By Kanishka Singh
(Reuters) – Canada’s Ryerson University has changed its name to Toronto Metropolitan University after concerns over of the institution’s namesake, Egerton Ryerson, who was one of the architects of the country’s residential indigenous school system.
Ryerson, an educator and Methodist minister, was an architect of a system that had aimed to assimilate indigenous children so that they would lose their ties to their families and cultures.
The new name of the university was approved unanimously on Tuesday by the board of governors.
“Today marks the first page of a new chapter in our university’s history,” the institution’s president, Mohamed Lachemi, said in a statement.
Canada’s state-sanctioned schools forcibly separated about 150,000 indigenous children from their families, subjecting many of them to physical and sexual abuse in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called “cultural genocide.”
The stated aim of the schools, which operated between 1831 and 1996, was to assimilate indigenous children. They were run by several Christian denominations on behalf of the government, most by the Catholic Church.
Canada’s Red River Métis indigenous people met Pope Francis on Thursday and accepted his apology for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential schools.
Pope Francis’s long-awaited apology should be followed by millions of dollars in compensation and the release of residential school records, survivors and indigenous leaders said earlier this month.
“As we start the next chapter as Toronto Metropolitan University, I want to assure everyone that our new name is not about erasing our history,” the university’s president said in a statement on Tuesday.