Site prep underway in early 2020 at the site of the planned southside school on Petawawa Road at the end of Tyson Road along the Vedder River in Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/ Progress file)

LETTER: New Chilliwack school name takes political correctness too far

‘How one pronounces Stito:s La:lem Toti:lt will certainly be guesswork on my part’

To name a new school in Chilliwack in a language that the vast majority of Chilliwack residents cannot understand or pronounce is, in my opinion, totally ridiculous. This is taking “political correctness” way too far.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack’s newest schools to be named Imagine High and Stitó:s Lá:lém Totí:lt

• RELATED: Chilliwack school trustee issues public apology for Facebook post criticizing Dr. Theresa Tam

How one pronounces Stito:s La:lem Toti:lt will certainly be guesswork on my part, and I suspect for most Chilliwack people.

[Editor’s note: The pronunciation has been explained as “stee-tahs lah-lem tot-ilt”.]

According to Statistics Canada, the 2016 census agglomeration for Chilliwack showed we had a population of 101,512, of which almost 87,000 had English as their mother tongue. It also showed that only 30 people had Halkomelem [sic] as their mother tongue and 50 people had Salish. That’s 80 people.

Yet, despite these very low numbers for First Nation speakers, we have a new K-Grade 8 school being given the name of Stito:s La:lem Toti:lt, and as school trustee Darrell Furgason said “it is a very difficult collection of words,” and I further agree with him when he says the name is exclusive, and not inclusive.

Yes, I can see that students attending the new school will have this new name drummed into them. But how about the more than four-fifths of Chilliwack’s population that that don’t go to school? Also, let’s look at practicalities. How will people delivering supplies to a school with an unpronounceable name deal with their supply chains when ordering, or what about other schools attending sports activities etc from outside district 33 area? Can you imagine what teachers in those locations would say to their students? Maybe something like “that school in Chilliwack that starts with Stito,” which is all most of us can pronounce.

When school trustee Willow Reichelt said “It’s six syllables, Buck up and learn to say it,” I thought she was being incredibly insensitive to the vast majority of Chilliwack residents who do not speak this language.

Please let us have some sense and reason regarding the naming of new buildings, trails, areas, etc., and don’t go overboard on being politically correct. This also applies to Chilliwack city council, who a while ago opened up new trails on the Eastern Hillsides, and again imposed a First Nations name on the trails – and again most of us cannot say that name.

Dianne Darke

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