By Jennifer Graham
THE CANADIAN PRESS
REGINA -A Saskatchewan school named after a man who wrote a report recommending residential schools for Indigenous youth wants to know if it should change its name.
Regina Public Schools is questioning the appropriateness of using Nicholas Flood Davin’s name in light of recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Terry Lazarou, a spokesman for Regina Public Schools, says the key is finding out what the community thinks.
“While there were some individuals who made it quite clear that they wanted the school name changed, there were others who wanted to retain the name as a symbol of things that have gone wrong in the past, that have been done incorrectly,” Lazarou said Monday.
“We want to be able to make sure that any change that we make going forward is accountable to both those points of view.”
Thousands of children died in residential schools and were buried in unmarked graves. Others were sexually and physically abused, and returned to their communities alienated from their culture.
Davin was a journalist, a lawyer, and an MP in the late 1800s.
In 1879, he was asked to determine if the American boarding school system would be appropriate for the Canadian Northwest. The result was the “Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-Breeds,” which has come to be known as the Davin Report.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission said in its final report that Davin’s paper “was not a particularly thorough analysis.”
“He believed the focus had to be on raising the children away from the parents, and that ‘if anything is to be done with the Indian, we must catch him very young.’ Once caught, they were to be ‘kept constantly within the circle of civilized conditions,’ which, in his opinion, required boarding schools,” the commission wrote.
It also stated that “Davin certainly saw no need to provide the First Nations of the West with any input into the sorts of schools that were established.”
Regina Public Schools has started an anonymous online survey about a possible name change for Davin School.
One question asks if people were previously aware of the history of Nicholas Flood Davin and their thoughts about naming public buildings and structures in his honour. Another asks if people believe changing a school name would benefit or limit future generations’ ability to learn from historical wrongs.
“We’re responsible to ensuring that our students go to school in an environment that is … respectful to everyone that lives in the Regina area,” said Lazarou.
“We’re trying to get an understanding of what the people in that community believe is the best course of action.”
After the consultation ends Dec. 15, Regina Public Schools will present recommendations to the Regina Board of Education, which is to make a decision by the end of the school year.
Davin School opened in 1929 and has about 250 children from pre-kindergarten to Grade 8.
It’s not the first time suggestions have been made to rename schools as part of reconciliation.
In August, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario passed a motion at its annual meeting that called on all school districts to rename schools and buildings named after Sir John A. Macdonald.He was prime minister during the time the federal government approved the first residential schools in Canada.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall responded by saying it was a “slippery slope” to remove historic names. He said they should be used to teach history, both the achievements and the mistakes.