British Columbia

Vancouver Island school board votes to remove school named for 'racist' former federal MP

School trustees on Vancouver Island have voted to change the name of an elementary school named after a controversial former federal member of Parliament.

Alan Webster Neill's name will be removed from A.W. Neill elementary school in Port Alberni, B.C.

Former federal and provincial politician Alan Webster Neill sits with his dog at the age of 87 in a photo from 1955. (HO-Alberni Valley Museum Photograph/Canadian Press) (The Canadian Press/HO-Alberni Valley Museum Photograph)

School trustees on Vancouver Island have voted to change the name of an elementary school named after a controversial former federal member of Parliament known for his anti-Asian views.

Alberni School District board members voted to remove Alan Webster Neill's name from A.W. Neill elementary school.

The school board says it will form a committee to develop a list of possible new names for the school.

Webster Neill, who died in 1960, was a Port Alberni mayor, a member of the B.C. Legislature and a federal MP who represented the area in the House of Commons from 1921 to 1945.

He was known as an advocate of blue-collar workers but was widely considered racist for his efforts to deny voting rights to Asian immigrants in the House of Commons, his support of anti-Chinese laws in the B.C. legislature and his approval of Indigenous residential schools.

Neill's own home in Port Alberni included a restriction that it could never be sold to Asian people. He died in 1960 at 91. The home's covenant was removed in 2019.

Port Alberni school trustee Rosemarie Buchanan, who spearheaded the public effort to remove Webster Neill's name from the school, says the decision comes after a public consultation.

"In my opinion, his behaviour and his beliefs were so heinous that he doesn't deserve a spot on a main plaque on any public building," Buchanan said in 2019.

"Some people have said to me, 'that was just the way that was at that time.' There is no get out of jail free card because it was said so many years ago. It is still incredibly racist."

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