Students, community call for name of new Winnipeg school to reflect spirit of reconciliation

Students and community members of the Seven Oaks School Division hope the name of their new school will reflect their students a little more.  

New Seven Oaks K-5 French immersion school slated to open in fall 2020

A new K-5 French immersion school, seen here, is currently under construction on Templeton Avenue. Some students and community members have suggested the school's name should reflect the division's focus on reconciliation. (Jonathan Ventura/CBC)

Students and community members of the Seven Oaks School Division hope the name of a new school will reflect its student body — and work in the division on reconciliation.

The current proposed name for the new kindergarten to Grade 5 French- immersion school is École Templeton — named after William Templeton, a pioneer land owner. 

But at a Monday meeting of the division's board of trustees, about a dozen community members delivered a presentation put together by students in the division — including a video the students made — suggesting the board choose a more meaningful name, and one that incorporates the students' ongoing work toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

"I think we should change the name because we keep on taking the land and giving it European names," Mayah, a Grade 5 French immersion student who currently attends the division's École James Nisbet Community School, told CBC News on Wednesday.

"I think we should change the name because we aren't just talking about reconciliation — we are reconciliation." 

The school division has been recognized for inclusive practices and teaching on Indigenous issues, says James Nisbet principal Michelle Jean-Paul, who will become the principal at the new French immersion school next fall. The division holds a graduation powwow each year, has elders in residence an Indigenous education lead, and observes daily land acknowledgements.

"The truth is that we do these land acknowledgements every day, and that's the land the school is being built on. [It] is … traditional Indigenous land," said Jean-Paul.

She believes discussing a different name for the new school could be an opportunity to bring learning about reconciliation out of the classroom and into real action.

Michelle Jean-Paul will be the principal of the new school. (Jonathan Ventura/CBC)

The naming of the school is an important part of its identity, she says, and she wants people to ask themselves "whose voice is missing from some of our institutions, from some of our conversations." 

Jorga, a current James Nisbet Grade 4 student who plans to attend the new school, says she wants to be included in the decision-making process on the school's name.

"I think École Templeton should be named after someone Métis, because I would like to see a school named after my own culture," she said.

The division's school board meets again on Monday, Feb. 3, and the school's name is expected to be discussed then.

Construction on the new school is ongoing on Templeton Avenue, near Pipline Road, in Winnipeg's Leila North neighbourhood.