No decision yet on renaming Bishop Grandin school after Calgary Catholic district meeting

·3 min read
Police are investigating after a student was stabbed Thursday afternoon at Bishop Grandin High School in southwest Calgary.  (Google Maps - image credit)
Police are investigating after a student was stabbed Thursday afternoon at Bishop Grandin High School in southwest Calgary. (Google Maps - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find distressing.

The Calgary Catholic School District trustees have deferred their decision on the possible renaming of Bishop Grandin High School.

Trustees heard reports Wednesday from administration, members of the public and the district's Indigenous team on the possible renaming of the school named for a leader of the residential school system.

Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin was a Roman Catholic priest and bishop who advocated on behalf of Métis rights, but he also believed Indigenous people needed to be "civilized" and viewed residential schools as the way to accomplish this.

The majority of Wednesday's testimony and data pointed toward a desire for renaming.

Administration presented the data from its recent ThoughtExchange surveys which found nearly 80 per cent of the parents and members of the general CCSD community are in favour of the school district changing the name of the school.

Manitoba Historical Society
Manitoba Historical Society

A couple of parents presented a petition with thousands of signatures asking for the school to be renamed as a step toward reconciliation.

And, the district's Indigenous team made a presentation that included the testimonies of numerous Indigenous elders and students.

As a part of that presentation, Grade 11 Indigenous student Kai Buffalo Samson spoke about his feelings of attending a school named for someone involved in the destruction of his culture.

"If the school is worried about the cost for changing the name, I'm pretty sure 215-plus lives are worth more, so much more," he said.

"It is a sad history for us and it's actually really sad that no one knows about it. They should change it because Grandin was a big part of the residential schools and it makes my skin crawl as an Indigenous person, knowing that I'm going to this school named after him."

But, like Grade 12 Indigenous student Autumn Jules Kai expressed, students also want action beyond a name change.

"I feel what should be considered is like what's going to happen after the name change, because you can't just change the name and think everything's going to be OK. You have to acknowledge us natives more because of what we went through," she said.

"Especially considering Bishop Grandin was someone who highly believed in residential schools and basically tried to assimilate us to get rid of the get rid of the 'Indian problem.'"

Ultimately the Indigenous team recommended renaming the school immediately, ensuring there is teaching and learning to support the name change throughout the entire district, and with an educational piece to follow.

CCSD
CCSD

"Like a monument depicting the past and the name change on the site."

Trustees, who nearly all showed visible emotion — with many in tears following the presentations — said they wanted time to reflect on all the information they were provided Wednesday.

"I certainly heard the message very clear that this is not just an issue of the past. It is also an issue of today. There is a legacy of trauma, and that really hit home with me," said trustee Linda Wellman.

"And I appreciate the point of caution that a name change cannot just be a check in a box. Any name comes with a responsibility and needs to represent a way forward."

The board has committed to making a decision before the end of the month.

Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

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