It appears that the only excuse for changing the name of Ryerson University after 73 years is the mistaken notion that Egerton Ryerson was responsible for indigenous residential schools which is simply not true as considerable scholarship demonstrates all too well. Add the “discovery” of “unmarked graves” at residential school sites and the entire exercise got out of hand. Egerton Ryerson was linked by politically correct social media to graves he had nothing to do with. And if none of that didn’t work he was declared a “colonist”.
Then in mid summer 2021 the 134 year old (erected on this site in 1887) Hamilton MacCarthy statue of Egerton Ryerson on Gould Street inside the campus grounds began to suffer more paint attacks and other indignities. Egerton Ryerson and his statue was then wrongly connected to the 215 grave discoveries at Kamloops. The statue base then bore the insensitive protestor’s demand “Dig the 215 up” referring to the alleged graves located by relatively accurate ground sounding devices at the Kamloops residential school.
Finally the statue was dangerously pulled down crashing into the road and then bashed and beheaded by vandals in July 2021 because it became the focus for all the angst of finding 215 “unmarked” graves at residential schools. The head of the statue was removed to another land protest site by indigenous protestors flying the Iroquois Warrior flag that they also draped over the fallen statue as it lay on Gould Street.
Ryerson University should have taken the statue down after it was defaced the first time by paint, cleaned it and placed it in storage. Instead they let it focus angst, tensions and ultimately destructive violence. In the same breath the university administration erected the new circle monument to help us explore indigenous ideas also on Gould Street saying that art works should promote respect.
The fact that there had been a report on all of these potential residential grave sites for the Truth and Reconciliation Committee went completely unnoticed by the protestors and the Ryerson administration, and even more sadly by the media covering the event. Even more telling was the Ryerson University administration headed by President Mohamed Lachemi that folded under pressure and chose to hang out Egerton Ryerson to dry with a series of loaded name change committees.
Then the Ryerson University Board of Governors received the name change committee report at the end of Summer, and without any real debate rubber stamped it so another name change committee could be struck to come up with five possible new names for the university management to chose from and all without further public input or discussion. And that is where it stands for the moment. We await the results of this cooked process. We await the result of lies, propaganda, vested interests, identity politics and an administration that will chose the new name and new identity behind closed doors.
In 1948 when Dr. Howard Kerr began the Ryerson that grew from a wartime Air Force training centre he was keenly aware that the land of the Quadrangle was the site of the Normal School, Egerton Ryerson’s innovative teacher training institute. Dr. Kerr saw this connection was an important historical commitment to Ontario’s public education system put together by Egerton Ryerson. Hence the name Ryerson was given to the new post secondary school. The classical facade of the Normal School still remains inside the Quadrangle. Will this facade now become a new place for paint and protest against “colonial” times or have we now had enough stupidity? Keep the Ryerson University name there is no reason to change it.
Tom Thorne is a graduate of Ryerson University (RTA’68) and the founding editor in 1967 of The Eyeopener, Ryerson’s student newspaper. After Ryerson he worked for Theatre Toronto (Stratford cast winter repertory) at the Royal Alexandra Theatre and in the summer at The Shaw Festival’s Canadian Mine Theatre providing promotion and media relations. He spent two years doing promotion and advertising for Agfa-Gevaert Canada consumer and industrial photography products. His experience also includes 12 years With TVOntario in management roles for promotion, advertising, publishing and early on-line internet services. He was instrumental to the team that changed The Ontario Educational Communications Authority (OECA) the official name, into TVOntario. Tom also taught marketing, advertising, media relations and computer and internet courses in the Ontario College System for 16 years. He was also a principal partner in Faxtel-Marketfax an early on-line internet service that pioneered stock market charting. Today he labours to restore critical journalism to encourage debate and to focus important issues.