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Students Demand Name Change, ‘Indigenous Safe Spaces’ At Ryerson

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Historical revisionism is hitting Toronto’s Ryerson University, famous for its journalism school.

The National Post reports that students are demanding the storied academic institution change its name because Everton Ryerson is now being cited as an inspiration for the Canadian residential school system that attempted to assimilate natives into Canadian society.

It is only one of 11 demands made by the student union who also want “indigenous safe spaces,” “indigenous content” in courses, at least one “powwow” every year and — for good measure — the statue of Ryerson removed from the campus.

Whether Ryerson can be blamed for the residential schools or not, history does credit him with being a progenitor of public education in the province for Ontario.

The campaign to white-wash the Ryerson name from the university is by no means decided but it is gathering momentum because late last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided to rename a prominent building in Ottawa because it recognized Hector Langevin, who has also been implicated in the residential schools saga.

The Ryerson administration has already suggested that Ryerson the man did have a role in the intellectual shaping of the residential schools that are now routinely dismissed as a form of “cultural genocide” by native activists.

But the student union was apparently not unanimous in its resolve to cleanse the past. Union president Susanne Nyaga admitted to at least one executive member the need to reconsider the list of demands. Students attending the university have also objected to the name change, saying it would necessitate rebranding the institution and could potentially hamper graduates who hold a degree from a university named Ryerson that would no longer exist.

“The statue must remain, and the name of the school,” wrote one native Facebook poster. “Why? It’s the history of the school. You do not have to agree with it, but it is the history of what people back then were thinking. It is a reminder…No ones hands are clean when it comes to the history of Canada.”

The university is non-committal about how it will proceed with the student union’s demands, issuing a talking point:

“Ryerson University values the equitable, intentional and ongoing engagement of equity, diversity and inclusion within every facet of university life. As always, we invite any students or student groups with concerns to contact university administration directly.”

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