The Greater Victoria School Board passed a motion Monday night to begin a community consultation process regarding a name change for École George Jay Elementary due to the namesake’s history.
Jordan Watters, the board chairwoman, made the announcement on Facebook.
“I am grateful to all the parents, teachers, community members and trustees who have been pushing for this over the last decade and the current George Jay PAC (Parent Advisory Council) led by Angela Cooper-Carmichael who have taken up the cause,” Watters wrote.
Last night the Greater Victoria School Board passed a motion that will begin a community consultation process exploring…
Watters said Tuesday all trustees supported the motion except for Elaine Leonard who voted against, and Tom Ferris who wasn’t present at the meeting
According to Watters, the board will now start a consultative process that will begin at the school level and move to a broader consultative process following regulation 1421. The consultation will begin by exploring if the name should be changed. The committee that oversees consultation for the development of a school name would then make a recommendation around what the school should be renamed.
According to Victoria’s Chinatown: A Gateway to the Past and Present of Chinese Canadians, George Jay was a former Victoria school board chairman who initiated a regulation in late August 1907 stating that Chinese children had to pass an English examination before being allowed to attend public schools. Victoria’s Chinatown: A Gateway to the Past and Present of Chinese Canadians is a partnership project between the Asian Canadian Working Group at the University of Victoria and community partners including the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, the Chinese Public School, and the McPherson Library.
“This rule applied only to Chinese children, not to other non-English speaking children such as newcomers from French, German, or Dutch families,” Jenny Clayton, an instructor at UVic, wrote about Jay’s regulation on the Victoria’s Chinatown website.
The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association CCBA) raised funds from Chinese communities across Canada to hire lawyer Fred Peters to challenge the school board regulation.
“Peters argued that since all children were required to attend school in B.C., the new rule was illegal. The CCBA lost its case, but the school board did allow children of Chinese families who were born in Canada to attend public schools. The forty Chinese-born children who would have attended public schools but who could not pass the English examination were then crowded with other students into the Lequn Free School, where there was not enough space for them,” Clayton wrote.
The CCBA decided to build a new school with more space, buying land on Fisgard Street between Government and Douglas streets. That school opened on Aug. 7, 1909 by the Chinese consul-general of San Francisco. The new institution was originally called the Daqing Qiaomin Gongli Xuetang (Great Qing Overseas Chinese Public School). When the Qing government was overthrown in 1912, the school was renamed the Chinese Public School (Hauqiao Gongli Xuexiao). Students were educated in Chinese language and also in English so they could pass the examination and enter public schools.
However, Clayton wrote the issue of separate school came up again in the early 1920s.
“To achieve segregation without referring directly to race, the school board tried to use unsupported arguments that Chinese students were unclean, or that they were delaying the progress of classes as a whole. George Jay, elected back into the position of chairman of the Victoria School Board, decided that over two hundred Chinese elementary students then attending public schools should be moved to buildings on Kings Road and in Rock Bay. This move was described by the Chinese community as Huangbai Fenxiao, or ‘Yellow and White in Separate Schools.'” Clayton wrote.
In September 1922, principals lined up the Chinese students from George Jay School and the Boys’ Central School and started to march them to a segregated school at King’s Road. The CCBA, Chinese Canadian Club (Tongyuan Association), and Chinese Commerce Association, organized a student strike. The Chinese students went home instead and the three associations formed the Anti-Segregation Association (ASA) and challenged the separate schools’ policy.
The ASA set up a Chinese Free School for students in the interim. The strike ended up lasting for a year as the ASA and the school board talked.
“In September 1923, the school board allowed all Chinese students to return to the schools they attended before the strike, and seventeen students with poor English skills had to attend a special class until their English improved. The CCBA accepted these terms and the strike ended. Partial segregation continued, however, as Chinese students in the first four years of elementary school continued to be educated separately (as they had been before the strike), and Chinese students were transferred to the dilapidated Railway Street School in the late 1920s when the Rock Bay School was torn down. It was only after the Second World War that students of Chinese origin were fully integrated into public schools in Victoria,” Clayton wrote.