Editorial: Consider and learn about problematic histories
Egerton Ryerson was an important figure in Canadian education. He played a key role in the creation of a free public education system in Ontario, and had a huge impact in shaping the way our education system worked.
He was also instrumental in creating the residential school program, a program that forced Indigenous children from their homes into abusive environments in an effort to strip them of their Indigenous heritage and assimilate them into Canadian society.
An estimated 150,000 children were forced to attend residential schools, and the last one wasn’t closed until 1996. This past July, the Ryerson Student Union (RSU) called for the renaming of Ryerson University and the removal of a statue of Ryerson, prompting a larger debate amongst the Ryerson student body and even within the RSU itself about these possible changes.
Ryerson’s contributions have indeed left a huge impact on the lives of Indigenous people throughout Canadian history. As we grapple with the notion of possibly renaming institutions named after those with problematic histories, we must make sure we learn about and fully understand the ways these figures have shaped our history.
This means taking a step back and truly educating ourselves on the issues and arguments presented, so we can be better informed regarding this debate. There are compelling arguments to be made both for and against renaming institutions such as Ryerson University. We need to make sure we understand them before we make any judgements.