“Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, was an architect of Indigenous genocide whose name has no place on public schools” (Ballingall).
Throughout the years of 2017 to the present day, an increasing amount of media has been focused on the legacy of John A. Macdonald and his recognition within the public sphere. Many argue Canada’s first prime minister Macdonald should be removed from public recognition completely. Macdonald was responsible for passing the Indian Act in 1867 condemning the First Nations population to years of cultural suppression. As a part of the Indian Act, MacDonald enforced residential schooling for all First Nations children and therefore is viewed as a promotional figure of discriminatory views. Macdonald blindly followed the cultural norms of his time. Due to Macdonald’s discriminatory acts towards First Nations peoples, his legacy and monuments should be removed from the public sphere.
One reason to remove Macdonald is his enforcement of the Indian Act. During the creation of the Indian Act Macdonald held the position of Superintendent General of Indian Affairs and supposedly stood to create peaceful fair negotiations between the government and First Nations. However, Macdonald fully supported the Indian Act and crushed all opposition from First Nations peoples including one of their most notable leaders Lois Riel. Macdonald killed Louis Riel to stop further rebellion and keep Indigenous Peoples segregated. This directly contradicts today’s negotiations with Indigenous Peoples as we are now working towards reconciliation. In addition, residential schools were included as a part of the Indian Act and Macdonald was partially responsible for the creation of these institutions. Within residential schools’ children were “forbidden from speaking their mother languages or practicing the religions they grew up with,” separating them from their culture (Ballingall). Many argue Macdonald “meant to destroy native cultures and traditions” completely through residential schools (Olivier). Moreover, the Indian Act acted as a backbone for all future discriminatory policies towards Indigenous Peoples. By keeping monuments of Macdonald in the public sphere we are allowing Indigenous Peoples who suffered in residential schools to feel ignored and overlooked. In conclusion, Macdonald enforced the Indian Act which further dissolved indigenous cultures in Canada and his monuments stand to undermine recent reconciliation efforts.
However, some argue that Macdonald lived in another time and should be assessed by the norms and values of his time. Supporters of this way of thinking say that “these discussions are drenched in moral judgments […] without any acknowledgment that our predecessors lived in a world radically different from ours” (Gray). They argue that “changing the name on a building is another form of apology with no real punch” (Maracle). The problem with this argument is that by keeping public memorials dedicated to McDonald we are potentially promoting the ideals of his time. It may not be fair to judge Macdonald personally on his beliefs but perpetuating the ideals of his time in our modern world is not productive. Moving forward is impossible when we continue to advertise past ways of thinking that harm citizens within Canada. First Nations peoples who attended residential schools may see monuments of Macdonald as the government’s reluctance to recognize the extent of their abuse. Instead of keeping memorials that no longer represent our values we could “put up monuments to Indigenous Peoples” promoting their culture while furthering reconciliation efforts (Maracle). Although Macdonald may have been representing the values of his time period it is not in the best interest of society and reconciliation to promote beliefs from the past.
Macdonald should be removed from the public sphere due to his discriminatory history with Indigenous Peoples. Through the Indian Act, Residential Schools, and his belief system towards First Nations Macdonald suppressed indigenous culture within his role as prime minister. To ensure the past views of Frist Nations are not perpetuated monuments should be taken down to respect past grievances. By keeping monuments standing we are disrespecting communities that Macdonald suppressed and are not taking responsibility for past government actions. In the future, we can work towards taking an impartial perspective on leaders ensuring their actions are appropriate to be in the public sphere. Overall, questioning the relevance of people from the past is important to ensure that the public sphere reflects the ideas and values of today.
Maracle, Lee “Honour Indigenous History”. The Trials of John A., 2019,
https://sd43bcca-my.sharepoint.com/personal/nmorris_sd43_bc_ca/_layouts/15/onedrive.aspx?id=%2Fpersonal%2Fnmorris_sd43_bc_ca%2FDocuments%2FJAM%2Epdf&parent=%2Fpersonal%2Fnmorris_sd43_bc_ca%2FDocuments&cid=78f6191f-6567-4811-b3ae-18cd353f4f84 Accessed 3 May 2019.
Grey, Charlotte “We Need To Widen Our Views”. The Trials of John A., 2019,
https://sd43bcca-my.sharepoint.com/personal/nmorris_sd43_bc_ca/_layouts/15/onedrive.aspx?id=%2Fpersonal%2Fnmorris_sd43_bc_ca%2FDocuments%2FJAM%2Epdf&parent=%2Fpersonal%2Fnmorris_sd43_bc_ca%2FDocuments&cid=78f6191f-6567-4811-b3ae-18cd353f4f84 Accessed 2 May, 2019.
Ballingall, Alex “Architect of Genocide or Canada’s Founding Father”. The Toronto Star Online, 2017,
https://sd43bcca-my.sharepoint.com/personal/nmorris_sd43_bc_ca/_layouts/15/onedrive.aspx?id=%2Fpersonal%2Fnmorris_sd43_bc_ca%2FDocuments%2FDocuments%2FAcademic%20Controversy%20-%20JAM%20Articles%2Epdf&parent=%2Fpersonal%2Fnmorris_sd43_bc_ca%2FDocuments%2FDocuments&cid=8cbe3b33-d9ec-4730-8b61-68997f06b022 Accessed 2 May, 2019.
Oliver, Anabelle “Activists Deface Statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Downtown Montreal”. 2017,
https://sd43bcca-my.sharepoint.com/personal/nmorris_sd43_bc_ca/_layouts/15/onedrive.aspx?id=%2Fpersonal%2Fnmorris_sd43_bc_ca%2FDocuments%2FDocuments%2FAcademic%20Controversy%20-%20JAM%20Articles%2Epdf&parent=%2Fpersonal%2Fnmorris_sd43_bc_ca%2FDocuments%2FDocuments&cid=8cbe3b33-d9ec-4730-8b61-68997f06b022 Accessed 3 May, 2019.