Bishop Vital Justin Grandin (1829-1902). Photo courtesy the Archdiocese of Edmonton

Bishop Grandin removed from Alberta schools

  • July 16, 2021

The Calgary Catholic School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to change the name of Bishop Grandin High School in light of Bishop Vital Justin Grandin’s (1829-1902) key role in establishing residential schools in Canada’s west.

The school for Grades 9-12 — one of the largest in Calgary, with 1,800 students — will temporarily bear the name Haysboro Catholic High School. After the 2021-22 school year kicks off in September, the work will begin to identify a new name for a school that celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2022.

Trustee Pamela Rath said in a statement that the decision to rename the school is a step towards reconciliation.

“I do not doubt that Bishop Grandin, as an early missionary, had good intentions in his work with the Indigenous people,” said Rath. “But I also do not doubt that residential schools of which he had a hand in have considerably caused great damage to our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

“As a Catholic, as a human being, I believe in reconciliation. I believe in forgiving and forgiveness. I believe in being responsible and taking responsibility.”

Wanda First Rider, an elder who works with the board’s Indigenous education team, will play a leading role on the renaming committee. She told The Calgary Sun that the discovery of children’s remains “opened our shared memories and the horrific experiences we share as survivors of Indian residential schools in Canada,” and that the “loss of these children’s lives has expanded our conscious awareness, and that includes the name of Bishop Grandin High School.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who will end his 11-year tenure following the Oct 18 municipal election, was the first prominent voice to urge the board to remove the Bishop Grandin name, as well as the public Langevin School (it did in early June), which was named after Father of Confederation Hector-Louis Langevin. Nenshi was pleased by the board’s decision.

“This kind of symbolism really does matter. It may seem small, but it does matter,” said Nenshi.

“They seem to have done so in the right way. They talked to elders. They got some advice. They put a temporary name in place for now until they can properly rename the school with proper ceremony. That all feels right.”

Trustees with Edmonton Catholic Schools and Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools’ also delivered unanimous votes on June 28 to rename the 105-year Grandin Elementary School and 62-year-old Vital Grandin Catholic Elementary School respectively.

The Archdiocese of Edmonton, in a statement posted to its website, commended school trustees for their sensitivity regarding the process.

The statement acknowledged Grandin’s “controversial and mixed legacy,” but said it was “committed to truth and to reconciliation” and will continue to offer “any support that we can to Indigenous people and continuing to walk together along the long road towards reconciliation led by Indigenous leaders themselves.”

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