Hamilton school to be renamed Kanétskare Elementary


Published June 8, 2022 at 9:42 pm

The largest school board in Hamilton has affirmed that a downtown school will be renamed Kanétskare Elementary School, replacing the name of a residential system architect.

This week, trustees with the Hamilton-Wentworth School District School Board settled on the name for the school at 222 Robinson St., near Queen Street South. The selection was made by a naming circle engaged by HWDSB during an Indigenous-led year-long process. Kanétskare (pronounced Ga-nét-sga-re) is a Mohawk term for “by the bay,” which describes Hamilton’s location on Burlington Bay.

Students in grades 6, 7, 8 were given the opportunity to submit possible names, HWDSB Chair Dawn Danko said in a radio interview. Some of the other suggestions that received consideration included Cherry Birch, after a tree native to the area; Harmony Elementary; Healing Circle Elementary; Land Back Elementary; and Nanda-gikendan, an Anishinaabe word that means “seeking knowledge.”

The name choice still has to be ratified by the full school board, but it received unanimous approval at a meeting on Monday night (June 6). That was precisely 52 weeks after HWDSB adopted a motion from Wards 9 and 10 trustee Cam Galindo that called for removing the name of Egerton Ryerson from the school due to his links to Canada’s residential school system. The residential school system is a source of ongoing trauma for Indigenous people, as generations of children were abused and died in care, with much of the pain passed across generations.

From 2008 to ’15, the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which heard from some 6,500 witnesses, confirmed that thousands of children died while at the institutions. Former Canadian senator Murray Sinclair, who chaired the TRC, recently told CBC that as many as 25,000 children may have died in the schools.

The confirmation of human remains in Kamloops, B.C., last May, and at other former school sites, furnished specifics in support of the personal testimonies heard at the TRC. Public support for removing the names and images of Egerton Ryerson, the founder of public education in Ontario, and former prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald from institutions and shared spaces increased after the news from Kamloops.

The motion that Galindo introduced on June 7, 2021 also called for a review of the names of all schools named after individuals. It called for renaming to reflect “the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation, to ensure they reflect our board’s mission, vision, values and the application of human rights, decolonization, anti-racism and anti-oppression principles.”

In a similar vein, the board will apparently confine school naming options to just locations, landmarks and natural features. Vice-chair Becky Buck, the wards 8 and 14 trustee, suggested that at a meeting last month.

Among others, a university in downtown Toronto also chose to remove Ryerson’s name. It is now called Toronto Metropolitan University.

The full background on HWDSB’s renaming process is readable at hwdsb.on.ca.

People who need emotional support or assistance can contact the Indian Residential School Survivors Society toll-free at 1-800-721-0066. The society also offers a 24-hour crisis line at 1-866-925-4419.

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