14-member task force will make recommendations to the university
Ryerson University has announced the names of 14 representatives from Ryerson, other universities and the community who will work on the task force looking into the legacy of the school’s namesake. The task force was announced on Sept. 2 to examine Egerton Ryerson’s history and recommend actions to reconcile his legacy with the university.
Joanne Dallaire will co-chair the newly formed group. She is a senior adviser for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation at Ryerson University, chair of Ryerson’s Aboriginal Education Council and co-chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Directive. The other co-chair is Catherine Ellis, who is the chair and associate professor in the Department of History at Ryerson and a faculty-elected member on the Board of Governors.
The names of the task force members were announced in a release this week by Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi.
“In the past several months, communities around the world have been having important and challenging conversations about their relationships with historical figures,” said Lachemi in a statement. “In some cases, these relationships have sparked protests and demonstrations, focused on monuments and statues memorializing these individuals. Our university community has not been exempt from this.”
The creation of the task force came after months of protests around the world this summer. Institutions named after historically racist figures were protested and statues memorializing such figures were defaced or removed.
However, the controversy surrounding Egerton Ryerson has been ongoing for years. Egerton Ryerson played a principal role in the creation of the residential school system, which was responsible for displacing thousands of Indigenous children and committing cultural genocide against Indigenous people in Canada. The trauma caused by the residential school system continues to affect Indigenous communities to this day.
In 2018, a plaque was installed next to the Ryerson statue which contextualized his role in the creation of Canada’s residential school system, but many said this wasn’t enough. Petitions to have the statue removed garnered thousands of signatures over the summer.
According to the statement, the task force will conduct transparent consultations to gather feedback from students, faculty, staff, alumni and partners, and will examine how other universities have dealt with the challenges of monuments and statues.
Other members of the task force are: T’hohahoken Michael Doxtater, Cecile Farnum, Natasha Henry, Tracey King, Riley Kucheran, Gerald McMaster, Dennis Mock, Heather Rollwagen, Tay Rubman, Amorell Saunders N’Daw, Julia Spagnuolo and Frank Walwyn.
Denise O’Neil Green, vice-president of equity, community and inclusion, and Steven Liss, vice-president research and innovation, are the executive co-leads on the initiative.
The task force is expected to submit a final report with recommended actions next summer.