Its finally happening! After years of lobbying, political action, and community pressure two new schools are finally going to open in the UBC area. I've covered this saga on my In Support of Public Education blog and was very active in the campaign as a member of the U Hill Parents Advisory Council (2004-2009). Now we are getting a chance to suggest a name for the new K-8 school being built on the site of the Old University Hill Secondary School!
My family and I first lived on campus in 1996. My sons started in kindergarten at Ecole Jules Quesnel, named after a European adventurer who accompanied the Scottish merchant explorer Alexander MacKenzie on his transcontinental voyage to the Pacific. Soon thereafter one of my boys transferred to a school named for a British Monarch - Queen Elizabeth. For highschool one went to University Hill Secondary and the other went to a school named after an English prime minister, Churchill. In 2001 our family moved out of the Acadia neighbourhood, named after an area in Greece that was itself transplanted and placed over top of Mi'kmaq lands on the east coast, into an area of campus that eventually was named Hawthorn Place, after the anthropologists Harry Hawthorn (who incidentally made his career studying Indians and collecting aboriginal objects).
A close survey of the nearby schools presents the following list of illustrious Imperialist, warmongers, monarchs, and notable old white men: Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Jules Quesnel, General Gordon, Henry Hudson, Lord Kitchner, Lord Byng, Lord Tennyson, and Prince of Wales.
Others are named after locations, a good many of which are themselves the names of illustrious aged imperialists, country estates or places of battles: University Hill, Trafalgar, Carnarvon, Bayview, Kerrisdale, Shaughnesey.
Only two schools carry names derived from aboriginal origins: Kitsilano and Quilchena. Kitsilano is derived from the name of a Coast Salish chief. Quilchena, however, is derived from a place name related to an interior indigenous community. There are no school names on the west side of Vancouver's school district that honour the people upon whose unceded and traditional territory we are all living.
Unrestrained development at UBC has created the need for more schools - but the combination of jurisdictions - UBC, VSB, UEL, Metro, Province . . . etc. made finding a solution almost impossible. It was a minor miracle to finally get an agreement for the location of the new highschool, to get approval for design, and then the go ahead from the province to actually build the school. Through this process several generations of school boards and many different trustees worked hard to bring this to us. Finally we get to one of the most enjoyable aspects of the process -suggesting a new name for the school.
For me this process is even more exciting as after all of these years of lobbying for the new school I have been fortunate enough to find myself a member of the advisory committee of stakeholders that will help select a name for the new school. The criteria are fairly broad and can be found on the VSB name the school we page. I am looking forward to being part of the process that will consider a wide variety of suggestions. Ultimately I am hopeful that we will be able to suggest to the School Board a name (or names) that honour the people upon whose lands our new school is being built and all the people who have worked to make education possible and meaningful throughout our great province!