Ryerson Heights Elementary School is set to become Edith Monture Elementary School, honouring the Ohsweken-born World War I veteran who was the first Indigenous woman in the country to become a registered nurse, and the first Indigenous woman and registered band member to gain the right to vote in Canada.
“The renaming of Ryerson Heights is an important step on our ongoing journey of reconciliation,” said Susan Gibson, Grand Erie District School Board Chair and member of the Renaming Committee. “The process was a learning opportunity to help us all critically examine the past, and work towards a better way forward.”
Grand Erie launched the renaming process for Ryerson Heights last fall and, in accordance with Board policy, included a 60-day period for community input, reaching across the district for ideas. A total of 250 name suggestions were submitted, each accompanied by a rationale.
“We’re committed to engaging with our communities to build a culture of learning, well-being, and belonging,” said JoAnna Roberto, Director of Education for Grand Erie. “Part of that vision means understanding our history, recognizing the importance of culture to one’s sense of identity, and engaging schools and community voice to create safe and welcoming learning environments.”
The Renaming Committee, including staff and community members, shortlisted the public submissions to 11 selections. Students at the school then had a chance to research the shortlisted suggestions, and their work became part of the committee’s deliberations.
“In education, we always look for teachable moments, and this has been an incredibly valuable one,” said Doug Ouellette, principal at Ryerson Heights, and member of the Renaming Committee. “Not only have students learned more about our local histories, but they’ve also become a part of the process around what it means to honour our commitments and responsibilities to reconciliation.”
Grand Erie plans to have all signage and documentation in place for Edith Monture Elementary School this September. The school currently serves 800 students with approximately 70 staff members.
Ryerson Heights Elementary School first opened in the west Brantford area in 2006. Other “Ryerson” schools existed in the area of Oak Street and Sherwood Drive for several preceding decades. These schools were named after Egerton Ryerson, who lived from 1803 to 1882, and was an influential historical figure and educator. His legacy, with respect to the establishment of the residential school system, had a devastating impact on Indigenous peoples across Canada and in the communities Grand Erie serves.