The Greater Victoria School District (SD61) is working with the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations to create a better school naming protocol, starting with a new Lekwungen name for George Jay Elementary.
“The renaming of George Jay Elementary is an important step to realizing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action to preserve and revitalize our language,” said Chief Robert Thomas of the Esquimalt First Nation.
“During the era of residential schools, children were forbidden to speak their home language, and if they did, they were punished. The renaming of George Jay Elementary in lək̓ʷəŋən is our way to honour those children whose voices were silenced and is the first step toward revitalizing our culture, our history, and our Sacred Trust.”
— Greater Victoria SD (@sd61schools) March 8, 2023
While it isn’t clear how the renaming protocol will come to be, the two Nations have put forward representatives that will help shape its development. Work on renaming George Jay will continue and a new name for the school is expected to be announced in the 2023/2024 school year.
The need for a name change stems from a retrospective examination the school took after the public raised concern over the early 20th-century board member.
In 2020, SD61 publicly reviewed the name of George Jay Elementary. Community feedback from that public review recommended connecting with the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations to gauge interest and seek advice in deciding on a Lekwungen name for the elementary school. The original motion was brought forward in concern with George Jay’s legacy, who, as a board chair from 1907 to 1934, had enacted a policy that prevented Chinese Canadian students from attending specific schools until they had passed an English exam.
Currently, the school has a specific policy for naming school sites. Typically this process starts with a committee being formed that can include up to 10 consultants from the community and must include:
- A Trustee
- The Superintendent or their delegate
- The School Principal
- A member of the school’s teaching staff
- A member of the school’s Parent Advisory Council
- Up to two members of the Indigenous community
- Up to three members of the local community
Last year, Nanaimo’s Coal Tyee Elementary was renamed in the act of reconciliation.