Toronto School Board Says Use Of Word ‘Chief’ Is Offensive

REUTERS/Todd Korol

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
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There will be no more chiefs and certainly no more Indians at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).

As the Toronto Star reported Tuesday, the board will no longer use the word “chief” in reference to administrative or executive positions because they believe it is offensive to “Indigenous peoples.”

A chief executive officer will soon be a something else — as soon as the school board can decide how to designate the position; the preferred option appears to be “manager.”

TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird says the changeover has taken several years.

The curator of the TDSB’s Indigenous art and culture section says the new nomenclature is appropriate because it “fits with building a student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect — and that’s a quote from the Truth and Reconciliation (Commission) recommendations,” Duke Redbird told the Toronto Star.

The commission that he refers to was a consequence of an investigation into the Canadian residential school system that attempted to assimilate First Nations children.

Redbird continued, “And it helps in our own community, that these designated titles … are recognized for what they actually are — which are earned titles that you get through a democratic process of an election.”

But National Post columnist Christie Blatchford maintains that the title change is not only unnecessary, it means “Canada is the stupidest country ever.”

She writes that during the titular changeover, some people had the signs on their office doors amended while others just had the offending word covered up.

“While apparently some key titles at the board were changed a few years ago, such as chief financial officer, among the recent casualties is the sign on the door to the office of Chief Caretaker Karen Griffith at Glenview Public School in the city’s affluent north end,” she explained.

Blatchford notes that school board employees observed how the “chief” was “blacked out” last week.

“Apparently, no thought or consideration had been given to how students of colour might react to the notion that a bad sign could be simply blacked out, and whether this is tantamount to cultural erasure,” Blatchford writes.

The word “chief” is of Anglo-French origin and refers to the head. In bilingual Canada, the English “chief” is spelled very much like its French equivalent “chef.” The word was not in usage among the North American Indian tribes.

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