This article is more than 3 years old.

HRM high school dropping Sir John A. Macdonald name

'Small but important step towards reconciliation,' principal says

2 min read
caption Sir John A. Macdonald High School's main doors.
Anastasia Payne

The principal of a high school in the Halifax region says a more inclusive name is needed for her school, currently named after Canada’s first prime minister. 

Darlene Fitzgerald, principal of Sir John A. Macdonald High School in Upper Tantallon, said the school’s name has been a concern for her since she started her job four years ago.

“I feel I need to do this for the kids, for the students at our school, and for our communities,” she said Thursday.

The first government-funded residential schools in Canada opened in the 1870s under Macdonald’s leadership. These institutions are widely remembered as places where Indigenous children suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse. More than 150,000 Indigenous children are estimated to have been placed in residential schools before the last one closed in 1996.

Fitzgerald called the name change a “small but important step towards reconciliation.”

“I want to create a school that’s inclusive and safe, where every student that walks through the door is proud of their [school’s] name and their school,” she said.

Fitzgerald said on Thursday the school’s students were shown a video that describes Macdonald’s role as an oppressor and creator of residential schools.

Chantel Meister, a former student who graduated in 2017, supports the name change, calling it a  “great idea.” She said a new name will better reflect the school’s values.

“I just hope that it’s something everyone can agree on,” she said.

Fitzgerald has sent out a letter asking students, parents, staff and community members for their input on the new name. A subcommittee of the school advisory council will review the suggestions and narrow down the list, but the regional executive director of the Halifax Regional Centre for Education has the final decision.

“We’ll go through and hopefully put it down to 10 or 15,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ll bring it back to the SAC, and then the final decision will be the kids. We’ll give it back to the kids and they’ll vote for their top three.”

Anyone with an idea for the school’s new name is asked to submit their suggestion in a Google form by Nov. 26.

There are guidelines for naming schools. A school can be named after its geographical location or community, or named after a person. There is a vetting process for suggested names of individuals.

Share this

About the author

Have a story idea?

Join the conversation

  1. C


    Several unanswered questions with this article. Is this a directive and approved decision from the province? I can't say school board, because they don't exist anymore in Nova Scotia. If so, please publish the province's statement on this decision. The article is written from the principal's oppinion. Why? There should be additional supporting facts to this article. As a retired teacher, I KNOW the support of the school board would have to have been included in the article. I read the article, with all the princpal's "I's", as simply her point of view. It reads as an opinion piece. So, Darlene Fitzgerald, the principal wants to take a step towards reconciliation? I do not agree at all with this decision. It is subjective at best. Who has approved this? As the province has taken over control of all the school boards this decision should have been announced by the province, through our Minister of Education. It was not the principal's job OR position to do this. I look forward to an article that presents facts instead of opinions. With the general facts that were written, I assume any person in government who supported residential schools must be deleted from history. How stupid is this?! Who'sthe next target?! Let's have real reporting. Just for fun, publish the province's statement on this decision bright and early tomorrow. Bet there isn't one.
  2. B

    Brian O'Halloran

    This decision to change the name of Sir John A. MacDonald High School is very disrespectful to Canada's history. Sir John A. MacDonald was a great Canadian. This country might not even exist without him. The change is the result of political correctness and extreme liberalism gone crazy. I am quite confident that the majority of Nova Scotians do not agree with this decision. It is another example of a minority of extreme liberals getting there way. I have no respect for these people.
    • C


      I totally support and agree with your comments. Bravo!
    • R


      Where are all the schools dedicated to Hitler in Germany?
      • S

        Scott Inman

        How can you justify the comparison of Sir John A. MacDonald to Hitler? That is a comparison in the extreme. It is important to remember history or we are doomed to repeat it... Sir John A. MacDonald was an extremely important and influential figure in Canadian history, the sum of his positive accomplishments outweighs his failures; this should not condemn him to the annals of history with such figures as Hitler, Stalin, or Mussolini who were responsible for tens of millions of deaths and unspeakable atrocities! However, judging by your comment I can already see the negative impacts of smearing history to a single narrative by your comparison to Hitler. I wish people could just stop for even a moment to reflect inwardly on their own lives when choosing to be politically correct. When we chose PC over history we should always ask ourselves "how would my life be judged under such high scrutiny... Is the sum of my life only worth my mistakes and failures, or should I remember that I am only human and I try to inflict positive actions whenever possible with the best information that is available at the time?". We should be remembering these individuals for both past injustices caused by their hand, but also their positive instrumental accomplishments to society, and teaching our children the difference between the dualities of life. If we ban negative history from our society it will truly be impossible to replace them with anyone of higher standing, because no one is immune to mistakes and failures. I for one would rather have the choice of access to all information from history, good and bad, to be able to generate my own conceived notions based on facts, rather than a single trending narrative that is being censored by minority groups and niche social movements within our society.
Comments closed.