British Columbia

Cecil Rhodes sign to be removed from Vancouver elementary school

The Vancouver School Board voted unanimously Monday evening to remove a sign commemorating Cecil Rhodes, a businessman and politician who controlled and exploited southern Africa during the British Empire.

Vancouver School Board votes unanimously to take down sign at L’Ecole Bilingue

A sign with the name Cecil Rhodes is covered up with plywood at L’Ecole Bilingue in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The Vancouver School Board voted unanimously Monday evening to remove a sign commemorating Cecil Rhodes.

Rhodes, a businessman and politician, controlled and exploited southern Africa during the British Empire. He disregarded the rights of Indigenous people and his policies laid the groundwork for apartheid.

A sign behind a basketball net at L'Ecole Bilingue that bore his name was recently covered up after community members raised concerns.

At a school board meeting Monday night, trustee Jennifer Reddy described him as a racist, imperialist and bigot. 

Reddy motioned for the sign to be removed and asked how it was allowed to be put there in the first place. 

The motion also called for any other "physical reference" to Rhodes be removed from school property and that notice and reasons for the removal be sent to parents and posted on social media.

After the motion passed unanimously, some people in the standing-only meeting room applauded. 

"The history associated with Cecil Rhodes' name in that school is something that doesn't reflect our values as a district," Reddy said earlier this month.

The school near Oak Street and West 14th was called Cecil Rhodes School until 1977. Trustees said Monday the next steps would be to discuss how to teach students about the school's history.

Debate has stirred around the world in recent years about commemorating historical figures like Rhodes.

In 2015, a #RhodesMustFall movement resulted in a statue of him being removed from the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Rhodes' name still stands behind the Rhodes Scholarship, which he helped establish.

Trustees also passed an amendment Monday evening to a policy surrounding naming educational facilities and land.

When naming new school facilities, the board will only consider place-based names — defined as those that reflect geography or location — instead of names of people.

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