Humanities 10 TALONS
May 9th, 2019
A founding father or family destroyer
Canada’s current prime minister, Justin Trudeau proudly expresses his nation of diversity and equality, opening the country’s doors to immigrants and refugees. As Canadians celebrate their multicultural identity, the controversy around Canada’s first prime minister, John A. Macdonald reemerges in the public spotlight. In recent, various groups are bringing up his actions towards the Metis people and are calling for the removal of Macdonald’s public commemorative arts, as well as schools with his name. Supporters of Mcdonald’s removal argue that his injustice towards Indigenous peoples are unforgivable, while defenders of the prime minister state that his success in confederating Canada, where many call their home, cannot be dismissed. Because of John A. Macdonald’s persistence in unifying Canada, his name and figure should be kept in public spheres for new generations to acknowledge and learn from his good and bad accomplishments.
After the American Civil War, “many believed that Britain was becoming increasingly reluctant to defend its North American colonies against possible American aggression” (Waite). The newly independent United States brought fear of possible British suppression. During his years in power, John A Macdonald created many of the foundations that Canada sit upon today, such as creating the National Policy and separating the newly confederated Canada from American aggression. If his name and mementoes were stripped from the public, John A Macdonald’s legacy would be shrouded in his Indigenous People scandal. His determination in confederating Canada gave Canadians a unified identity. Without our first prime minister, supporters of his removal wouldn’t have a place to riot in the first place.
On the contrary, John A. Macdonald was responsible for the implementation of the ‘Indian Act’. His dream of “[organizing] a system of federal schools for Indigenous children that could be used to disrupt Indigenous lifeways […]” led to the creation of residential schools (Carleton). Families were separated, trusts were broken, and culture was destroyed. Knowledge on his racial discrimination towards Native Americans and the Chinese evokes uneasiness in many Canadians who believe our first prime minister’s values aren’t a good representation of Canada today. In 2018, a statue of John A. Macdonald was removed from Victoria’s city hall “[…] as a gesture of reconciliation” with Indigenous peoples (CBC, 2018). Supporters of his removal are only easing their state of mind, that getting rid of a public statue will solve the tension. Canada is continuously moving towards reconciliations and away from the values of John A. Macdonald’s times. New policies such as the Canadian Multiculturalism Act imposed by Pierre Trudeau seeks to mend the broken trust between Aboriginal Peoples as well as institute diversity in Canada by welcoming all races into its borders.
The chance to learn from Canada’s past is a better decision than covering up our nation’s past. To move forward, we must recognize and acknowledge the fact that our history is not perfect. When values and norms change over time, it’s easy for people to forget the sacrifices and struggles it took for historical figures to achieve what we cherish nowadays: a home. Canada. There wouldn’t be such a place if it weren’t for Sir John A. Macdonald.
Anderson, Rick. “Should Statues of Sir John A. Macdonald Be Removed? No.” Thestar.com, 20 Aug. 2018, www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/thebigdebate/2018/08/20/should-statues-of-sir-john-a-macdonald-be-removed-no.html.
Carleton, Sean. “John A. Macdonald Was the Real Architect of Residential Schools.” Thestar.com, 9 July 2017, www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2017/07/09/john-a-macdonald-was-the-real-architect-of-residential-schools.html.
Farber, Bernie M., et al. “Should Statues of Sir John A. Macdonald Be Removed? Yes.” Thestar.com, 21 Aug. 2018, www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/thebigdebate/2018/08/21/should-statues-of-sir-john-a-macdonald-be-removed-yes.html.
Gerster, Jane. “’Statues Are Not History’: Considering the Removal of Sir John A. Macdonald.” Global News, 12 Aug. 2018, globalnews.ca/news/4380641/does-removing-statues-change-history/.
“Ontario Teacher Explains Why Sir John A. Macdonald’s Name Should Be Stripped from Public Schools | CBC Radio.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 24 Aug. 2017, www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-wednesday-edition-1.4258866/ontario-teacher-explains-why-sir-john-a-macdonald-s-name-should-be-stripped-from-public-schools-1.4258872.
“Sir John A. Macdonald.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/sir-john-alexander-macdonald.
“The Controversy around John A. MacDonald’s Complicated Legacy | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 5 Nov. 2018, www.cbc.ca/news/thenational/the-controversy-around-john-a-macdonald-s-complicated-legacy-1.4892095.
Waite, P.B. “Confederation.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/confederation