12 more London, area school names set for review, possible change

The London Free Press by Heather Rivers, posted December 21, 2022

Thames Valley District school board trustees gave the green light Tuesday night to beginning the process of renaming a dozen more schools after learning the cost of a community consultation plan was less than $50,000.

The plan has two components, including collecting online community input and an in-person engagement session with individual schools, said Andrea Marlowe, the board’s human rights policy adviser.

“The price tag is $47,346.50 to be incurred incrementally over two years . . . primarily because of the in-person engagement,” she said, adding the price tag includes the research and assessment costs.

At the last board meeting, the cost per school had been estimated at $40,000 by education director Mark Fisher.

“I am fully supportive of engaging our community on their feedback with the renaming of these schools and I think with the numbers you have provided I am much more comfortable with this as it is,” said trustee David Cripps.

The board began a review of all schools named in 2021 and established a school name review committee to make recommendations to ensure school names reflect the board’s commitment “to promote human rights, equity and inclusive learning environments and honour the diversity of (Thames Valley) schools and community.”

The names of the 12 schools and other “learning environments” had been identified as being in need of review by the school board amid scrutiny of public institutions associated with residential schools and broader racial injustice.

Last month trustees voted in favour of a process to find new names for Sir John A. Macdonald and F.D. Roosevelt elementary schools in northeast London.

They deferred plans to seek community input of 12 other schools and “learning environments,” such as the name of a room at the board office. Several are named after the Royal Family, including a school named after King Charles, before he was Canada’s reigning monarch, a title passed down to him following his mother Queen Elizabeth’s death on Sept. 8.

The reason is because they were “at the centre of policies resulting in land theft from First Nations peoples,” according to a staff report.

“Although a member of the Royal Family, Prince Charles does not have an explicit connection to Canada and has been honoured for his identity as a Royal as opposed to his contributions,” the report read. “He may therefore have limited relevance to the Thames Valley community today. The Royal family was at the centre of policies resulting in land theft from First Nations people.”

That report drew criticism from Western University history professor and author Jonathan Vance. “If you oppose the monarchy then you have to seek constitutional redress — not rename something — so that one seems quite out of place,” he said.

Trustees voted to rename Sir John A. Macdonald elementary school and F.D. Roosevelt elementary school at their last board meeting in November because the politicians they are named after had ties to racism and discrimination.

The history of residential schools came under renewed scrutiny in May 2021, when what are believed to be 215 unmarked graves were located on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian residential school in British Columbia.

Earlier this year London’s former Ryerson elementary school was renamed Old North as part of a process that began in 2021. The school’s former namesake, Egerton Ryerson, is widely considered the father of public education in Ontario but also “a significant contributor” to Canada’s Indigenous residential school system, Marlowe said.

Residential schools were launched in the 1880s by churches and the federal government and operated for more than a century, seeking to convert and assimilate Indigenous children, who suffered widespread physical and sexual abuse at the institutions. The last one closed in 1996.

 Recommended for community input for new names:

  • Lord Elgin elementary school, London
  • Lord Nelson elementary school, London
  • Lord Roberts French immersion elementary school, London
  • Prince Charles elementary school, London
  • Princess Anne French immersion elementary school, London
  • St. George’s elementary school, London
  • Sir Wilfrid Laurier secondary school, London
  • Montcalm secondary school, London
  • McGillivray Central elementary school, Alisa Craig
  • Victoria elementary school, London
  • Sir Georges Etienne Cartier elementary school, London
  • Lord Dorchester secondary school, Dorchester