Name Change at Ryerson University = Name Change of Allahabad

7th June 2021 – The discovery of the remains of 215 indigenous children at a former residential school site in Kamloops, B.C., has led to national shame and uproar across Canada. Yet again, Canada is being reminded of its dark history when thousands of children from the indigenous community were killed in the name of ‘being brought to civilization’.

At Ryerson University, the demonstrations have ramped up and many students, faculty members and indigenous groups are advocating a name change for the university. The university has been named after Egerton Ryerson, who is known as the architect for the Indian Residential School system in Canada in the 1800s. He was a member of the Methodist Church of the time and formalized education for the First Nations as per ‘Christian principles, feelings and habits’.

Such name changes are not new in the modern world. Names of many cities, towns, roads and streets have been changed across the world. You might be surprised to see the list – New York (USA) was earlier New Amsterdam, St. Petersburg (Russia) was earlier Leningrad, Harare (Zimbabwe) was earlier known as Salisbury, Kitchener (Ontario) was known as Berlin until 1916 and many more. The second half of the 20th century saw many such changes after the end of the colonial era. 

Unfortunately, in India, such name changes of the places have drawn negative media not only within India, but also internationally. When, in 2018, the name of Allahabad was changed back to its original name, Prayagraj, the ruling government in the province had to face flak of the media and was ridiculed for this decision. Big media houses across the globe covered the story and posed it as a regressive step. Some even called it anti-Muslim. On similar lines, Aurangzeb Road in Delhi was changed to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Road in November 2014.

The grounds on which the Hindu community is seeking name change of places named after colonials and invaders in India are identical to the name change situation at Ryerson University. It is an important step towards Truth and Reconciliation.

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