Toronto Metropolitan University is the first Canadian post-secondary institution to change its name amid a wider re-examination of the full legacies left by the historic figures after whom so many of our schools, buildings and monuments are named.
As complicated portraits emerge about Canadian historical figures and their eponymous institutions, CBC News asked historians and a sociologist about how the post-secondary sector is grappling with this sensitive issue.
Why name changes are happening now
There is growing awareness and acknowledgement of the ugly parts of our history, including the systemic racism experienced by Black and Indigenous communities, as well as other marginalized groups. The discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools in various locations across Canada, in particular, prompted people to ask new and deeper questions about how we got to where we are.
Specifically at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), a group was tasked with re-examining the legacy of former namesake Egerton Ryerson. The 19th-century Methodist minister and public education advocate had a vision of compulsory, agricultural labour- and religious-based instruction for Indigenous students, held separately from non-Indigenous learners. His ideas went into the creation of the residential school system, and his actions as superintendent of education informed racially segregated schools in Canada. The TMU task force ultimately proposed 22 recommendations, including a name change for the school that went into effect April 26.
These kinds of conversations are a reminder that history — and the notion of legacy — evolves, said Barrington Walker, a history professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, adding that campuses are also a logical place for these kinds of discussions.
He noted how in the 1960s, when the post-secondary sector began to diversify, and more women, racialized people and people with disabilities began attending university, these students began demanding their institutions live up to higher ideals of equality and diversity.
Perhaps what has changed over time is that now “there are more places that are willing to take a look at their histories and to grapple with their histories,” Walker said.
“Universities are part of what’s going on in the larger society.”
The continued harm of historical names
Seeing institutions drop names of people whose past included inflicting harm on marginalized groups, shows that “people are listening and … they’re also acting on the calls to action from the [Truth and Reconciliation Commission],” said Cora Voyageur, a sociology professor at the University of Calgary and member of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.
“The trauma that has been experienced by Indigenous people, primarily First Nation people, is real,” Voyageur said. “Any of those racist tropes that we’ve had in the past, we have to rethink those and change our mindset.”
In spring 2019 for example, McGill University agreed to change the name of its varsity men’s sports teams — dropping a term widely recognized as offensive to Indigenous people — after a renewed campaign led by an Indigenous student athlete following years of complaints from earlier students about the discriminatory name.
Voyageur wants to see these conversations and history lessons continue across all levels of education. People and communities harmed by this history are still among us, and Canada’s future decision-makers are today’s students, she said.
“This is something that is a stain on Canadian society … Canada has to realize that we have a racist history,” she said, citing a wide range of harmful and discriminatory policies from those against First Nations to the Komagata Maru incident, the internment of Japanese-Canadians, the Chinese head tax and more.
The sociology professor says people sometimes react defensively to these types of conversations, saying they weren’t part of these decisions made a century ago.
“I’m not asking you to take responsibility for it,” she said. “I’m just asking you to learn it. You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to feel comfortable with it — you just have to acknowledge that this is part of our history.”
Dalhousie University dug into its history, but didn’t change its name. Why not?
In 2019, a panel concluded its exploration into Dalhousie University’s history of racism, links to the transatlantic slave system and what historian Isaac Saney described as the “problematic history” of the Halifax school’s founder, the former Nova Scotia lieutenant governor who had profited from the sugar, molasses and rum trade in the early 19th century. The final report called for an official apology, a provincial memorial and other reparations, but no name change.
Changing the name was indeed discussed but wasn’t part of the official mandate, according to Dalhousie historian Saney, a member of the panel. Instead, the focus was on conducting a historical evaluation “but also bringing about recommendations that could lead to substantive change in [the university’s] relationship with this legacy — and with the African Nova Scotian community,” he explained.
“We wanted to go beyond symbolic change, and we really wanted to have a series of concrete recommendations that would not only, in a sense, push the university forward but bring about the kind of meaningful change you want to have.”
He pointed to solid changes in place, such as recruiting more Black faculty and developing the first Black and African Diaspora Studies major at a Canadian university — a development committee on which he’s now serving as chair.
“Nobody is saying that Lord Dalhousie should be erased from history. People are saying he should be placed in the proper historical context,” Saney noted. “When we do these things, we’re signalling what kind of society we would like to create: a more just, more equitable society.”
Likewise, TMU also said it would be following up its name change with more action.
“It’s an ongoing work that just started, but it’s a long journey,” said TMU president Mohamed Lachemi.
Are other schools re-examining their namesakes?
These conversations are indeed happening at many institutions. Some advocates continue to push for more recognition of a namesake’s complicated history, including at Quebec’s McGill University. Other institutions have renamed individual buildings, like at Ontario’s University of Windsor and Queen’s University.
Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., has created the Laurier Legacy Project to revisit the history of Canada’s seventh prime minister, who helped propel Canada to wealth and prominence on the world stage while also creating discriminatory immigration policies against Chinese, Japanese, Indian and African American people.
“In many ways the historical record hasn’t been mined nearly as fully as it should be,” said Walker, who serves as the school’s associate vice-president of equity, diversity and inclusion as well as a history professor.
