“Obviously this is a very contentious issue,” noted Craig Myles, the Director of Education for the Near North District School Board, referring to the proposed renaming of Chippewa Secondary School. “It’s a very complicated issue.”
During the board’s committee of the whole meeting on October 10, a notice of motion (scroll to page six on linked agenda) was put forward to halt the process of renaming the school until “appropriate Indigenous consultation and collaboration” occurs. This information will go to the Board of Trustees, which will then direct the Director of Education to continue the renaming process if that is deemed necessary.
Trustee Julie Betram put the notice of motion on the table. As it was tabled for a Committee of the Whole meeting, the topic was discussed, however, for the recommendations within to take effect, the motion must be passed at a future regular meeting of the board.
Myles reminded the room that “anytime you consolidate schools, you rename and rebrand the school.” That would allow both schools – in this case Widdifield, which closed its doors, and Chippewa Secondary – to create a new identity within the community.
Indeed, the rebranding of Chippewa continues – removing its mascot was a step along that path – but Myles did emphasize “that we are not in a significant rush. We need to take a breath, go back to the drawing board, and consider everybody’s input at the table.”
The board, with community input, “really needs to dissect this, take it apart, and move it ahead cautiously and strategically in order to ensure that we are making the right procedural decisions,” which govern the board’s and renaming committee’s processes for enacting change.
“We need to step back and look at this from all angles,” he noted, adding that everyone has “valuable input,” and it is time to gather than input and “go back to the drawing board.”
Bertram’s notice of motion highlighted that the original resolution that got the renaming train rolling was from September 26, 2017, and this resolution, passed by the previous term, was to “rebrand, not rename” Chippewa.
The notice of motion also emphasized that “the students of the three consolidated schools, Chippewa, West Ferris, and Widdifield, have since graduated” since that resolution was passed, so the process is carrying on.
The rebranding of Chippewa began earlier, in 2012 in consultation with Nipissing First Nation. No formal poll was taken at Chippewa Secondary School about renaming it, the notice of motion added, and in a December 2022 report from the board the name Chippewa was “twisted into a derogatory term [by unknown individuals].”
The term Chippewa was found “not to be ‘offensive’ as stated in the report,” the notice of motion continued.
Furthermore, the notice of motion requested that the name 'Chippewa' could remain under consideration by members of the renaming committee, and that members also take into account a petition signed by 3,000 people who disapproved of removing the name.
“We need to take a pause,” Myles reiterated, and “move forward with strategy and a focus on procedural fairness.”
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.