Surrey School District building. (File photo)

Surrey School District building. (File photo)

Naming schools after settler, historical figure ‘can be quite problematic’: Surrey school district

District working closely with Semiahmoo First Nation on naming three schools

The Surrey school district had an “overwhelming” response in recent consultations on potential names for three future school sites, says the district’s superintendent.

During Wednesday’s (June 9) board meeting, Superintendent Jordan Tinney gave a report from recent consultations on naming for three future school sites: two in South Surrey at 17950 26th Ave. and 17390 20th Avenue, and one in Newton at 5855 148th St.

While it was “the best feedback we’ve ever had,” Tinney said, there is “no urgency” to name the schools just yet.

From the feedback, Tinney said several themes emerged, including Indigenous engagement, names to reflect the South Asian community, recognition of Black Canadians, recognition of teachers, principals, coaches and secretaries who had an impact on the community and recognition of community leaders.

“It was really clear, particularly in today’s context and with the news coming out of Kamloops, that really naming any school after a particular person, whether that’s a settler or a historic public official, can be quite problematic and we need to be extremely careful and just to be sensitive to the impacts of naming schools after a specific person.

“We also want to acknowledge there are other ways to honour heritage, significant individuals or maybe it’s just in smaller ways but not as far as naming as a whole site.”

READ ALSO: B.C. scholar says restoring Indigenous place names a step toward reconciliation, June 11, 2021

He added the district is working “very closely” with the Semiahmoo First Nation on naming other sites.

Tinney said the district should be looking to name schools based on the land, plants, animals and physical features, which is “consistent” with the First People’s Principles of Learning, “as opposed to names of individuals.”

He pointed to a school that has yet to be built, but will be called Ta’talu. The name, Tinney said, was given to the district by the SFN and it’s their name for the Little Campbell River.

The SFN has been contracted to examine the sites, connect with elders and make name suggestions, Tinney added.

Trustee Bob Holmes said the consultation this year saw a “real diversity and a real desire for diversity in our naming,” with “really thoughtful responses.”

“We’re in an interesting time right now with seeing what happens with names that aren’t appropriate in different places that are being taken away, renamed, for good reason. We need to be very careful about our processes.”

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