Waterloo high school named for Sir John A. Macdonald to be renamed, committee says

A Waterloo Region District School Board committee looking at the naming and renaming of schools says it will make it a priority to rename Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School in Waterloo.

'Ongoing pain and harm with the school named for Sir John A. Macdonald,' says board

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

A committee dedicated to looking at the names of schools within the Waterloo Region District School Board says it will begin a public consultation on renaming Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School in Waterloo "as soon as possible."

The ad hoc school naming review committee issued a statement on Tuesday saying it acknowledges "the acute pain endured this week by Indigenous students and their families, and staff, as well as members of the larger community" after the remains of 215 children were found on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

"We also acknowledge that since 2004 there has been ongoing pain and harm with the school named for Sir John A. Macdonald. While we cannot imagine the feelings it must inspire, we understand that this pain is heartfelt and urgent," the statement said.

The committee is working on a new policy for the board about school names and that will include reviewing all the current school names.

Policy needed first

School board trustee Kathleen Woodcock is a member of the committee. She says there have been numerous calls in the past to change the name of the school and more in recent years.

The consultation process to rename the school will get underway later this year once a formal policy is completed.

"We haven't had time to work through with the committee how we're going to get approval from the board and when," she said. "We are going to expedite a renaming process for SJAM, so it's going to happen sooner than December."

Woodcock says she knows that will not be as quick as some people would like.

"If we embarked on a review right now under the current policy, it would just do more harm because the committee has gotten to the point where … they believe the current policy is racist and it doesn't reflect the anti-racist values and beliefs that we just approved in our human rights policy," she said.

"We want to make sure the policy is revised so that it is not racist and colonial and that's the work we're doing first and then we'll be doing the review" of the school's name, Woodcock said. 

The committee said the consultation process will include stakeholders like students, families, staff and interested members of the community.