We looked at the origins of every public school name in British Columbia. Here is what we found


What’s in a name?

It is a question that governments across Canada must consider when it comes to naming streets, parks and other places chosen decades ago.

Most often, the focus is on an individual name and the history of the honoree, and all school names are ignored.

To help provide a more systematic analysis, we analyzed the 1,386 unique public school names in British Columbia and the reason they were named.

The analysis has limitations – in about one percent of the schools we were unable to determine the name history, and in others, guesswork was required. Additionally, we have assigned the schools the name of mountains, lakes, neighborhoods, the road they are on, or other geographic markers, but in some cases these things were also originally named for people.

That being said, here’s what we found.

Only about a quarter are named after people

We calculate that 358 schools in British Columbia are directly named after individuals, which represents 25.8% of all unique public school names.

This is more than any other category – but far less than the combined schools named for geographic markers: 275 are named only for the municipality or community they are in, 266 are named for the specific neighborhood in which they are located. and 262 are named for nearby geographic markers such as roads (94), parks (34) or coves (21).

Several large school districts, including Burnaby and Victoria, have historically focused on neighborhoods and geographic markers for their school names.

The people with the most schools named after them are Queen Elizabeth, Scottish explorer David Thompson and Prince Charles, all with three schools each, although the Kootenay Lake school district has just voted to change its prince. Charles for next year.

But not in Vancouver

Of Vancouver’s 98 unique school names, 65 are named after individuals – a higher percentage than almost anywhere else in the province.

And of these, 26 are named after people who have spent all or most of their lives in England, compared to just 13 in the rest of the province.

“We have the most school names after historical figures, some of whom have limited or very tenuous ties to Canada at best,” said David Nelson, deputy superintendent of the Vancouver Board of Education, who is leading its review of names. of schools.

White and male

This is the story of virtually every place name in Canada where the majority of things were named decades ago, and that is the case with schools in British Columbia.

Of the 358 schools in British Columbia clearly marked with individual names, 66 are reserved for women, or just 18.3 percent. While women make up less than a fifth of schools in British Columbia named after individuals, they make up the majority of schools named after teachers (23 of 31).

And only six percent of all named schools for people in British Columbia are for people of color.

“Culture of the settlers”

The largest category of people whose schools are named after them in British Columbia are not school trustees (51) or mayors (23) or Aboriginal people (15), but a broad category of city residents tend to call the “pioneers” – people who were among the first whites to settle in the area, often farmers, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Seventy-one of them have schools in their honor in British Columbia. Although the largest number are in Richmond (21), they are relatively evenly distributed across the province.

Vancouver historian John Atkin said many of these conventions made sense because municipalities have grown rapidly without much non-Indigenous local history to build on, but it’s worth exploring alternatives.

“I think it’s time we started to consider getting rid of these things and bringing back something that is really rooted in the place, the location and the culture that goes beyond just the culture of the settlers,” did he declare.

Trees, mountains and oceans

Otherwise, what emerges from the names of the schools in British Columbia is the same themes that physically dominate that province.

There are seven schools which begin with “cedar” and nine which begin with “pine”. There are 24 named for specific mountains or mountain ranges, and four that are simply named “Mountain View”.

In fact, we have a lot of “view” schools: Delview and Burnsview and Eagle View, Campus View and Valley View and Fairview (two of each), Seaview and Bayview, Eastview and Westview, Lakeview and Riverview.

And the most common school name is perhaps the most generic of all: Parkland, which you can find in Coquitlam, Quesnel, Cranbrook, North Vancouver, and Farmington.

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