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Vancouver school named after British general who ran concentration camps up for re-naming

This photo shows Lord Roberts Elementary School in Vancouver's West End. (Image credit: Facebook/LordRobertsElementaryPAC) This photo shows Lord Roberts Elementary School in Vancouver's West End. (Image credit: Facebook/LordRobertsElementaryPAC)

A Vancouver school named after a British general who set up concentration camps in South Africa where thousands died is one step closer to having a new name.

On Monday, the Vancouver School Board will vote on a recommendation to rename Lord Roberts Elementary. The school in the city's West End was first built and named in 1907.

The school's parent advisory council and staff started the renaming process last year, saying the school's name was not consistent with the values of the community. The decision to pursue a new name was unanimously supported by staff.

"For over one hundred years our school has been named after a man who ran concentration camps. He also burned down farms and forcefully occupied the land of indigenous populations, and so was a hero of the British Empire," says an online statement posted last year.

The most recent step in the renaming process came earlier this month when the board's facilities planning committee considered a report outlining the community's issues with the school's namesake.

Lord Frederick Sleigh Roberts was made the commander of the British forces in the Second Boer War in 1900, the report notes, adding that he adopted a "scorched earth policy" where the British military was ordered to burn down farms and homes.

"Families whose homes were destroyed by this policy had to move into concentration camps. Conditions in the concentration camps deteriorated rapidly as the number of people forced into them increased. The camps were unsanitary and lacked space, food, medicine and medical care, the report explains, adding that more than 26,00 0 people are estimated to have died in the camps.

"One of Lord Roberts’ purposes in southern Africa was to claim land victory for the British and is widely thought to have participated in actions that disenfranchised and discriminated against Black Africans."

Because of this, the committee voted unanimously to support the request for consideration for renaming, and to forward it to the board.

If the school board votes in favour of renaming, a committee will be struck to consider potential new names. Final approval rests with the board, but the guidelines for renaming recommend a "place-based name" rather than one that honours a person.

The parent advisory council has already identified its preferred candidate: West End Elementary Top Stories

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