UNB board votes to strip name from law faculty building over links to slavery

FREDERICTON — The board of governors at the University of New Brunswick voted Tuesday to strip George Duncan Ludlow's name from the school's law faculty building in Fredericton because of his connections to slavery and the abuse of Indigenous people.

Crews removed the name within 30 minutes of the vote, which also recommended installing a permanent display that explores Ludlow's history and explain why his name was removed from the building.

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Ludlow was a loyalist from New York who became New Brunswick's first chief justice in the 1780s, and he was also one of the last judges in the British empire to uphold the legality of slavery.

He was also a member of the board of directors for the Sussex Vale Indian Day School, which contracted out First Nations children as indentured servants.

The UNB Student Union and the Law Students' Society both pressured the school to have Ludlow's name removed.

The student union also sought to have the name removed from all maps and university literature, and lobbied for a plaque to be created to contextualize Ludlow's place in New Brunswick's history.

UNB president Paul Mazerolle said a working group that studied the issue has recommended holding an educational event or events to share what was learned through its review and encourage further study of African-Canadian and Indigenous history in New Brunswick.

"Obviously lots of people won't agree with this decision and lots of people are heartened by this decision," Mazerolle said Tuesday. "Maybe in time more and more people will understand and respect the decision we've made."

In its 40-page report, the working group said it heard from people who wanted the name removed, along with a "smaller number" who supported keeping it.

"Notably, several current law students expressed feelings of shame, embarrassment and re-victimization when entering the Faculty of Law with Ludlow's name prominently displayed above the main entrance," the report states.

"Some were against removing or changing names and some feel a sentimental attachment to the name, without connecting it to the man himself."

The report said no documentation could be found in the archives indicating that the president at the time of the naming, Colin B. MacKay, had been told about Ludlow's association with slavery or the Sussex Vale school. However, Karl Dore, then assistant professor and later dean of law, wrote to the working group to say he raised the concerns with MacKay in 1968 before the opening of the building.

The report also contains written submissions made to the working group that demonstrate strong emotions on both sides of the issue.

"The thought of renaming Ludlow Hall is repulsive," wrote one person, while another wrote to say they are embarrassed to have the name Ludlow associated with the school. "As far as I am concerned, his association with the school should have already been removed."

Another said there will be scrutiny of whatever name is chosen as a replacement: "What happens in 50 years when the new namesake is discovered to have done things that are against the current day's standards?"

Others expressed concerns that efforts are being made to rewrite history and said the issue should be explained without removing the name.

Mazerolle said the university is not trying to erase history, which is why a plaque with Ludlow's biography and the reasons for removing the name will be in place permanently.

He said a new name will be chosen before the end of the year.

Mazerolle said the working group will now review the process for naming places at both the Fredericton and Saint John campuses. Another report is to be completed by December 1.

The issue at UNB is just the latest example of efforts to remove colonial names and symbols from public spaces in Canada.

Two years ago, the City of Halifax removed a statue of Edward Cornwallis, who founded the city in 1749, over his proclamation offering a bounty to anyone to killed a Mi'kmaq person.

Also in 2018, a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister, was removed from the steps in front of Victoria City Hall because of Macdonald's role in creating the residential school system.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2020.

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