School name 'has got to go'

Vancouver school trustees have long stated that decolonization and reconciliation are at the top of their collective to-do lists.

Three massive First Nations welcome posts are being erected in the coming days to coincide with National Indigenous Peoples day on June 21. East Vancouver’s Sir William Macdonald elementary was renamed Xpey’ elementary in the fall of 2017 — Xpey means “cedar” in the Musqueam dialect of henqeminem.

School board chair Janet Fraser said after her successful re-election last year that reconciliation in education was her top priority heading into her new mandate.

Come next week, trustee Jennifer Reddy’s motion will go before the board to remove a sign at L’Ecole Bilingue bearing the name of 19th century mining magnate Cecil Rhodes. 

Born in England in the mid-1800s, Rhodes helped found the De Beers diamond trade and was a figure of tense political disdain in South Africa. Rhodes was quoted as having stated that the English were a master race. Some have linked his political influence and wealth as contributing to Apartheid in South Africa.

“Cecil Rhodes does not represent the values of our district nor contribute to the wellbeing of students, staff, families, and communities in our district,” Reddy said in a news release. “Any further upholding of names like CR in our district make us complicit in his legacy.”

A scholarship created after Rhodes’ death — known as the Rhodes Scholarship — is given to international students to this day, allowing them access to education at Oxford University.

A statue bearing Rhodes’ likeness was removed from the University of Cape Town in 2015. It was precipitated by a social media campaign galvanized around the hashtag #Rhodesmustfall.

Reddy’s motion will go before a district committee on June 19.

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