Our editorial staff count ourselves among the people who hope to see the name of George McDougall High School changed in the future. Giving the school a new moniker would be a simple but effective expression of a dedication toward reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. We hope Rocky View Schools trustees take the conversation surrounding the potential renaming of this school’s name seriously.
George McDougall did not live in Airdrie and does not appear to have any obvious ties to the community. The reason an Airdrie-based high school was named after him in the first place is peculiar, considering Rocky View Schools is typically known for naming its schools after local people, places and landmarks. Heloise Lorimer School, W.H. Croxford High School, A.E. Bowers School, C.W. Perry School and Ralph McCall School are all examples of that tradition in Airdrie.
While his contribution to Canada’s history is complex, one of McDougall's legacies was the establishment of an orphanage and school for Indigenous children in the Morley area, west of Calgary, in the 1870s. The recent discovery of 215 buried Indigenous children underneath the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. has brought back to the limelight the impact these institutions had on Indigenous populations.
Though a shocking and horrific discovery, one positive outcome of the Kamloops finding last week was that it has forced Canadians to look inward and dwell on one of the darkest secrets of the country’s past. The traumatic experiences thousands of Indigenous youth went through in these institutions are well documented, and the discovery of 215 children’s remains provides even more grim evidence.
We disagree with those who argue that changing the name of facilities, schools or other such structures named after controversial figures is historical revisionism or “cancel culture.” Yes, it is important to acknowledge and learn about history, but there is a difference between learning about the past and celebrating historic wrongdoings.