EDITORIAL – Proposal to take Sir John A.’s name off schools is ridiculous

Sir John A. Macdonald. (Image: National Archive of Canada)

An Armchair Mayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THE ELEMENTARY Teachers’ Federation of Ontario has done everyone a favour in pointing out how ridiculous the movement to tear down statues and take the names of controversial historical figures off public places has become.

The teachers are urging school boards in Ontario to remove the name of Sir John A. Macdonald, our first prime minister, from public schools.

Macdonald, to be sure, was a flawed personality. He drank too much, for one thing. He also refused to pardon Métis hero Louis Riel after the latter was sentenced to be hanged.

But that’s not why the teachers of Ontario want his name removed from schools. It’s that Macdonald had a role in the expansion of the residential school system.

Some of Macdonald’s comments about Indigenous peoples were not his finest hour, but without him Canada would not have become a nation from sea to sea. He stitched the country together with a trans-continental railway.

Shall we now put everyone who has a statue or a park or a school or a mountain named after them under a microscope to be judged on whether their contributions to building the country should be negated by something they said or did that doesn’t pass muster by what’s politically acceptable today?

That seems to be what’s happening. Names like Cornwallis, Begbie, Ryerson and Langevin are suddenly being regarded with disdain in some corners. We must, they say, erase them from public view and forget about them.

Shall we establish a points system to sort out who goes and who stays, or simply get rid of anyone who said or did anything we might consider offensive?

The idea of removing Sir John A. from the public record is quite ridiculous, really, taking the debate to such an extreme that it defeats the entire argument. As former foreign affairs minister John Baird said, the idea is “political correctness on steroids.” (Sir John A.’s face is also on our $10 bill, by the way.)

Dealing with the lingering pain of the residential school system is something the country must do. Continuing the healing process, yes.

But doing it this way — no. Thanks to the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario for pointing that out, though unintentionally.

About Mel Rothenburger (6119 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on EDITORIAL – Proposal to take Sir John A.’s name off schools is ridiculous

  1. What really burns my butt is that I won,t be around to witness the results of all this world insanity

  2. History cannot be changed! In this case, especially, all of it should be left in place to continue to teach that even when certain persons seem to be very normal, even highly intelligent, there is a high probability that part of them could still be bat shit crazy! We don’t have to look very far to see how true that actually is!?!

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