In their next board meeting, the Limestone District School Board will vote on whether it will enter a renaming process for Sir John A. Macdonald Public School. Moved by Trustee Garrett Elliot, the motion was prompted by students and parents in reaction to the discovery of the remains of 215 indigenous children at a Kamloops Residential School.
“When the news made its way into my home, nobody talked about it with each other, because we’ve heard this same story before,” wrote Indigenous Student Trustee Quanah Traviss in a board report on June 2nd. “So, while I am grateful for the efforts being made to honour their deaths, I’m not optimistic that the mindset will last. The change that needs to happen goes way deeper than the surface,” he added.
The news of the discovery prompted community members, parents and former students to write emotionally charged letters to the Limestone School Board, noting the negative impact that the building name has had on Indigenous community members.
“Indigenous families in Limestone have pointed to a pattern of feeling unseen, unheard, and unimportant,” wrote parent Shayla Bradley in a letter to the board. “The Indigenous Family Circle has specifically noted how challenging it is to gather in colonial buildings and structures.”
Another parent recited a now infamous quote by Sir John A. MacDonald in 1879: “When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write.”
The parent noted the actions of the former Prime Minister no longer align with the board’s commitment of reconciliation.”This is far from the values of reconciliation, decolonization, anti-racism and anti-oppression principles of the Limestone District School Board,” wrote Dr. Lauren Anstey, a parent of Sir John A. Macdonald Elementary School.
If passed, the motion would follow Administrative Procedure 52, which outlines the renaming process for buildings in a way that aligns with the “board’s mission, vision, values, with a lens on reconciliation, decolonization, anti-racism, and anti-oppression principles.”
The motion will be presented on June 16th, but a finalized decision won’t be known until a least August.