Toppled Legacies: How the Renaming of Ryerson University Recommends the End of Public Funding of Ontario’s Catholic School Boards

In August of 2021, the Board of Directors of the former Ryerson University voted to change the name of the institution due to (as one CBC story phrases it) concerns about the man the institution is named for and his links to Canada’s residential schools.

RU/TMU: Is it a University or a Fortress?

According to www.ryerson.ca, “Names matter. They tell the world who we are and what we stand for. They communicate ideas, values and aspirations. They speak to the future even as they acknowledge the past.  A new name offers an invitation to be more inclusive, to imagine novel ways of thinking and creating —  to open ourselves to new possibilities.  This is a new chapter for our university, informed by the pages that come before but open to the opportunities that lie ahead. Now is a time to recommit to the values that define us, to invite our community to gather around our shared mission and to shape a future in which everyone belongs.” So Ryerson University is now the Toronto Metropolitan University where “It’s the many collisions between peoples and perspectives that take place in a metropolitan setting that drive innovation. As such, our name is as much a marker of location as it is a statement of identity, one that’s befitting of a thoroughly urban university.” Collisions? OK. We can take that as food for thought.

Since questions of a dead legislator’s legacy is not only fair game for consideration (Ryerson/TMU has a 131-page document examining the life and legacy of their former namesake), it is the inspiration for baseball bats and crowbars to be taken to statuary (per featured image), perhaps it is reasonable and even to-be-encouraged that all areas of that legislator’s legacy be examined.

Consider, for example the Common School Act of 1850. As spacing.ca explains it: “The Common School Act of 1850 set into law what was already being practised (sic) by local communities throughout Ontario. The act permitted any group of five Black families to ask local school trustees to establish a separate school. The law also permitted the creation of separate schools for Roman Catholic and Protestant families.”

Here in 2022, as ideas of how to implement contemporary values of diversity and inclusivity collide with the legacy institutions, it seems odd that those who are concerned with updating our systems to reflect the values of the present and our aspirations for the future haven’t decided that a certain elephant in the room needs to be addressed. The public funding of Catholic school boards in Ontario is the single largest and least supportable example of segregation and systemic faith-based discrimination (faithism) in Canada.

By all means, let us rename, rebrand, renew. A better, more diverse and inclusive future is waiting.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Feature Image Courtesy: CBC Canada
  2. https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/canada/ryerson-university-to-change-its-name/ar-AANMA8o#:~:text=Ryerson%20University%27s%20board%20of%20directors%20has%20voted%20to,for%20and%20his%20links%20to%20Canada%27s%20residential%20schools.
  3. https://www.ryerson.ca/next-chapter/
  4. http://spacing.ca/toronto/2021/02/19/how-racism-in-ontario-schools-today-is-connected-to-a-history-of-segregation/#:~:text=The%20Common%20School%20Act%20of%201850%20set%20into,separate%20schools%20for%20Roman%20Catholic%20and%20Protestant%20families.

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Ellen S. Jaffe Humanist Award for Poetry

The Ontario Poetry Society has launched the Ellen S. Jaffe Humanist Award for Poetry. Open to everyone in Canada and the USA, the award accepts a suite of poems of no fewer than 12 pages and no greater than 15 pages on humanist themes of family, community, traditions and customs, social issues, peace and the effects of war, climate change, ecological issues and the healing power of poetry.

Ellen S. Jaffe was born in New York City, came to Canada in 1979, and became a Canadian citizen in 1993; she died in Toronto on March 16, 2022 at the age of 77.

Jaffe’s works include a young-adult novel, Feast of Lights (Sumach Press, 2006), a poetry  collection, Water Children (Mini Mocho Press, 2002), and Writing Your Way: Creating a Personal Journal (Sumach Press, 2001). Two of her books and one individual poem have received awards from Arts Hamilton (formerly the Hamilton & Region Arts Council). She has adapted Margaret Laurence’s novel, Jason’s Quest, into a play for young people, produced in 2001. She has also written another play “Promise You Won’t Marry Me”, produced in 2008 by the Black Box Fire’s Emerging Artist series.

