Say hello to the latest victim of cancel culture: Dr. Egerton Ryerson, the namesake for my old alma mater, Ryerson University, or Ryerson Polytechnical Institute back when I earned my journalism degree here in the early ’80s (you know, when things were so much more normal… say, is anyone selling a DeLorean DMC-12 equipped with the Flux Capacitor option?)
Alas, Ryerson University's board of directors voted unanimously to change the institution’s moniker over concerns regarding Egerton Ryerson’s influence on Canada's residential schools system.
The cancellation of Egerton Ryerson went into overdrive last month when Egerton’s statue on campus was toppled and destroyed by a mob in June; now the university’s board of directors is finishing off the assassination by opting for a name change.
Naturally, the Media Party has played the role of the cheerleading squad in the demise of Ryerson U. Consider this pithy prose from our official state media, CBC: “Student activist Sam Howden, who is Red River Métis and uses they/them pronouns, was one of a group of students who began referring to the university as ‘X University’, after publicly calling for the school to change its name for years.
"'We got what we wanted,’ they said, calling the name change ‘pretty incredible.’"
(Don’t mean to be impolite here, but what do phony-baloney gender pronouns have to do with Egerton Ryerson and his alleged role in the residential school system? But then again, what do I/we/they/he/him/she/her/ze/zir know?)
Yet, consider this: has the cancel culture mob lynched the wrong guy here in their endless quest for “social justice,” be it real or imagined?
Consider the superb scholarly article pertaining to the Ryerson controversy published a few weeks ago in the Dorchester Review, “The Imbecile Attack on Egerton Ryerson: An Assault on Decency.”
This feature, penned by Ronald Stagg and Patrice Dutil, states that Dr. Egerton Ryerson was actually a “great Torontonian by any standard.”
The authors note: “Ryerson (1803–1882) was one of the most influential figures in the history of Upper Canada and was in his day considered the very paragon of the forward-looking, progressive, inclusive, worldly intellectual. He was a beacon of educational reform, a fighter against injustice of all sorts, and a kind and generous man. A Methodist minister, he pushed for religious equality and has long been celebrated as the founder of Ontario’s public school system.”
Furthermore, going back more than a decade, to when the usual progressive suspects on campus and elsewhere began their anti-Egerton Ryerson jihad, the facts of the matter indicate that this ill-advised witch-hunt was misguided from the get-go. As Stagg and Dutil point out:
“The flame having caught, Ryerson University’s Aboriginal Education Council issued a paper in 2010 declaring that Dr. Ryerson had played a defining role in establishing Residential Schools. The document contained misspelled names and statements that were not backed up by references. Based on limited research, it included material from a discredited, defrocked United Church minister, and was not subject to peer review; nor was it circulated outside a small circle of administrators. Nevertheless, Ryerson University soon inserted a statement on its website asserting that Egerton Ryerson had indeed played a nefarious role in Indigenous education."
“THE SINCLAIR COMMISSION’S recognition that Ryerson was not a party to creating post-Confederation residential schools should have been enough — given the oracular status accorded everywhere to the TRC [Truth and Reconciliation Commission]— for the University to reverse the campaign against its own namesake. Nevertheless, Ryerson’s administration unveiled a plaque in 2018” that linked Egerton Ryerson to the Indian Residential School System, which had the goal of “cultural genocide.”
Finally, it should be noted that Dr. Ryerson passed away two years before the residential school system was established.
Alas, when it comes to dealing with the likes of Sam “They/Them” Howden and the rest of the cancel culture enthusiasts on campus — people who are fuelled by emotion rather than education – to paraphrase that classic Tina Turner song, “What’s truth got to do with it?”