Non-Indigenous students in Calgary pushing to remove Langevin name from school

When Joy McCullagh and Zach Helfenbaum learned who their school is named after, they decided to try and change it.

“It makes me feel sad that to this day there is still a school that is named after someone like that,” said 13-year-old McCullagh, one of the two non-Indigenous students pushing for the change.

“It’s a very racist name, I think, because Langevin was responsible for at least part of residential schools,” Helfenbaum said outside of Langevin School with other supporters of a name change.

The Grade 8 students said they learned who Langevin was through their parents four years ago; and that’s when they wrote a letter to the Calgary Board of Education of have it removed.

Hector Louis Langevin was a father of confederation and one of the architects of residential schools.

non-Indigenous students
The plaque that adorned the prime minister’s office in Ottawa before being removed by the government in 2017 at the request of Indigenous MPs. Photo: APTN.

The students were turned down four years ago when they wrote the letter.

Now, they’ve reached out to Indigenous residents and advocates in Calgary to back them up.

“It’s really inspiring that children would take up this fight especially non-Indigenous settler allies,” said Heather Lucier, who is Nehiyaw, Ojibway, Métis, a resident of Calgary and former student of Langevin School.

That really gives me a sense of hope and this group that I’m working with are mostly settlers and they’re doing a great job and are very supportive.”

Non-Indigenous resident Rosemary Brown said she doesn’t want her grandchildren growing up with a false understanding of how Canada was built.

“By renaming the school, you open up that conversation, you open up the issue of how you decolonize education as a whole,” she said.

“I want my grandchildren to grow up in a country based on truth and human rights.”

In an email to APTN News,  the Calgary Board of Education said, “The Board is currently focusing attention on finalizing a process including criteria by which schools, including Langevin School, may be considered for renaming.

“The Board recognizes the significant nature of this work and are approaching this work thoughtfully, while remaining committed to respectful dialogue that honours the traditions of schools and the interests of all concerned stakeholder.”

McCullagh said she wants a process to be made so no one else has to go through this fight in the future.

“It’s only a small step in reconciliation but I think it is a meaningful one,” she said.

“I know some people they’re like ‘oh it’s not making much of a difference’, but it’s making a difference to me and to Heather.”

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