Something to consider
John A. Macdonald was an influential man, especially as our first Prime Minister. He did many great things during his multiple terms in office, including uniting a country.
But he, along with many other leaders at the time, did and said horrible things to the Indigenous population of Canada.
But John A. wasn’t alone. Just look at Robert Borden, our 10th prime minister and the face on our $100 bill. His party ran on a “White Canada” platform. Look at Louis Riel; a hero to some, a terrorist to others. Both have schools named after them. I’m sure if you looked hard enough, you would be able to find faults in every single prime minister and Canadian icon.
Does that mean we should remove their names from our school? I’m not convinced, but it is at least something we should consider.
Taking their names off schools would not be a win for Canadian diversity, but it at least opens up the dialogue about Canada’s not-so-perfect past.
We can’t change history, but we can reconcile and move forward.
Maybe we should leave the names of our important people in the history classroom, where a more complete picture of who they were and what they did can be explored.
How about we instead name our school after places, towns and non-controversial things, so we can carry on with what school is supposed to be about – learning – rather than a political statement.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario recently asked school boards to remove Sir John A. Macdonald’s name from schools.
The reason: “his central role as the architect of genocide against Indigenous Peoples.”
While we should 100 per cent avoid promoting or condoning racism in any form, there are many factors to consider before removing Macdonald’s name from schools.
First, he’s a father of Confederation. He brought Canada together and is a huge reason we’re celebrating Canada 150 this year.
Second, Sir John A. was also instrumental in the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. That alone brought Canada together in ways never before seen.
Third, we can’t rewrite history. Whether good or bad, Macdonald had a huge hand in building the Canada we all live in today. It’s fact.
There is no one alive today who can know exactly what Canada was like in the 1800s. It’s impossible; we didn’t live through it.
It seems easy to look at a situation in hindsight and see the gravity of wrongdoing, but when you’re in it, it’s a whole different story.
Yes, Sir John A. Macdonald had many flaws and his support for residential schools and the Indian Act should be acknowledged and taught, not forgotten.
But removing his name from schools is downplaying his essential role in Canadian history.
And the question remains: where do we draw the line?