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‘Nobody wants this’: Opposition grows to renaming Chippewa Secondary School

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The plan to rename a North Bay high school is receiving tons of backlash online.

As part of the consolidation process of the city’s secondary schools, the Near North District School Board is looking to rename Chippewa Secondary School.

The decision sparked outrage from some school alumni and the community.

“A lot of the community is dead set against the name change,” said alumni Stephen Brown.

Brown, who graduated from the school in 1985, started an online petition opposing the plan, gaining support from more than 2,600 people so far.

“It’s on Chippewa Street, by the Chippewa barracks, beside Chippewa Creek,” he said.

“There’s no disrespect whatsoever.”

The Near North District School Board began looking at a new name for the school in 2017 when plans were made to consolidate the city’s public secondary schools.

On April 12, the committee will shortlist five names and will put them out for feedback before a new name is chosen.

“What people need to realize is that the lived realities of people in the system right now is not honouring and representing all in the classroom,” said school board chair Erika Lougheed.

“Our No. 1 focus is student learning, well-being and achievement.”

Despite the petition, it appears the board will not be backing down. In December, trustees voted unanimously to rename the school. Lougheed said a detailed report outlined that there are students, both past and present, who have faced harm and racism and the idea behind the re-naming is to create a “welcoming school for all shareholders.”

“What I do hope is that people considering signing the petition will take the time to read the detailed report that was put out,” she said.

“It highlights in detail the harm that was done. If we have some students that aren’t represented here and some students where the name causes harm, then we are not doing the job of the Near North District School Board.”

Nipissing First Nation Chief Scott McLeod doesn’t personally see the name as offensive in nature.

NO MALICE INTENDED

“I don’t think there was malice intended, other than lack of knowledge of language. I see it as history as our culture and language was misinterpreted,” McLeod said.

“I’m more indifferent about the name Chippewa.”

McLeod says the term Chippewa is actually a misnomer for First Nations who reside in the area.

“We aren’t Chippewa. We aren’t Ojibwa. We aren’t Algonquin. We are Nishnabe,” he said.

“There are other bigger things that can be done in terms of reconciliation than changing the name from Chippewa to something else.”

Brown said he’s organizing a demonstration in April calling on the board to scrap the name-changing process.

“Listen to the people, nobody wants this to change,” he said.

Along with the school's name, its logo, mascot and uniforms will be changed as soon as September. 

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