Hamilton to stop naming public schools after people under policy change

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Published April 25, 2023 at 10:34 am

Anthony Urciuoli/hamilton.insauga.com photo

Hamilton public schools will no longer be named after notable public figures in the future.

The change to the school naming policy was ratified last night (April 24) at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board meeting.

Previously the policy included a guiding principle for naming schools after individuals where “the school name should allow students, staff and community to feel pride. The name honours their collective histories while expanding beyond traditional narratives.”

But that guiding principle has now been removed after a public survey found 317 people opposed naming schools after individuals and 164 were in favour of naming schools after people.

“In the past, we have often chosen names for schools that honour people,” the school board noted on the survey page. “While that may have felt appropriate at the time, we now know that some of the people we chose to honour have caused significant harm in Canada’s history, harm that is still felt today.”

The naming policy came under review after the board approved changing the name of Ryerson Elementary to Kanétskare Elementary, in June 2021.

At that time, former Wards 9 and 10 trustee Cam Galindo called for removing the name of Egerton Ryerson from the school due to his links to Canada’s residential school system. The name change was made in the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation.

Ryerson is considered an architect of the Residential School System — a system that tore Indigenous children from their families. Children were not allowed to speak their language or acknowledge their culture. Children faced physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse from staff.

Earlier that same year, in April 2021, the school board approved the name Viola Desmond Elementary School. Desmond was a Canadian civil and women’s rights activist and businesswoman of Black Nova Scotian descent.

She was arrested in 1946 for refusing to leave a whites-only section of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.

But with this policy change, future schools will no longer be named after individuals.

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