During our virtual regular Council meeting yesterday (July 13), we unanimously approved a motion I brought forward at committee to start the process to rename Ryerson Park in our city — I want to thank my Council colleagues for their unanimous support.
I also want to thank the delegations that came out to speak to this, including Burlington resident and Elder Stephen Paquette of the Ojibway-Anishinaabe First Nation Bear Clan, who spoke so powerfully and movingly on why our City should rename this park, and Halton District School Board (HDSB) Trustees Tracey Ehl Harrison and Margo Shuttleworth who gave us the background on their board’s recent decision to rename Ryerson Public School. As well, thank you to all those who submitted correspondence.
Here is the motion that was unanimously approved at Council:
Direct the Director of Recreation, Community and Culture to initiate the renaming process for Ryerson Park in keeping with our naming policies, ensuring equity, diversity and inclusion is reflected in the new name, and report back to committee with a recommendation for a new name by November 2021.
This is really about honouring our true history and moving forward together as a community. We benefit greatly from the work done already by the HDSB and we can learn from their consultation and research. It allows us to respond quickly to the cry from our community to action some of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada’s 94 Calls to Action — honouring the Indigenous voices in the community.
Elder Stephen Paquette delegated on this and his appeal to Council in support of the renaming was powerful and balanced. He noted, if we didn’t embark on this renaming, it would be hurtful and painful — I encourage all Burlington residents to hear his delegation from committee here (starting at the 38:39 mark).
Of particular relevance are his comments that removing a name doesn’t erase history, good or bad. History will continue to be told, and we must commit to telling it in a more balanced way with indigenous voices and history more represented in our curriculum and history books. As he noted, when we name something after someone it elevates their position, and at this time in our history it is no longer acceptable to elevate individuals who had a role in residential school implementation, given what we know about the incredibly damaging, destructive and lasting legacy on indigenous residents across Canada.
This is an ongoing journey, but renaming Ryerson Park is one step our City can take now. I am grateful for the deep conversations I’ve been able to have with local members of the Indigenous community, particularly around their suggestion of starting a Halton Indigenous Roundtable. This will be something I will be working on in the months to come.
Stay tuned for more details about the public engagement process in the renaming of Ryerson Park.
Last month, I received correspondence from the Chair of the Board of the Halton District School Board (HDSB) notifying me that the Trustees, at their June 16, 2021 meeting, 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.
A city-owned park adjacent to the school also bears the Ryerson name.
Ryerson Public School and adjacent Ryerson Park are named after Egerton Ryerson for his contributions to the Ontario education system, however, Ryerson was also instrumental in 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 peoples.
You can read a copy of the memo I brought to committee here.
- Watch the discussion at Committee on July 8 (at the 4:44:01 mark)
- EICS-C-03-21 Mayor’s Motion Memo Ryerson Renaming
- Mayor’s Statement: Burlington City Council to Consider Renaming Ryerson Park