“There’s also a perception that once people have written about the past, they’ve written it and it’s been done, but different historians will bring different questions to even historical records that seem very familiar to people. They’ll bring different eyes, different lived experiences.”
The project won’t avoid unearthing ugly details, Walker said. The hope is to grapple with those elements, inspire deep reflection and develop best practices on making the university more diverse and open to groups who haven’t traditionally had access to post-secondary education.
“Aside from my historian’s hat, that’s the point of doing this work: to show that we can live up to the best version of ourselves.”
I’m an alumnus of what’s now TMU. Do I get new grad documents?
Alumni should note that its legal name remains Ryerson University until an amendment to Ontario’s Ryerson University Act is passed. With a provincial election imminent, that part of the change is on hold.
“Until that [change] takes place, we will continue to issue all legal documents (including parchments at convocation) with the old name, Ryerson University,” Lachemi said. “We will communicate more details to our alumni about how to get your documents with the new name in the future.”
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
Firing Bank of Canada head would spark global ‘shock wave’: ex-budget watchdog – Global News
If any Canadian government were to fire the head of the Bank of Canada, the result would be a “global financial shock wave,” warned the country’s former budget watchdog.
In an interview with The West Block guest host Eric Sorenson, former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page said the Bank of Canada’s reputation is one as a “strong” and “transparent” institution.
“We’ve gotten used to, over the past three decades, having an independent central bank that is independent — making decisions on these policy interest rates that is divorced from the political environment,” said Page, now president and CEO of the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa.
“It would be quite a shock wave, a global financial shock wave, to have a government literally remove a central banker who, by all intents, seems to be doing a fine job — but is doing a very difficult job.”
Page had been asked what the effects could be if a Canadian government were to fire a central banker.
That comes as Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre has been leading a campaign of criticism centring on the Bank of Canada’s handling of rampant inflation, which sits at 6.7 per cent.
The domestic target is two per cent per year.
As part of his criticism of the central bank, Poilievre has vowed that he would fire Tiff Macklem, governor of the Bank of Canada, if elected prime minister. That comment triggered rapid criticism over concerns it signalled an intent by the perceived leadership frontrunner to interfere with the bank.
Long-standing tradition is that the Bank of Canada operates independently of political decisions, with governors appointed on seven-year terms.
Officials have emphasized that those longer terms are what allows them to operate with a “measure of continuity over economic cycles — not electoral cycles — and allows for decision making that considers the long-term economic interests of Canadians.”
The Bank of Canada has opted to keep interest rates at rock-bottom during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is among the factors experts say have fuelled skyrocketing home prices. And as inflation keeps pushing the cost of living higher and higher, critics of the central bank like Poilievre have pointed the finger and argued its low rates are powering domestic inflation.
Canada, however, is far from alone.
Inflation is rampant around the world right now, with no clear end in sight.
High consumer spending amid the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions has combined with supply chain shocks worsened both by factory closures caused by the reality that the virus is still circulating in high numbers, as well as the sharp shortages in supplies caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Bank of Canada forecasts nearly 6% average inflation outlook in 1st half of 2022
“I think it’s a very simplification to assume that if we just change the leader, that somehow this sort of global environment — and inflation truly is a global issue — just somehow disappears,” Page said.
Sorenson asked: “Can the Bank or the Canadian government on their own bring inflation down in this country?”
Page said: “No.”
“This is a global phenomenon. A lot of it is supply-related, and it’s because of those very strong supports that went in 2020 to help during the lockdown,” he added.
“The economy’s come back really fast and eventually markets will adjust.”
So when might Canadians expect to see inflation back in a more normal range?
Page said the Bank of Canada’s moves to raise interest rates will play a role in helping slow the economy.
“I think over the next couple of years we could see inflation back maybe in that three per cent range.”
Sticker Shock: Coping with the rising cost of inflation in Canada
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
David Milgaard, who advocated for justice after he was wrongfully convicted of murder, has died
David Milgaard, who was wrongfully convicted of murder and spent more than 23 years in prison, has died. Milgaard was only 17 when he was arrested for the rape and murder of Gail Miller in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He was released from prison in 1992 after DNA evidence proved his innocence. In 1999, Milgaard was awarded $10 million in a wrongful conviction lawsuit against the Canadian government. Milgaard and two friends had been on a road trip, driving through the city when the murder happened.
Milgaard, who was born in Winnipeg, had been living in Calgary with his son and daughter.
Milgaard maintained his innocence throughout his time in prison. His mother Joyce Milgaard, who died in 2020, tirelessly advocated on her son’s behalf. In the decades since his release, Milgaard had spoken publicly, calling for changes in how Canadian courts review convictions.
His picture is now included in the Canadian Journey’s gallery at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Isha Khan, the museum’s CEO, said Milgaard was a human rights defender.
“He is someone we know, and the reason we know is that he was able to tell his story, and it takes a special kind of person to continue to try to connect with people,” she said, adding his work is not over.
“There are people across this country in correctional institutions who have been wrongfully convicted, who need a voice and don’t have a voice that David Milgaard did for whatever reason it may be, and it is our job to listen and to look for those stories.”
