Presidential Task Force on Egerton Ryerson’s Legacy
Over the past decade, the university has addressed Egerton Ryerson’s legacy, leading to a 2010 statement about his role and, in 2018, the installation of a plaque next to the Egerton Ryerson statue on campus. The statement and plaque contextualize his role in the creation of Canada’s residential school system, which was devastating to Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
In the past several months, communities around the world have been having important and challenging conversations about their relationships with historical figures. In some cases, these relationships have sparked protests and demonstrations focused on monuments and statues that memorialize these individuals. Our university community has not been exempted from this.
We know that the plaque and statement are just one part of the reconciliation process. Now we are moving forward with the work of the Standing Strong (Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win) Task Force.
Task Force Name
Originally, the Task Force was called the Egerton Ryerson Presidential Task Force. Co-chair Joanne Dallaire, a Cree pipe carrier gifted with the ability to seek out Spirit Names, sought out a Spirit Name for the Task Force. This name is in recognition of our ancestors and spirit helpers who are invited to join this process to help guide us.
The Spirit Name for the Task Force in English is Standing Strong. In Cree (N-dialect), it is written as ‘Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win’.
The work of the Task Force is represented as a circle with no one above, no one below, no one ahead and no one behind. Regardless of age, stage or position, everyone has an equally valued voice.
In all documents produced, the Spirit Name of the Task Force will be given prominence.
Task Force Mandate
- Conduct broad, open and transparent consultations to gather feedback from students, faculty, staff, alumni, partners and others about what the university can do to reconcile the history of Egerton Ryerson.
- Examine and more fully understand Egerton Ryerson’s relationships with Indigenous Peoples, education and the residential school system, and consider how that legacy aligns with Ryerson University’s values and mission.
- Examine how other universities have addressed the challenges of monuments and statues.
- Develop principles to guide the recommended actions that Ryerson could take to respond to Egerton Ryerson’s legacy and the findings of the consultations.
- Submit a final report to the President with recommended actions regarding the statue and other elements of Egerton Ryerson’s history.
Community engagement period
The Standing Strong Task Force is grateful to all community members who contributed to the two-month engagement period from March 16 to May 16, 2021. All survey completions, emails, community conversations and open-letters will inform the recommendations that the Task Force develops.
The Standing Strong Task Force will continue to work throughout the summer on the completion of a final report with recommendations to be submitted to the university president and Board of Governors in September 2021.