Ryerson name stays on rec centre in Hamilton, after vote deferred

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Published July 8, 2021 at 11:59 pm

ryersonreccentre

Although Hamilton’s public school board has voted to rename a school named after a controversial figure, the Ryerson name will stay on an adjacent city recreation centre for now.

Ward 1 City Councillor Maureen Wilson brought a motion to Thursday’s city emergency and community services (ESC) committee calling for the Ryerson Recreation Centre, which located in her ward at 251 Duke St., to be renamed. Ultimately, after much debate, the matter was referred to the city’s facility naming subcommittee.

The referral passed with a 4-1 vote, with councillors Chad Clark, Tom Jackson, Sam Merulla and Esther Pauls voting in favour. Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann voted against it.

Egerton Ryerson designed a model for the residential schools, which generations of Indigenous children were forced to attend in Canada. He was also the founder of Ontario’s public education system.

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board voted on June 7 to rename the school that is at the same address as the rec centre. Hamilton Bike Share, which has a social bicycle stand there, has also removed Ryerson’s name from its digital and physical assets.

Wilson, who is not on the committee, said that following suit would clear up any confusion. 

The only delegated presenter the ESC committee heard from was Rev. Dr. Ian Sloan of New Horizon United Church in Hamilton. Sloan stated support for renaming the rec centre, saying it would help foster reconciliation between settlers and Hamilton’s indigenous community.

“It’s of a piece with getting at the truth,” Sloan said. “The meaning of compassion is to suffer together. I feel that rethinking the use of Ryerson’s name in an honorific manner begins with empathy.

“Imagine if settler families were treated the way that Indigenous families have been threated throughout Canada’s history — that’s empathy. Compassion, then, comes into play when confronted with another’s suffering. We feel motivated to relieve that suffering. Empathy enables us to see that relief in suffering comes, at least in part, from our recognizing that we are complicit in enabling the suffering by the honouring the lives of people who have initiated it. I think that is what Truth and Reconciliation Commission is getting at when it says Canadians must look to, and learn from the past.” 

Hamilton is planning to begin a landmark and monuments review. That might eventually lead to removing commemorations of both Ryerson and Sir John A. Macdonald.

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