A great deal more information about Jaffe and her writing at http://www.ellen-s-jaffe.com/. The website currently includes blog entries, the most recent of which is dated March 5, 2022 and says:

Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve written, but a lot has happened.Good news number 2: while he was here, The Ontario Poetry Society announced they are creating an award in my honour: the Ellen Sue Jaffe Humanitarian Poetry Award. This is a great honour and combines my two deep values in life. Thank you, Bunny Iskov and Elana Woolf, for arranging this. The award will be every other year, beginning with the deadline on March 15, 2023 (my birthday), with one winner and 5 runners-up. There will be a cash prize and a certificate, and my son Joe and I were able to drive to Willowdale to thank Bunny in person and give her some of my signed books to add to the prize.

Jaffe’s writing has been published in journals including Fireweed, Capilano Review, Kaleidoscope, CV 2, and Kairos, and in various anthologies; she was on the 2005 short-list for Lichen magazine’s “Tracking a Serial Poet” contest (the only person to have two entries short-listed!), and she was also on the short-list for the CBC Literary Competition in 1996. Recently two poems were published in Crossing Lines by Seraphim Press (2008), an anthology by poets who came to Canada during the Vietnam War era. She received the Orion prize for poetry in 2000, and has read at the Niagara International Festival of Chamber Music, as well as venues in Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and British Columbia.

Ellen was a member of The Writers Union of Canada, the League of Canadian Poets, and CANSCAIP. She has received grants from the Ontario Arts Council for both writing and teaching. She currently works with Learning Through the Arts and Living through the Arts, programmes run by the Royal Conservatory of Music that enable artists to work jn schools and community organizations. She has also taught in many other school and community programs, and has been a judge for various writing contests for both young people and adults.


The Ontario Poetry Society Presents:

The $1000 Ellen S. Jaffe Humanist Award for Poetry

Contest held every second year

Open to Everyone in Canada and the U.S.A.

First Prize $500 & a Certificate
Plus 5 Honourable Mention Awards of $100 each with a Certificate
Signed copies of Ellen’s Book, Skinny-Dipping with the Muse, Guernica Editions
will be awarded to the top 6 winners.
Money prizes paid in Canadian Dollars.

Rules & Guidelines
Accepting a suite of poems of no fewer than 12 pages and no greater
than 15 pages on humanist themes of family, community, traditions
and customs, social issues, peace and the effects of war,
climate change, ecological issues and the healing power of poetry.
The suite of poems to be on one continuous theme.
No lewdness, no foul language & no heavy slant on religion.
Free verse poems preferred.
Each poem to be a maximum length of 60 lines
and the stanza spaces count as lines.
Line width should be up to 55 characters and word spaces.
Poems must be unpublished and not sent elsewhere.
Poems to be printed on one side of 81/2 x 11 plain white paper.
Arial 11 Font size.
Do not attach any pictures or artwork or biographical information.
Blind Judging: No author ID to be anywhere on the poem pages.
Include a cover page with Author name, mailing address, telephone #
& e-mail as well as a vertical list of poem titles (or first lines if no titles).

Entry fee: $20 for the first suite of poems
and $10 for each additional suite of poems.
There is no limit to the number of submissions per entrant.
Manuscripts are not returned unless a larger envelope
is enclosed with sufficient postage.

Entries to be postmarked on or before March 15, 2023.
Include a #10 s.a.s.e. for the winners list and $2 in coupons
to spend on another contest sponsored by The Ontario Poetry Society.
Contest entries to be submitted through Canada Post.
No electronic submissions accepted.

Send your entries to:
The Ontario Poetry Society
#710 – 65 Spring Garden Ave.
Toronto, Ont. M2N 6H9
Contest Judge is Elana Wolff


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Image Courtesy: https://hamiltonjewishnews.com/arts-culture/on-being-a-jewish-writer
  2. https://www.thespec.com/news/hamilton-region/2022/05/02/obituary-prominent-poet-and-writer-ellen-jaffe-reached-a-lot-of-people-with-her-work.html
  3. http://www.theontariopoetrysociety.ca/contest_Ellen_S_Jaffe_Humanist_Award.html
  4. http://www.ellen-s-jaffe.com/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.