Edmonton Catholic Schools trustees unanimously voted in a special board meeting Wednesday to rename Grandin Catholic Elementary School to Holy Child Catholic Elementary School.
The name change comes in acknowledgement of the role played by former St. Albert Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin in the residential school system.
The board voted unanimously on June 28 to remove the bishop’s name from the school.
“‘Holy Child’ is one of several titles used to refer to Jesus until he reached the age of 13,” said board chair Sandra Palazzo. “Jesus often referred to the sacredness of children in his teaching. In the gospel of Matthew, he says: ‘Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’ We must always remember and honour that every child is holy, and remember the children lost in residential schools.”
The renaming follows the work of a committee formed to search for a new name for the Catholic school. That committee included members from the ECSD Elders’ Advisory Council, Indigenous Learning Services, school administration, the Department of Religious Education and senior leadership.
The committee was guided by the principles that the new name should honour the children who died at residential schools and that it would be a name meaningful for students.
Trustee Terrence Harris pointed out during the Wednesday meeting that it was the first time the ECSD had renamed a school.
“This was such an important piece of work for us,” he said.
Holy Child principal Claudia Pederson said the school community shouldn’t “walk in shame” because of the school’s past name and should work to make it better.
Trustee Alene Mutala noted that the ECSD wanted the name to resonate with truth and reconciliation.
“In Cree ‘Holy Child’ is ‘Kihci Awasis’, ‘École Saint-Enfant’ in French and ‘Escuela del Santo Niño’ in Spanish. It reminds us that children are sacred and we must protect them always,” Mutala said.
Cree Elder Betty said in the darkest days of residential school system, her ancestors prayed as their children were taken away that they would one day come home.
“I say thank you on behalf of my people for making this change. We walk together in the same journey because what happens to me and our people happens to the rest of the world” she said, before delivering a prayer in Cree.
Board members wore orange shirts in recognition of Orange Shirt Day which falls on Thursday, Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.