'It's not hard': Calgary mayor joins calls to rename Langevin School, Bishop Grandin School

Calgary's mayor is calling on the city's public and Catholic school boards to immediately rename Langevin School and Bishop Grandin School — both named after architects of Canada's residential school system.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi made the declaration during Monday's regular council meeting, days after it was revealed the remains of 215 children had been discovered at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

"I'm calling upon the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic school board to make a statement and do it now,'" he said.

"Just say, 'As an act of reconciliation, we are renaming these two schools, we don't know to what, we're going to work with the community to figure out the best way to do that, but we recognize the harm and the hurt that is being caused by Bishop Grandin School.

"It's a school where many members of the Tsuut'ina Nation go and you're sending them to school, named after someone who did that. And this isn't hard. It's not hard. It doesn't take that much political courage. And I really would call upon my fellow elected officials at the school boards to make that symbolic move now."

More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were forced into the residential school system between the mid 1800s and 1990s.

In Alberta alone, at least 821 children died while attending 25 schools operated throughout the province, but experts say that number is likely much higher.

St. Mary's (Blood) Residential School, located near Cardston, Alta. — about 78 kilometres south of Lethbridge — was the last residential school in Alberta. Opened in 1898, it was closed in 1988.

CCSD issued a statement Monday evening.

“The Calgary Catholic School District takes all Indigenous matters seriously and are deeply saddened by the discovery in Kamloops. As Catholics, we are deeply sorry for the residential school movement of the past," it read.

"We are committed to the education recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Calls to Action report. When it comes to the possible renaming of a CCSD school(s), the board of trustees will be considering feedback from stakeholders such as parents, staff, students, Catholic Bishops and Elders in our Indigenous community.”

Michelle Robinson — whose uncles, aunts, grandparents and great-grandparents attended residential schools — said the history of residential schools is more recent than some think.

"I'm just lucky, because I graduated high school in 1994. And 1996, was when the last one closed," she said.

"So I am actually the living reminder of how long it's been, or how short it's been. Maybe it's a better way to say it."

Many Canadians fail to truly understand what systemic racism is, said Robinson, and changing the names will help some to heal.

"If we're going to honor folks who instituted genocide, that's problematic for my generation, the next generations going into the school system," she said.  

"Maybe some of your relatives drive by the school and see the name, visit bad memory or bad feeling. How can we be honouring somebody who instituted genocide?"

With files from CTV Calgary's Kevin Green