University president makes announcement after petition to remove Ryerson statue garners thousands of signatures
Ryerson University has announced a new task force to examine Egerton Ryerson’s history and recommend actions to reconcile his legacy with the university. President Mohamed Lachemi made the announcement on Sept. 2, after years of controversy regarding a statue of Ryerson on Gould Street and a recent push for change from a Ryerson alumnus.
“Now would be the right time to take action and create change,” said Maaz Khan, a 2019 business technology management graduate and Ryerson alumnus who started a petition to have the statue removed in June.
The petition has reached nearly 10,000 signatures. Furthermore, a letter to Lachemi from the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) has garnered hundreds of signatures, including nearly a hundred professors and faculty members.
“Egerton Ryerson’s legacy promotes everything we stand against,” added Khan, saying the removal of the statue is integral to maintaining the progressive and inclusive ideals the school holds.
Egerton Ryerson played a principal role in the creation of the residential school system, which was responsible for displacing thousands of Indigenous children from their families and systematically stripping them of their culture.
For the past three months, Khan says he has been having regular calls about the future of the statue with Michael Forbes, Lachemi’s chief of staff.
Although Khan hasn’t spoken to Lachemi directly, he is hopeful for the future after his petition sparked the president’s announcement for a task force to examine the history of Egerton Ryerson and his relationship with the university.
Forbes says the university has sought input from deans, faculty, administrative leaders, students, external partners and more.
“Every effort will be made to ensure the task force is diverse, inclusive, aligned with Ryerson’s values and reflects our community,” said Forbes.
The task force’s mission is to gather feedback from students, faculty, alumni and others about what the university can do to reconcile Egerton Ryerson’s history. It will also examine Egerton Ryerson’s relationship with Indigenous peoples, education and residential schools to see if they align with the university’s current values and mission.
“We know that positive change can only happen when we continue to have open, honest discussions about even the most difficult of topics,” said Lachemi in a letter to the Ryerson community.
The end goal of the task force is to submit a final report with recommended actions regarding the statue and other elements to reconcile Egerton Ryerson’s history.
Forbes added, “We’re looking for a report from the committee in the summer of 2021.”