Kitchener-Waterloo

Three regional schools named for men with historic ties to residential schools, eugenics, to get new names

Kitchener’s A.R. Kaufman Public School has been identified as “high priority for renaming” in a Region District School Board motion passed Monday night. It joins Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School in Waterloo and Ryerson Public School in Cambridge on a list of school names slated to be changed. 

List includes school named for Kitchener industrialist, eugenicist A. R. Kaufman

Staff and students are weighing in on a new name for Sir John A Macdonald Secondary School in Waterloo. (Google StreetView)

Kitchener's A.R. Kaufman Public School has been identified as "high priority for renaming" in a motion passed during a Waterloo Region District School Board meeting Monday night.

It was added to a list of schools recommended for name changes, which includes Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School in Waterloo and Ryerson Public School in Cambridge.

In the fall, the board's ad hoc school naming review committee — a group comprised of community members, students, trustees, staff and parents — hired a researcher to do a literature review examining the names of board properties, like schools and mascots. The report's recommendations were presented Monday night. 

Two names on the list are well known to many Canadians. 

Institutions named for Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, and for Egerton Ryerson have been the subject of similar discussions about name changes across the country. 

Both were identified because of the roles those men played in creating and sustaining Canada's residential school system, said Kathleen Woodcock, a regional school board trustee and member of the committee's leadership group. 

"We can't on one hand say we're shocked and horrified by the uncovering of children who never made it home to their families and then in the same breath be OK to leave the name of the architect of that harm on one of our schools." 

Kitchener eugenicist also included

Kitchener industrialist and philanthropist, A.R. Kaufman, also made the list. 

Woodcock said he was identified for his advocacy of eugenics — the discredited belief that it's possible to improve the human race through selective breeding, based on traits such as race — and in particular, Kaufman's views on using sterilization as a eugenics measure.

[He was] "known to arrange for sterilizations that targeted working-class employees, the poor and those with physical and mental disabilities," said Crissa Hill, superintendent of student achievement and well-being for WRDSB. 

Woodcock said some community members have reacted negatively to the suggested name change. 

"We do value the roots in the A.R. Kaufman public school community and view them as a very important part of this naming process," said Woodcock. 

That process has not yet begun for any of the three schools, she said. 

Woodcock said renaming committees for all three schools will begin their work soon and that community members will be consulted in each case. 

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