Protesters gathered outside the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) building to call for implementing an anti-racism agenda, including calls to rename a local junior high named after Canada's founding prime minister.
For nearly two years, members of the Reconciliation Action Group have demanded Sir John A Macdonald Junior High school be renamed.
"If they want reconciliation, they need to stop honouring people who have done these kinds of things against Indigenous people," said Linda Johnson, a residential school survivor and protester.
The group claims the school carried the name of a historical figure that caused harm to Indigenous peoples and racist depictions of Indigenous cultures.
They also claim that failing to act upholds them a historical pattern of intergenerational trauma and discrimination, as Macdonald helped deliver the residential school system in Canada.
Michelle Robinson, Sahtu Dene activist and community member, said the CBE hadn't instituted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action.
"We're trying to highlight the systemic racism within the CBE," she said, adding the CBE has not taken meaningful actions to combat systemic racism.
"They have shown no leadership on things that could easily be done today, and then start instituting a plan against racism, including Indigenous education and gendered violence from the National Inquiry."
Board Chair Laura Hack addressed the protest in Tuesday's CBE Board of Trustees Meeting.
"There is no room for racism or discrimination in our schools or workplaces. The CBE has taken significant steps in the past few years to address systemic racism and promote equitable and inclusive learning and working environments. We recognize more needs to be done, and we are listening and learning so we can continue to do better," said Hack.
According to Hack, the Board of Trustees also continues its journey to consider renaming schools.
"We recognize that this work takes time, and we are committed to thoughtfully conducting this work as we consider the diverse perspectives of students, staff, families and community members," she said.
The CBE said in May 2022 that they would look at renaming the school.
During a separate press conference with the Alberta government, a reporter asked Premier Danielle Smith about the Calgary Board of Education protest demand to rename Sir John A Macdonald school.
She responded: "We respect the right of local school boards to make their own decisions about how they do their naming. I understand that CBE is going through a process on this, and we'll have to see what they turn up with at the local level."
Smith recognized that part of the problem is people do not realize that "not all of our prime ministers were perfect people."
"I think that being able to discuss the rights and the wrongs historically is essential, but as for the naming issue, we leave that to the Calgary Board of Education to decide."
The reporter then asked Smith about her views concerning the controversial figure, adding that former Premier Jason Kenney was adamant in his opposition to removing the name."
"Do you have a personal opinion on this particular issue?" he asked.
"I do get concerned about erasing portions of our history because we must understand the rights and the wrongs that all of our prime ministers did. It is part of Canadian history," said Smith.
"We have to look things squarely in the eye when things happen that we would disapprove of today. We must be willing to talk about it, and cancelling these historical figures works against that.
Smith added that Canada has buildings and airports across the country named after past prime ministers.
She posed "that we ask ourselves… [if] cancelling all of them because of [their] mistakes [is the right decision]."