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Vancouver school covers sign honouring controversial historical figure in effort to 'find a way forward'

Last Updated Jun 11, 2019 at 6:59 pm PDT

Summary

L'École Bilingue has covered up a sign bearing the name of Cecil Rhodes

The sign caught the eye of VSB trustee Jennifer Reddy, who planned to put forward a motion to have it removed

The school says covering the sign will give it time to consult with the community and 'find a way forward'

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The name of a controversial historical figure in Africa is no longer staring down at kids who climb all over a playground near Oak Street and 14th Avenue.

A sign commemorating Cecil Rhodes at L’École Bilingue is now covered by a piece of plywood.

“This piece of the school’s former staircase has been covered up after concerns were raised about it bearing the former name of the school,” a sign over the panel now reads. “This will allow time to support and engage with the school community about how historical wrongs should be recognized, and together, find a way forward.

The nameplate is actually a large piece of flooring from the original Cecil Rhodes Elementary School, which for decades has been L’École Bilingue, and was put up when the old building was demolished to make way for a new school.

L’École Bilingue’s principal, Natalie Morissette, says the school and the board both agreed Monday evening that it would be best to cover the sign after it attracted some attention and concerns were raised.

“I think by putting the board, we’re inviting the conversation to take place and as the school administrator, my role is to facilitate that conversation,” she says, adding she’s been in close contact with the Parent Advisory Council’s chair, but hasn’t really heard from individual parents yet.

The sign caught the attention of Vancouver School Board Trustee Jennifer Reddy, who has been vocal on social media and planned to put forward a motion next week to tear it down.

Reddy calls Cecil Rhodes a leader in the establishment of systemic and institutional racism towards black people in southern Africa.

Rhodes was a 19th Century British politician and businessman who served as the prime minister of the former South African province of Cape Colony from 1890-1896.

Some of the legislation that he passed while in the role of prime minister has been regarded as the groundwork for apartheid policies in that region.

Arguments have swirled around the removal of statues of figures like Sir John A. Macdonald or Matthew Begbie for their treatment of Indigenous people.

Some have said monuments honouring controversial figures serve as teaching tools, but the same can’t be said for Rhodes, who played no part in B.C. or Canada’s history, in this province.