‘We have a new name to unify the many diverse groups and people that call our university home now and for decades to come’
Ryerson University officially changed its name to the Toronto Metropolitan University on Tuesday after years of facing backlash for its connection to its former namesake, Egerton Ryerson, who is responsible in part for the country’s residential school system.
“Finding a new name for our institution has been a rare opportunity and a great responsibility,” said the university’s president and vice chancellor Mohamed Lachemi in a statement. “We are the first Canadian university to take on a challenge of this scale and through research, deep consideration, broad collaboration and consultation we have a new name to unify the many diverse groups and people that call our university home now and for decades to come.”
The new name reflects that the school is located in the heart of Canada’s largest and most diverse city, which makes it a gathering place for people from all over the world, he said.
The decision — which relied on feedback from 30,000 people and a selection of potential 2,600 names — comes after a statue at the university’s campus in downtown Toronto was toppled in June 2021. The statue was first splattered with paint by protesters. The head was cut off and carried to the lakeshore and thrown into the water.
At the time, Lachemi said the statue would not be “restored or replaced.”
In 2018, the university installed a plaque next to the statue that said: “As Chief Superintendent of Education, Ryerson’s recommendations were instrumental in the design and implementation of the Indian Residential School System.”
It was Ryerson’s findings about native education in 1847 that became the model for the system.
The Standing Strong (Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win) Task Force provided the university with recommendations, including a name change, in an August 2021 report.
“We recognize that a name change alone will not erase the systemic barriers and inequities that Indigenous and Black community members face within the institution,” the report said. “The university must also activetly address the legacy of Egerton Ryerson and other colonial figures through meaningful financial, educational and cultural initiatives…”
The name change was approved unanimously by the board of governors on Tuesday.
“From its earliest days, the city of Toronto — our home — has been a gathering place. Toronto comes from the Mohawk word ‘Tkaronto,’ meaning ‘the place in the water where the trees are standing’ — a place where people came together,” said Lachemi. “I know our new name will continue to invite people from all over the world to gather — to learn, to teach, to share, to undertake scholarly research and creative activities, and to engage in new ways of thinking and doing.”
With additional reporting from The Canadian Press
Opinion: Egerton Ryerson has been falsely accused of trying to erase Indigenous culture
Statue of Egerton Ryerson will not be ‘restored or replaced’ after it was toppled, thrown in harbor