Education (6-12): Current Problems

Education Institutions

September 13, 2020

Racism at USask

CBC – More than 200 people have signed an open letter demanding more respect for Indigenous knowledge and faculty in the University of Saskatchewan’s college of education. The letter follows revelations that at least nine Indigenous faculty, as well as other senior Indigenous staff, have recently departed the U of S in frustration. The letter, signed by current and former faculty, alumni and others, says the U of S college of education has historically been a leader in First Nations and Métis education, but that things are going backward. It refers to a “toxic culture” and “climate of fear” inside the college. It says Indigenous faculty who left, and many of those who remain, “did not feel supported and were fearful of speaking out against the present administration’s harmful attitude, policies and practices. “It says Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who spoke out were “targeted.” It also accused U of S administrators of “exploiting Indigenous education by using it for public recognition while scaling back on necessary resources.”

Concerns include the following:

  • Indigenous faculty, staff and students facing institutional and individual racial hostility
  • The limits placed on academic freedom
  • The impact on public education across the province, in particular for marginalized students and community members that face a violent settler colonial context
  • The climate of fear and the silencing of people who shared concerns about the administration’s policies
  • Allies supportive of Indigenous faculty and staff have been targeted
  • The lack of ethical hiring practices and appointments through nepotism
  • Some key positions in Indigenous education have been dissolved
  • Exploiting Indigenous education by using it for public recognition while scaling back on necessary resources

June 6, 2021


Ryerson protest

Global News – A statue of Egerton Ryerson at Ryerson University, which was pulled down earlier Sunday evening by demonstrators, will not be “restored or replaced,” the university said Sunday. “The question of the statue was only one of many being considered by the Standing Strong (Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win) Task Force, whose mandate includes consideration of the university’s name, responding to the legacy of Egerton R erson, and other elements of commemoration on campus,” read university president Mohame Lachemi’s statement.

June 2, 2021


Ryerson protest

Toronto Star – On May 11, Ryerson University’s First Nation-led research centre, Yellowhead Institute, issued an open letter announcing that their students and faculty would be swapping the school’s current name with “X” University in their email signatures and on social media. This is the firmest action taken by the department that has long denounced the university’s affiliation with Egerton Ryerson, whose beliefs are widely credited with the establishment of what became the residential school system.

Yellowhead Institute’s letter was in response to the “Standing Strong” task force, an independent group created by the university to complete expert historical research on Egerton Ryerson, while consulting with the community on how to address his statue on campus and other ties to his name…However, the Yellowhead Institute says it’s not enough…From an Indigenous student perspective, it cannot be reconciled.” Meanwhile, the Ryerson school of journalism on Tuesday announced that their masthead publications would be changing their names after the 2020-21 year following a unanimous vote at the school council meeting on May 18.

April 27, 2022

Ryerson University gets new name

Toronto Star: In a historic gesture toward reconciliation, Ryerson University is rebranding itself as Toronto Metropolitan University, cutting its connection to the man considered to have laid the foundations of the residential school system.

The new name came after years of advocacy by staff, students and community members.

In 2021, the school embarked on a renaming process following years of calls for it to drop its name. This also followed a summer of protest by students, advocates and Indigenous leaders, which led to the toppling of Egerton Ryerson’s statue on Gould Street after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at a Kamloops residential school in May last year.

Ryerson, a Methodist minister and superintendent of schools for Upper Canada, was the architect behind the 1847 Ryerson Report, which laid the foundation for residential schools in Canada. The residential school system saw Indigenous children taken from their families in an attempt to assimilate them at government-funded, church-run schools that often abused and starved children and led to thousands of deaths.

Over the past year, more unmarked graves have been identified by authorities across the country, and there have been discussions on how to memorialize these sites.

Last June, 18 Indigenous faculty at the university wrote an open letter that called on the school to change its name. The letter called for “removing the face and name of a symbol of oppression, violence and pain.”

While there is a sense of relief that the Ryerson name is being stripped from the school, some Indigenous faculty and students say the renaming process has been challenging and caused harm to the very groups the name was hurting. “I’m happy the name is getting changed. That’s part of what we wanted,” said Anne Spice, a professor of Indigenous environment knowledges at Toronto Metropolitan. “But the way that this has been done feels really disempowering for the Indigenous people that have been organizing to make this change happen.”

Spice said the school did not consult extensively with Indigenous faculty and students who pushed for a change, and there’s been a lack of transparency about how the name was picked, including what names were on the short list. “The self-congratulatory tone that the university is taking is disturbing to a lot of us who’ve been involved in this work,” she said. “It feels like a brand exercise.”

In an email, the university said it engaged in a three-week-long public survey that polled the entire community on the most “critical elements” of the renaming process. It said the school remains committed to implementing all recommendations from the Standing Strong Task Force.

“The name just really reflects how they are trying to distance themselves and really remarket the university,” Howden said. “They just took it upon themselves to have these conversations behind closed doors, with very particular, curated individuals, to decide.”

The renaming process is occurring amid a reckoning with Canada’s history of colonialism and racism that has brought up discussions of who society should be honouring. Other institutions and organizations like the Toronto District School Board are engaging in renaming processes that have also been mired in concern from community members about ensuring a renaming is done fairly.