The Toronto District School Board's (TDSB) consideration to rename a downtown public school originally named in honour of Queen Victoria is receiving criticism from several politicians.
Student council at Parkdale’s Queen Victoria Public School, along with a group called the Black Student Success Committee have requested a school renaming committee be established to come up with a name that better reflects their community.
The school has been a target for racist behaviour and incidents in the past. Last year, hate mail was sent to a Black school administrator that singled out Black and racialized teachers at the school, as well as parents who were members of the Black Student Success Committee, which was formed in the fall of 2019.
The incident led to a police investigation, as well as one by the TDSB. An online petition titled “Disrupt Anti-Black Racism at Queen Victoria Public School in Parkdale” was also launched.
The request for a school renaming committee put forward to the TDSB states that initial discussions about a new name started in October 2020 and again in January of this year, and inspired “excitement” from the school council.
“The desire to have a new name is representative of a “fresh start” for the school community amongst a range of other positive changes,” it reads.
“Given the concerns expressed by students and staff at Queen Victoria Public School, it is believed that engaging in the school renaming process without delay, and in partnership with community members, will support the rebuilding of trust given what has transpired in the school community.”
The School Council and the Black Student Success Committee are requesting the school be renamed early in the 2021/2022 school year as “a critical moment for moving beyond recent negative incidents at the school.”
A motion approved by TDSB in April, titled “Renaming Schools Celebrating the Diversity of Toronto”, notes “few schools are named after celebrated Indigenous or Black Leaders or Leaders of colour” and that “some schools are named after people with a racist legacy”
The motion has been approved by the Planning and Priorities Committee and must now go the regular meeting of the Board next Wednesday or final approval.
Some politicians not happy about name change to Queen Victoria school
The news drew some critical reaction from a conservative MPP, as well as a senator.
MPP David Piccini, who represents Northumberland-Peterborough and works as Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s assistant minister of colleges and universities, posted a since-deleted tweet bemoaning: “The “woke” cancel culture has found its next target!” The tweet included several emojis of facepalm.
Senator Linda Frum tweeted out “Now the mob is coming for Queen Victoria ....”
On Wednesday, Vaughan Secondary School was officially renamed in honour of late Somali-Canadian journalist Hodan Nalayeh, who once lived in the area. Advocates for the change noted that the school was originally named after British parliamentarian, Benjamin Vaughan, who enslaved Africans in Jamaica and was in favour of slavery.