“I know of no time in human history where ignorance was better than knowledge” (Neil DeGrasse Tyson).
In the present day, many Canadians wish to find an issue, use a brief and simple solution, and move on, acting like everything is now remedied. They resist learning more, allowing themselves to be content with their small contribution and continue with their personal lives. We can observe this when looking at rising controversy surrounding monuments of Canada’s first prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald. Recently, many activist groups across Canada have called for the removal of Sir John A. Macdonald from public institutions based on his role in the creation of residential schools and his discriminatory treatment of Chinese Canadians. Meanwhile their opposition is rallying for his continued representation, as a founding father of Canada. Similarly, Sir John A. Macdonald should not be removed from the public sphere because recognizing, understanding, and discussing these issues is the first and most important step of solving the problem.
Unfortunately, Canadian history is not as peaceful as it is often depicted. We can see this in John A. Macdonald’s actions surrounding the creation of the residential schooling system which affected thousands of indigenous children and their families. If we are to move forward with reconciliation, we must recognize the mistakes of the past and actively attempt to resolve them to the best of our abilities. The action of deeming everything related to residential schools as Macdonald’s doing does nothing but “obscure the enormity of the wrong path Canada went down and continued on for more than a century” (Anderson, 2018). Recent attempts to quell the protest and discussion is most likely due to denial as even today, “Many Canadians resist the notion that Canada was responsible for genocide” because they don’t want to acknowledge that their country was not in fact, perfect. (Alexander Innes, 2018). If we wish to resolve the problem of residential schools, then we are obliged to recognize publicly that it happened. The only way to universally do that is to continue the conversation. By removing John A. Macdonald’s name from the public sphere, we will lose the discussion surrounding his actions, and the awareness it causes.
Many people argue that Macdonald’s name should be removed from all public institutions, calling him an “architect of indigenous genocide” and stating that his name is “unworthy to be associated with children’s schools” (Ballingall, 2017). On the contrary, By removing Macdonald from the public eye, we are underrepresenting a huge part of our country’s history, subsequently sweeping a continuous, major issue under the carpet. The removal of the person who created residential schools does not erase that they existed, all it does is “enrage the Canadian right which will result in polarization, stagnation and conflict” (Shokeir, 2018). As Canadians, there are more pressing issues that require consideration on the topic of reconciliation, such as respecting traditional territories, working towards solving environmental issues, higher representation and government and countless more. These would arguably all be more effective solutions than renaming a building or taking down a statue. The removal of Sir John A. Macdonald’s name from the public sphere would cause us to lose sight of the major issue that is reconciliation.
To conclude, it is mandatory that we face the ugly side of Canada’s past, and allow ourselves to admit to an imperfect history. The next step is to move on from just remembrance and act in a way that will make a tangible difference for indigenous peoples in Canada. Throughout this journey, the presence of Sir John A. Macdonald in the public sphere will serve as a reminder for the reasoning behind our actions even if that was not the monuments original purpose. Reconciliation is not a simple problem with a simple solution, and in today’s day and age, we need these monuments to keep the discussion going. Overall, we have to realize the sad truth: taking down a metal visage will not solve this problem. Renaming a library will not solve this problem. Taking a face off of currency will not solve this problem. The only real way to solve the issue of reconciliation is to work together and own up to our past with a will to change for the future. Because “you can’t erase history” you can only act upon it (McKenna, 2018).
Anderson, Rick. “Should Statues of Sir John A. Macdonald Be Removed? No.” Thestar.com, The Star, 20 Aug. 2018, www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/thebigdebate/2018/08/20/should-statues-of-sir-john-a-macdonald-be-removed-no.html.
Ballingall, Alex. “Sir John A. Macdonald: Architect of Genocide or Canada’s Founding Father?” Thestar.com, The Star, 24 Aug. 2017, www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/08/24/john-a-macdonald-schools-should-be-renamed-elementary-teachers-union.html.
Dangerfield, Katie. “Majority of Canadians Say Statues of John A. Macdonald Should Stay Put: Survey.” Global News, Global News, 6 Sept. 2018, globalnews.ca/news/4430598/sir-john-a-macdonald-statue-removal-survey/.
Innes, Robert Alexander. “Don’t Forget John A. Macdonald – But Don’t Honour Him.” The Tyee, The Tyee, 15 Aug. 2018, thetyee.ca/Analysis/2018/08/15/John-A-Macdonald-Reflection/.
Rabson, Mia. “’You Can’t Erase History’: McKenna Weighs in on Removal of Statues like Sir John A. Macdonald.” Global News, Global News, 17 Aug. 2018, globalnews.ca/news/4389453/catherine-mckenna-sir-john-a-macdonald-statue-removal/.
Shokeir, Peter. “OPINION: John A. Macdonald Statues Should Remain.” Whitecourt Star, Whitecourt Star, 27 Aug. 2018, www.whitecourtstar.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-john-a-macdonald-statues-should-remain.