Milgaard had recently been pushing for an independent review board to prevent miscarriages of justice.
“David was a marvellous advocate for the wrongly convicted, for all the years he’s been out since 1992. We’re going to miss him a lot. He was a lovely man,” James Lockyer, a Toronto-based lawyer, told CTV News Channel on Sunday.
Lockyer, a founding director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, joined Milgaard’s case following his release in 1992 and helped him through the process to get DNA testing done. Lockyer said as a result of the DNA evidence, a man named Larry Fisher was arrested, and charged with the rape and murder. Fisher died while serving a life sentence.
Ontario international students, families making 'massive sacrifices' for the Canadian dream – CBC.ca
The death of an Indian student in Toronto last month made international headlines, but while Kartik Vasudev’s story ended in tragedy, his parents’ sacrifices offer a glimpse into the hardships that many international students and their families face to achieve the dream of a future in Canada.
Vasudev’s father, Jitesh Vasudev, told CBC News he and his wife spent their entire life savings and mortgaged their house to take out a loan of $50,000, just to afford the first year of his son’s education in Canada, before he was shot and killed.
“The only mistake of my innocent child was that he dreamt big of studying in a foreign country, and he wanted to make a name of himself while representing India,” said Vasudev’s mother, Pooja Vasudev, in a video posted to Instagram. “We had a lot of dreams and expectations with our child, he was going to be our support in our old age.”
International students who spoke to CBC News say those kinds of sacrifices are common, and can take a major toll.
They say international students can pay almost four times more in tuition fees than domestic students, and are calling for change.
An Ontario Auditor General’s report from last year highlighted the reliance of Ontario colleges on international student tuition.
The report showed that while international students represented only 30 per cent of the total enrolment in public colleges, they accounted for 68 per cent of tuition fee revenue at a total of $1.7 billion. A majority of students — 62 per cent — were from India.
According to a 2020 report from Global Affairs Canada, international students contributed $16.2 billion and $19.7 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2017 and 2018.
A better future in Canada
Students and advocates told CBC News that many international students from India come to Canada to become permanent residents and build a better future for themselves as well as their families.
They say there are limited employment opportunities in India compared to Canada, leading their parents to go to great lengths to send them abroad.
Jobanpreet Singh knows that struggle firsthand.
“[Vasudev’s family] sacrificed a lot to send their child to Canada for a brighter future,” the 22-year-old international student said. “I can’t imagine how painful it must have been for them.”
Born and raised in a farmer’s family in Punjab, India, Singh came to Canada as an international student in August 2021, where he is studying at the Academy of Learning Career College in Toronto.
For his first year in Canada, his family spent around $30,000 on his tuition and living expenses.
Singh said his family spent all their savings, took out massive loans and sold assets just to be able to pay for his first year of college.
“[International students] have work stress, school stress, and we have extremely high tuition fees, which is topped off with the fact that we can only work 20 hours a week,” he said.
Singh said it is very difficult to handle expenses and living costs in Toronto while working those limited hours.
According to a statement from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), “limiting off-campus work to 20 hours per week reflect the fact that the focus for international students in Canada is on their studies.”
Tuition gap between domestic and international students
Sarom Rho from advocacy group Migrant Students United says international students who come to Canada also face rising costs of tuition fees, which are already three to four times more than domestic tuition.
“The majority of current and former international students and their families have made massive sacrifices for them, for example by selling lands, taking out massive educational loans, selling assets, just to pay for these extremely high tuition fees,” said Rho.
Rho added that because of these financial burdens, international students also face significant mental health issues.
Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities said in a statement that it understands that as newcomers to Canada and Ontario, international students can face unique challenges.
“Student wellbeing is paramount, and we support the steps taken by Ontario’s colleges and universities to ensure that international students are well supported before and after their arrival in Ontario,” said James Tinajero, spokesperson for the ministry.
Gurpreet Singh, a 22-year-old Seneca College student, came to Canada in September 2020. His parents mortgaged their entire agricultural farmland to send him to Canada.
He said because of his international student status in Canada, he can’t apply for scholarships and bursaries at his college.
“That’s a huge drawback for us,” said Gurpreet. “If we’re not getting anything extra [over] the domestic students and we pay the same taxes, then why do we pay this huge amount for our tuition?”
The ministry says college and university boards of governors have the full authority to set tuition fees for international students.
“Colleges and universities are allowed the discretion to establish tuition fees for international students at levels the institutions deem appropriate,” said Tinajero.
Gurpreet has completed half of his education, and the remaining two semesters of his studies will cost him about $16,000. But instead of asking for help from his family, Gurpreet is taking the responsibility on himself.
According to the IRCC, international students can work full-time when they are on a scheduled break, like during winter and summer holidays, or during a fall or spring reading week.
Gurpreet is currently on a summer break from his college. He says this is his last chance to work full-time before he begins his third semester in the fall.
For the next four months of summer break, Gurpreet says he’ll be working in two different warehouses doing long days of general labour.
“Right now I’ve [got] to concentrate on my work to pay off my fees, so I’m willing to compromise for the next four months,” he said.
“I know this is going to be hard, but these hardships are temporary, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
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