Egerton Ryerson and Residential Schools
Ryerson University is named for Egerton Ryerson (1803-1882), a prominent figure in 19th-century Canada who played an influential role in the fields of politics, religion, arts, sciences and perhaps most significantly, education. Egerton Ryerson was instrumental in the establishment of a free and compulsory public education system in Ontario.
While Egerton Ryerson supported education, he also believed in different systems of education for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children. These beliefs influenced the establishment of the Indian Residential School system that has had a devastating impact on First Nations, Métis and Inuit people across Canada. Ryerson acknowledges this connection and in so doing emphasizes the university’s commitment to respectful relationships with Aboriginal communities, and continues to build a campus environment that welcomes and respects Aboriginal worldviews and knowledges by infusing into the curriculum and lessons.
The needs of Aboriginal communities are a priority for us, and we have a history of working with the Aboriginal community in Toronto to address challenges and build an inclusive and welcoming campus. This includes a collaboration with Ryerson’s Aboriginal Education Council, which is made up of many diverse community members. In 2010, the Aboriginal Education Council conducted research on Egerton Ryerson’s role in what became the Residential School System. Once the statement was finalized, the Aboriginal Education Council hosted a healing ceremony and gifted Ryerson with a Star Blanket, prominently displayed in the lobby of Jorgenson Hall, which marked a positive move forward in the relationship between Ryerson and the Aboriginal community of Toronto.
We are focusing our efforts on the future, and making sure that Aboriginal students not only have access to a Ryerson education but once they are here, have the support they need to succeed and see themselves represented though the students, faculty and staff. Both the Aboriginal Education Council and Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services offer a broad range of supports and programs for Aboriginal students, faculty and staff.
In April, 2017 Denise O'Neil Green was appointed the University's inaugural Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion. Together with our Aboriginal Elder, Joanne Dallaire, they have lead the Ryerson's community-wide consultation on the response to the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.