MONCTON, N.B. — It could cost New Brunswick's Université de Moncton as much as $4.6 million to shed its connection to a colonial British officer who participated in the brutal deportation of French-speaking Acadians from Eastern Canada.
That's according to a report made public Friday on the implications of a possible name change for the school, Canada's largest French-language university outside Quebec.
The report's authors, political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard and historian Maurice Basque, presented their findings on Friday, outlining the troubling legacy of Robert Monckton, a leading figure in the 18th-century British conquest of Acadia.
Basque described the treatment of Acadians by officers under Monckton's command as a series of "atrocities" that included assaults on women. Monckton also ordered the tracking and imprisonment of Acadians before their expulsion from what is now New Brunswick, Basque said.
British colonists would eventually name a township in his honour. Centuries later, when several French-language universities merged into a single entity, officials chose a name to reflect the location of their flagship campus in the city of Moncton, Basque explained.
Debate about the name of the Université de Moncton has persisted for decades, he said, but came to a head earlier this year when more than 1,000 people signed a petition seeking to sever the school's connection to Monckton. The petition prompted the university's board of governors to commission the study from Basque, an adviser with the university's Acadian studies institute, and Chouinard, a professor at Queen's University and the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont.
The authors did not weigh in on whether the school should change its name and they refrained from making any recommendations. Instead, they outlined the processes through which other North American universities have reconsidered tributes to problematic figures.
Among the examples included in the report is Toronto Metropolitan University, formerly Ryerson University, which in 2022 changed its name to erase its association with Egerton Ryerson, who helped create Canada's residential school system for Indigenous children.
The final part of Chouinard and Basque's report calculates the potential financial impact of a name change for the Université de Moncton. Their estimated $4,589,000 price tag for the measure includes $935,000 for updates to on-campus signage and $1,240,000 for an IT overhaul.
The report now heads to the Université de Moncton's board of governors, which will decide whether to proceed with a name change.
A first reading of the report is planned for the board's Dec. 9 meeting, when it may also decide on next steps, such as a public consultation, a spokesperson for the university said.
"The university board does not take this process lightly," board president Denis Mallet said in a statement. "We must ensure that we are well equipped to make well-considered decisions."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2023.
— By Thomas MacDonald in Montreal.
The Canadian Press