Indigenous professors and students of Ryerson University are calling on the University to put down the statue of Egerton Ryerson because of the prominent role he played in the establishment of residential school system.
An open letter to the University co-signed by 17 professors called on the Toronto University to address the concerns that students and residents have raised over a period of time spanning decades. In the open letter, the professors wrote that the recent discovery in Kamloops, B.C., of what are believed to be the remains of 215 indigenous children at a former residential school has pushed the issue of the university’s name in the front burner.
The letter calls for “removing the face and name of a symbol of oppression, violence, and pain.”
The letter is a follow up to the movement launched by Indigenous students at University to refer to Ryerson publicly as ‘X University’, to avoid repeating a name that the students described as a symbol of cultural genocide.
Egerton’s statue in the University has, over the years, being subjected to vandalism by irate students.
“The debate about removing the statue at X University and changing the name has carried on for decades, as have the attempts by the university to pacify it,” the letter states. “We ask [the university community and administration] to recognize that the time to remove the statue and rename our school is now.”
The University appointed Standing Strong (Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win) Task Force to conduct a historical research on the legacy and life of Egerton Ryerson. The Task Force was equally charged with engaging the school community on steps to address Ryerson’s legacy and what “principles should guide commemoration-related decision making at the university”.
It was reported that the report of the Task Force will be delivered to the president of the school and board of governors and it is expected to make recommendations regarding the statue on campus.
Some students expressed displeasure as to what the statue represents.
Sam Howden, one of the student organizers of the group University X, who is from Treaty 1 territory and has lived in Toronto for more than seven years, has this to say:
“It’s not just the statue itself. It’s the symbolism of the person who embodies that statue and the name of that person and their history, which has been essentially the systemic violence of putting Black and indigenous folks in segregated schooling and leading to a whole bunch of cultural genocide”.
Ryerson’s School of Journalism also stated that it would rename two of its publications ahead of the new school year, dropping any reference to Ryerson Egerton. The department said it would change the name of Ryerson Review of Journalism magazine and the Ryersonian Newspaper.