Names of John A. Macdonald, Julie Payette may be stripped from schools in Pickering, Whitby

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Published November 12, 2021 at 5:36 pm

The Durham District School Board has begun the process of renaming two schools – in Whitby and Pickering – named after the country’s first Prime Minister and its first astronaut-turned Governor-General.

The move comes months after the DDSB Board of Trustees passed a motion in May to begin the process of renaming the schools after public outcry over honouring the named figures.

More than 1,000 people signed a petition to change name of Julie Payette Public School in Whitby, named for the astronaut and former Governor-General, back to Leslie McFarlane Public School.

Payette resigned her post as Governor General after allegations she created a hostile work environment by harassing and berating staff. She is only the second Governor General to resign, after Romeo LeBlanc in 1999, and the only one to leave amid scandal.

McFarlane, a reporter and novelist, is best known for writing the Hardy Boys series under the pen-name Franklin W. Dixon from 1927-1947. He called Oshawa home for much of his life, and died in the city in 1977.

The process has also begun to rename John A Macdonald Public School in Pickering, something thst is going on at numerous school boards across the country. Anything named after John A. as been a lightning rod for controversy since the Reconciliation era began and only worsened over the past year.

Macdonald is known for serving as Canada’s first Prime Minister and his instrumental role in Canadian independence from the British Empire. However, he’s also achieved notoriety for his role in the attempted cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples through Residential Schools, intentional famine and forced assimilation.

Numerous institutions across the country have stripped Macdonald’s name of their building as numerous communities, even his hometown of Kingston, have removed statues and monuments to him.

Pickering residents have until 4 p.m. November 19 to either join that chorus or refute it through an online survey.

After the survey closes, the board will take the remainder of November to weigh options and begin a second round of public consults. The school naming committee will make its decision around the new year.

There remains no consultation survey on Julie Payette PS, but the DDSB webite indicates one is coming soon.

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