Edmontonians call to remove Grandin namesake from LRT station in wake of Kamloops discovery

Calls are growing to change the name of an Edmonton LRT station named after a bishop considered to be an architect of the residential school system.

'Grandin should be on the top of everyone's list because he is the architect and the father of all of it all'

City council unanimously voted Monday to remove all city references to Bishop Vital Grandin, including by renaming the downtown LRT station. Grandin is considered an architect of Canada's residential schools. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Calls are growing to rename an Edmonton LRT station named for bishop considered to be an architect of the residential school system.

The renewed discussion over using the name Grandin comes a week after news broke of an undocumented burial site containing the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

In the late 1800s, St. Albert's Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin lobbied the government to fund residential schools.

Hundreds have now signed a petition urging the City of Edmonton to remove his name from the Grandin LRT station.

As a mother of two young children who are Métis, Shelby Painchaud said a name change is essential to heal as a country. 

"It's time to start setting things right. I'm Métis, and this hurts just to look at. Can you imagine having that constant reminder of what happened to your culture just sitting there being praised for so long?" she wrote on the petition.
Shelby Painchaud, pictured here with her family, signed the petition calling for Grandin LRT Station to be renamed. (Shelby Painchaud)

Grandin Fish and Chips co-owner Kyla Kazeil says the name of her business will soon change.

"Now that we're aware and we understand ... it's just time for us to make the change," said Kazeil. "We're hoping that it encourages other people to go and take that plunge and make the change too." 

According to the City of Edmonton's Indigenous heritage liaison, Rob Houle, Grandin's strategy of assimilation and indoctrination of Indigenous children was the foundation of the residential school system.

Other politicians such as Canada's first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, unleashed that approach across the country, he said.

"So if we're talking about problematic people in the residential school system, Grandin should be on the top of everyone's list because he is the architect and the father of all of it," Houle said.

But Houle said Grandin is one of many problematic namesakes in Edmonton that also includes James Gibbons, an Indian agent, and Frank Oliver, a political leader involved in the surrender of reserves.

"For people who do understand these things, it's always very traumatic and triggering and can lead to avoidance of those types of situations," Houle said. "I purposefully avoid [Oliver Square] because I don't want to be in the area." 

The City of Edmonton said a community-led committee has started public engagement to make a final recommendation on a potential name change for the Oliver neighbourhood.

The city is also working with Indigenous elders and residential school survivors as well as cultural groups to provide guidance on Grandin LRT Station murals and renaming.

Edmonton Catholic Schools is reviewing the name of Grandin Catholic Elementary School.

"The discovery has underscored the need for all parts of society, including school jurisdictions, to re-examine the use of namesakes that are tied to the legacy of residential schools,"  board chair Sandra Palazzo said in a statement.

Trustees at Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools voted Monday to form an ad hoc committee to review the names of all schools in the division including Vital Grandin Catholic School.

It's one of many places in St. Albert where the name Grandin can be found.

"At this point, the city does not have any consultations scheduled on renaming options, but we are seeking the guidance of our local Indigenous partners and will be actively exploring that potential in the near future," wrote St Albert spokesperson Cory Sinclair.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday he think it's important to learn from history. He said without Macdonald, Canada would not exist.

"So if we go full force into cancel culture, then we're cancelling most, if not all, of our history," Kenney said. "Instead, I think we should learn from our history. We should learn from our achievements, but also our failures." 

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.