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Sir John A. MacDonald High School in Upper Tantallon, a suburb of Halifax, Nova Scotia announced today that they will be changing the name of their high school in order to make the school a "safe space."
In a document titled What's in a Name?, the schools said that "we have all become more aware of [Sir John A. MacDonald's] legacy as the architect of Canada’s Indian Residential School System and the passage of the Indian Act of 1867."
"Our school takes pride in being a safe space for all students and staff. Our priority each and every day is to create an inclusive environment where everyone who passes through our doors feels welcome and knows, without question, that they belong," the statement reads. "Our current name does not align with these values, nor does it reflect our school community."
The school released a video recording of a PowerPoint presentation explaining Sir John A. MacDonald's impact on Indigenous people. The presentation largely only presented one side of the debate on MacDonald's legacy and did not cover his impact on Confederation nor the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
The news comes after weeks of debate on the matter among community members. While controversy around Sir John A. MacDonald's legacy has inspired institutions such as Queen's University to remove his name from their buildings, the Maritimes has been more resistant to such proposals. In Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, city council unanimously voted against removing a statue of Canada's first Prime Minister sitting on a bench downtown.
Nevertheless, some students have expressed support for changing the name.
"Honestly, it's kind of inappropriate to have the name as it is, considering the history of it. I support it being changed," Grade 12 student Eliyana Bugbee told CTV News.
Historian Pierre Anctil of the University of Ottawa has opposed removing references to Sir John A. MacDonald, however, arguing "to completely remove a historical record from a public place, we run the risk of just erasing history altogether."
The school is asking the public to submit suggestions for what the new name should be. The school said that any suggestions to rename the school after a historical figure must be vetted by the superintendent.