Nova Scotia’s Sir. John A. Macdonald High School to change its name for inclusivity

A high school in Upper Tantallon, N.S., has decided to change its name, saying the current one doesn’t reflect school values.

The principal of Sir John A. Macdonald High School said they will begin the process of renaming on Thursday, after a years-long discourse on Macdonald’s legacy.

The decision was made “so that every student that walks through the door feels welcome,” school principal Darlene Fitzgerald told Global News.

Fitzgerald said for Indigenous students, having Macdonald’s name on the wall isn’t welcoming and doesn’t make them feel safe.

The move comes from concern over Macdonald’s impact on the Indigenous community while he was Canada’s first prime minister.

Back in 2017, an Ontario teachers’ union started a movement to change the controversial school name, and gained support in Nova Scotia.

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario called for the removal of Mcdonald’s name from elementary schools across the province.

In 2017, Mi’kmaw elder Daniel Paul told Global News he hoped that call will open people’s eyes.

“Macdonald founded a white man’s country and did everything during his terms as Prime Minister to assure that it would remain so. Including an all out effort to exterminate its Indigenous population,” he said.

“We want Macdonald to be relegated where all despots such as he should be. This man was not a man who viewed all races as equal,” he said at the time.

At the time, the disbanded board said changing the name of Sir John A. Macdonald High wasn’t on the radar.

On Thursday, the high school administration made the call to start the process of changing the name, and it won’t be the first to do so.

In 2012, the now disbanded Halifax Regional School Board voted to change Cornwallis Junior High School to Halifax Central Junior High School.

That change came from the government-funded bounty Edward Cornwallis placed on the Mi’kmaq people in October 1749.

Principal Fitzgerald said a letter is being sent out on Thursday to ask parents and students for suggestions of a new name. The Halifax Regional Education Centre’s guidelines on school naming will also be shared.

The deadline for submissions is Nov. 26, Fitzgerald said. After the suggestions are gathered, they will be reviewed by a committee that includes chosen staff and two students.

The committee will choose a top three options for a new name, and then the school’s students will vote for one of the three.

Fitzgerald said she hopes to file the paperwork to the HRCE board by mid-December to finalize the name change.

The new name, she said, will be “in school spirit” and promote inclusivity.

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