A.R. Kaufman Public School latest WRDSB school to get new name
A.R. Kaufman Public School is the latest location added to the Waterloo Region District School Board’s list of renaming local schools as the legacy of historical figures come into question.
A.R. Kaufman generated debate amongst trustees at Monday night’s Waterloo Region School Board meeting.
“Kaufman was known to arrange for sterilizations that targeted working-class employees, the poor and those with physical or mental disabilities,” said Crissa Hill, area 6 superintendent. "Kaufman's view was that the provision of cheap contraceptives would, and I quote, 'limit the unintelligent and penniless, who unfortunately constitute an increasing percentage of the total population.'"
The board was aware of renaming work already started in relation to Sir John A Macdonald Secondary School and Ryerson Public School, due to Macdonald’s key role establishing residential schools in Canada and the Buffalo Famine and Ryerson’s reputation for creating the framework for residential schools.
It comes after an Ad Hoc School Naming Review Committee identified the three schools as high priorities to warrant a name change.
Former A.R. Kaufman student and trustee Mike Ramsay says he’s not sure about the change.
“I just don’t think right now that I have a lot of confidence in the information that we’re getting so I will be abstaining when it comes time to vote,” he said.
The reccomendation to change the three names was approved after almost all trustees voted in favour. There were no votes against, as Ramsay was the only trustee to abstain.
"When someone tells me that something, in this case a name is causing them harm, that I'm going to choose to believe them and act on it," said trustee Jayne Herring. "I will be voting in favour of this report tonight."
All three schools will be responsible for choosing a new name, but it’s unclear how soon that will happen.
The board will also make sure the names reflect its commitment to promote Indigenous, equity, human rights, and inclusive learning and working environments for all students and staff.
A.R. KAUFMAN'S HISTORY IN WATERLOO REGION
Karen Stote, an assistant professor of women and gender studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, said Kaufman was an entrepreneur and businessman, running the Kaufman Rubber Factory on King Street.
"He's often referred to as the father of birth control in Canada," Stote said. "As he was making rubber boots and other types of footwear, he also was making condoms to a small degree and things like diaphragms and so on, from the 1930s, even before birth control was legal in Canada. So, that's part of what he was known for, but he's also increasingly recognized as having been embedded in the eugenics movement here in Canada."
Stote said Kaufman was an active member of the Eugenics Society of Canada.
"Kaufman had ideas through birth control, poor people, people who were unemployed, people who were living in poverty, should be prevented from reproducing," Stote said. "Those who weren’t capable or couldn’t be trusted to take contraceptive forms of birth control, that they should be sterilized as well."
The school isn't the only place in the region named after Kaufman. There's also Kaufman Park in Kitchener, Kaufman Lofts and YMCA A.R. Kaufman.
In a statement, officials with the YMCA said they're reviewing what the school board's name change means for their future, saying they'll explore ways to participate with the school board's process.
Stote said Kaufman was very active during the Great Depression era, often promoting birth control and sterilization for people who were laid off from his company.
"The idea that at least you won't have any more mouths to feed, even though you'll be unemployed and living in poverty," she said.
Stote added she hopes to see education campaigns go along with any future name changes.
"The renaming of the buildings, without doing that education, in a way is going to erase that problematic history," she said. "We don't want to erase things, because when we erase history, history tends to repeat itself."
FUTURE OF KAUFMAN PARK
The City of Kitchener also wants to address community concerns surrouding Kaufman Park.
In an email to CTV News, Elin Moorlag Silk, the project manager of Equity, Anti-Racism & Indigenous Iniatives, said they are not currently considering renaming the park.
However the city wants to make sure "everyone in the community feels safe, welcome, and included."
Silk said the city has launched a review of their parks strategy and are asking residents to share their ideas.
"Input will be used to develop a series of guidelines to shape the city's approach to supporting, maintaining, developing new, and reinvesting in older parks and open spaces," she said.