In the wake of news of a, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is calling on the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) and the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) to rename Bishop Grandin High School and Langevin School.
“The time for dithering has long passed. The time for process has long passed,” Nenshi said Monday morning. “Both of those boards should change the names of those schools at their next meetings.
“I’ve had the chance to spend some time with some colleagues this weekend who are graduates of Bishop Grandin school who did not know who Bishop Grandin was,” Nenshi added. “He did not know about the residential schools that he controlled in this area.”
On May 27, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc confirmed the remains of 215 children were found buried on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The remains were found using ground-penetrating radar.
Chief Rosanne Casimir believed the deaths were undocumented, but work is underway by the Secwepemc Museum’s archivist to see if any records can be found.
The two Calgary schools in question are named after men who were instrumental in residential schools.
Hector-Louis Langevin was a staunch supporter of residential schools during his tenure as federal minister of public works.
During a budget debate at the House of Commons on May 22, 1883, Langevin spoke to the purpose of residential schools.
“The fact is, if you wish to educate these children, you must separate them from their parents during the time that they are being educated,” Langevin said, per Hansard.
“If you leave them in the family, they may know how to read and write but they still remain savages, whereas by separating them in the way proposed, they acquire the habits and tastes — it is to be hoped only the good tastes — of civilized people.”
According to(TRC), Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin “led the campaign for residential schooling.”
Calls for a culturally appropriate framework to investigate the Kamloops site and mass graves
The report documents an 1880 letter from Grandin to Langevin advocating for the schooling of Indigenous children as “the only efficient means of saving them from destruction and civilizing (them).”
“To become civilized they should be taken with the consent of their parents and made to lead a life different from their parents and cause them to forget the customs, habits and language of their ancestors,” Grandin wrote, according to the TRC report.
Sunday night, local group Change Langevin School put up a public art display urging the name change. Part of that display included stencilled shoe marks surrounding the school.
“The CBE has a responsibility to fulfill the calls to action of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, and renaming the school is an important step in that process,” Zach Helfenbaum, a Grade 8 student at the school, said in a statement.
“We can only imagine what it would have to feel like to have to walk into a school, every day, whose name honours a man who did such harm to one’s own people,” Joy McCullagh, a fellow Grade 8 student, said in a statement.
“We never want Indigenous students — or any students — to have to feel that kind of pain.”
Both school boards will be flying flags at half mast and urged their students to wear orange “to show solidarity with residential school survivors,”.
CCSD district chaplain Michelle Hoogveld prepared a “prayer for sorrow and healing” to be said at work sites and schools.
In their message to parents, employees and staff, CBE said they “continue to support the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action as part of the CBE’s system of Indigenous Education Holistic Lifelong Learning Framework.”
On May 26, 2018, the city renamed Langevin Bridge to Reconciliation Bridge after a 2017 council decision.
Survivors of the residential school system can get support through Canada’s Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program 24/7 crisis line by calling 1-866-925-4419.
Calgary city council will also be revisiting their commitments made in theat an upcoming meeting.
–with files from James Peters, CFJC Today and Adam MacVicar, Global News