complex and emotionally charged but, I believe, that he must be judged in the appropriate context of the constructs and mores of his time rather than the values and perceptions of current society. He was an exceptional man with an immense legacy for our educational system. As R.D. Gidney summarizes “… his four major achievements were the creation of conditions which made universal access to elementary education possible, the promotion of improvements in the quality of the school programme, changes in the function and character of the grammar schools, and the establishment of an effective administrative structure.”

    He was shaped and empowered by his age which included institutionalized intolerance, child labour, slavery, colonial expansion and ‘native suppression’ by virtually all nations with the arrogance of manifest destiny and hand of God. He was a man of great faith with remarkable drive, focus and integrity. A close friend of mine, who is also an accomplished historian, author and retired museum archivist, commented “If you google Egerton Ryerson you will get some quite florid and pejorative articles about the man apparently written by people who know little to nothing about him and what he actually did. I am trying to figure out why Ryerson is taking the blame for creating residential schools. He was done by the mid-1870s and replaced by the Department of Education in Ontario.” He notes that the father of the Canadian poet, Frank Scott, “was a federal bureaucrat in Indian Affairs and could do with quite a bit more air-time in this whole “debate.” I leave that particular reading assignment to those interested in arriving at their own conclusions within and despite the current social furor. However, I will provide the following link to a long and very involved biography of Egerton Ryerson. It is well worth the read.

    http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/ryerson_egerton_11E.html

  • Mike F.

    Well said, the truth rings true!

  • Denise W.

    Thank you sir!

  • Lynn

    And let’s not forget the role of the Catholic Church in the abuse at residential schools! Why do we still fund a Catholic school system?

  • Penny Hersh

    I filled out the survey. My suggestion was Ryerson Park.

    In the comment section I indicated exactly what the truth was about Edgar Ryerson. In fact what he had proposed was a plan that would benefit the schooling and lives of the Indigenous population. It was the government at the time who decided that they did not want to spend the money necessary to implement his plan and what resulted is directly responsible for the horrors that occurred.

    I also indicated that the renaming of a park was the easiest thing for this city to do. In light of the truth about Edgar Ryerson, the name of the park should NOT change. However, I doubt this will happen, it would mean that council would have to admit they did not look into this matter at all and jumped on the “woke” wagon.

    This council does a lot of that.

  • Blair Smith

    Well said Mr. Bowker!

  • David Barker

    Very well said and good to here someone standing up for the accurate truth.

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