EDMONTON – There is a growing movement across Canada to reconsider the name of a man who believed that Indigenous children should be “civilized” as worthy of a place in schools and traffic signs.
Like its Edmonton counterpart, Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools Revise School Names following the discovery of the remains of students in a former residential school in British Columbia. Both divisions have schools named after Vital Grandin. The Roman Catholic Bishop of St. Albert, north of Edmonton, supported the creation and helped design Canada’s residential school system. He believed that Aboriginal youth should “forget the customs, habits and language of their ancestors” in order to become civilized, found the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
– READ MORE: Catholic School Board ‘Revises’ Grandin School Name After Kamloops Discovery: ECSD
– READ MORE: Renewed calls to remove mural from Grandin LRT station
And at the city level, as petitions calling for change increase in signatures, a working circle has been re-launched to decide what to do at the Grandin / Government Center light rail station in Edmonton. Not only does the place share the name Grandin, but it also features a mural – commissioned in 1989 by Francophonie Jeunesse l’Alberta and painted by Edmonton artist Sylvie Nadeau – depicting the bishop and a nun removing an Indigenous child from their home. family. Although it was updated in 2011 to try to add context, it is still missing 10 years later, says an Edmontonian.
“For the Francophone community, obviously, Bishop Grandin was this really great guy, but I don’t think that even for them they really knew what was going on. Because even today we don’t know the full extent of what happened in these schools, ”Jade Balona told CTV News Edmonton.
She launched the petition a year ago that has led to the current task force made up of survivors, Indigenous people, members of the Francophone community and city officials.
Although nothing has been decided yet, “I think it is possible to remove the mural,” Balona said. To rename the transit stop as well, she added.
In front of them all is (for a little longer) Grandin Fish ‘N’ Chips on 109 Street, which management named it as part of a plan to eventually own multiple locations across town.
“To be fair, we didn’t even do our due diligence, which we probably should have done when we decided to name this restaurant five years ago,” said co-owner Kyla Kaziel.
“We just can’t – in good faith and to be the lifeblood of the community – no longer be able to continue with the Grandin name. “
The partners started saving money to switch brands when they learned of Grandin’s contribution to Canada’s colonial heritage, but hoped the neighborhood would be renamed when they could afford it.
With one estimate, it would take a year for another community – Oliver, named after Frank Oliver – to be renamed, the restaurant management decided to go ahead on their own.
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“You don’t want to get to a point where people have to say something to force you to make a change. You make a change because you want to make that change. And we want to do it, because that’s what we think it’s fair to the community, ”Kaziel said.
“Pursuing with a name that hurts and traumatizes a community – for us – is not the right thing to do.”
Even if The Premier of Alberta has warned the public not to ‘reverse the story’, the discovery in British Columbia and the conversations that followed were traumatic for some.
“Grandin-supported boarding schools” were found painted throughout Grandin Catholic Elementary School in Edmonton on Wednesday morning.
A painter, who told CTV News Edmonton the school principal told him not to allow the photos, covered the fresh graffiti later in the day.
But Balona, looking at the mural at the Grandin LRT station, considers this to be an inaccurate portrayal of the story.
“The initial painter, she just obviously painted what she knew and what she thought was right and right at the time,” Balona said, noting that the mural’s additions depicted adult children and well adjusted.
“But the reality is, that’s probably not how they ended up.”
In a statement, the president of Francophonie Jeunesse de l’Alberta said he was working to erase the damage caused by the murals at LRT station and promised more information would be provided in the coming weeks.
“Reconciliation is a national responsibility. Every citizen has a role to play in this process and this recent discovery reminds us that it is time for all of us to act, ”said Gloria Livingston of the findings in Kamloops.
He asked the Franco-Albertan flags to fly at half mast for 215 hours, until June 8.
With files from Jeremy Thompson of CTV News Edmonton