GSACRD votes to replace name of Vital Grandin Catholic School by fall

by Stephen Dafoe

Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools held a special meeting on June 28 regarding the renaming of Vital Grandin Catholic Elementary School.

The board started by approving a revision to an existing policy allowing the board flexibility to substitute the name of a school.

That initial motion passed unanimously.

Vital Grandin Catholic School was the next item. Grandin, who was bishop of the Diocese of St. Albert from 1871 to 1902, was instrumental in leading the campaign for residential schools.

Trustee Joan Crockett, who has served on the committee to look into the Division’s school names, moved to have the school’s name changed by Sept. 30.

Her motion also called for another ad hoc committee to find a new name. That committee would consist of a GSACRD trustee, a priest from the parish supporting the school, two parents from the school, school administration, the Division Superintendent, and any other community members deemed appropriate.

“I am willing to make this motion and I agree to the renaming of Vital Grandin Catholic School because I think it is the most respectful and healing thing to do,” Crockett said, going on to cite an 1880 letter from Grandin documented in the final Truth and Reconciliation Report.

Crockett read from Grandin’s letter where he advocated for residential schools as the “only efficient means of saving them from destruction and civilizing them.”

“To become civilized,” Grandin wrote, “they must be taken with consent from their parents and made to lead a life different from their parents and cause them to forget the customs, habits and language of their ancestors.”

Crockett went on to say that although Grandin supported the Metis in the North-West Rebellion and cared for those sick with smallpox in the 1870s, he was instrumental in setting up the residential schools, which has traumatized so many indigenous families.

“Given the tragic news of 215 children buried at Kamloops Residential School and 751 at a former residential school in Saskatchewan, leaders who championed residential schooling can no longer be namesakes of our schools,” Crockett said.

Chair Noreen Radford and other board members spoke in favour of the motion before the motion passed unanimously.

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