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Vancouver elementary school to dump name of lord linked to Boer War, other atrocities

Community-based renaming committee now must present a final report to school board for its decision
Teacher Brent Mansfield poses for a photograph outside Lord Roberts Elementary School in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday December 6, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Members of the Vancouver School Board have voted unanimously to support the renaming of Lord Roberts Elementary in the city’s West End neighbourhood.

In moving the motion, trustee Lois Chan-Pedley told the board’s Monday night meeting that “the evidence is clear that it is time to give the school a new name.”

The school’s parent advisory committee has been asking for the renaming since 2019 after exploring the background of the school’s namesake, Lord Frederick Roberts, who led the British forces during the Boer War in southern Africa.

Roberts was considered one of the most successful British military commanders in 1901 when the school was built, but critics now reject his methods that included the use of concentration camps during the war and the targeting of Indigenous populations while Roberts served in India and Afghanistan.

In supporting the motion to explore a new name, Trustee Janet Fraser thanked parents and staff at the school for creating a detailed biography about Roberts.

She says the information was influential in understanding why “his name and legacy do not reflect where we are in the school district in 2023.”

The Vancouver school board launched a new administrative policy in 2022 that allows for the renaming of a school or other board facility under several circumstances, including if requested by the community.

The policy now requires the formation of a community-based renaming committee that must present a final report to the board for its decision, although no timeline is linked to the work.

Several other Vancouver schools have been renamed recently but Lord Roberts is the first to use the officially codified policy.

“I really look forward to watching this process unfold,” Chan-Pedley told trustees just before the unanimous vote in favour of the change.

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