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EDITORIAL – Sir John A. is our imperfect Canadian hero; stop beating up on him

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

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

I’M NOT A RELIGIOUS person but there’s some pretty good advice in the Bible. For example, “Let he or she who is without sin cast the first stone.”

I know those aren’t the exact words but the meaning is that we shouldn’t be quick to judge, and that a person’s life must be weighed in its totality, not on occasional faults and mistakes along the way.

If a person accomplishes great things, if he or she is spiritual in the sense of caring deeply about others and this spaceship we call Earth, that person deserves to be remembered on the balance, not on the exceptions.

There’s another book that offers wisdom on the subject. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein is about a dog who wants to be reincarnated as a human.

The lead character Enzo reaches this conclusion:

“The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles — preferably of his own making — in order to triumph.

“A hero without a flaw is of no interest to an audience or to the universe…”

Which brings me to Sir John A. Macdonald. His statue was removed from Victoria City Hall on Saturday because the City council there thinks it will help in reconciliation with First Nations.

If any man was imperfect it was Sir John A., mostly endearingly so but in other ways not so much. He did and said some things he shouldn’t have.

But he was the founder of our nation. He stitched Canada together from unlikely shreds and patterns of cloth and made us into the best country in the world. Like him, Canada is imperfect.

But Sir John A. is our hero. Reconciliation means to restore friendly relations. No matter what has happened in the past, it doesn’t mean one side gets everything it wants.

Reconciliation isn’t about perfection. Nelson Mandela defined a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.

So, leave us our imperfect Canadian heroes. Stop beating up on Sir John A.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on ArmchairMayor.ca and CFJC Today. Contact him at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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About Mel Rothenburger (6243 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca 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 ArmchairMayor.ca 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.

8 Comments on EDITORIAL – Sir John A. is our imperfect Canadian hero; stop beating up on him

  1. Stephanie Brenner // August 14, 2018 at 12:07 PM // Reply

    History is a subject school or a category in Trivial Pursuit. It’s OVER. It’s interesting to read about but it’s not a lifestyle. Get on with it and quit dwelling on the past. It can’t be changed. Live and deal with the “Here and Now” if you want a better life. Quit wasting your time and emotions on things gone by that can’t be changed. Do something relevant for “the now” which we live in. “History” will keep a record of it and we’ll be judged by how we handled the situation and what we’ve done. Life goes on. And on. And on.

  2. Lorraine Winter // August 14, 2018 at 11:49 AM // Reply

    Your editorial was thoughtful and eloquent. Most of us love Canada and how Sir John A ‘stitched’ this country together.
    But white folks got the upper hand and our welcoming First Nations peoples (all those who lived here first) got the raw end of the stick.
    There are times in history when statues need to be removed and archived somewhere else.

  3. Cynthia Friedman // August 13, 2018 at 12:56 PM // Reply

    I think the more important point is that many, if not most, Indigenous Peoples equate John A. with colonialism, residential schools, and pain. I believe the Peoples really hurt when they see memorials and testimonies to that man. Because so many hurt, I can see why removing the statue is the right thing to do. It is not rewriting history or whitewashing (note irony); it is a gesture of reconciliation and respect. As of now, the statues are salt in the wounds. Let the wounds heal. Then maybe, one day, they could go back up.

    • I think most indigenous people equate residential schools with the white man in general. I doubt that John A ever came into the equation until the politically correct , apologize for everything crowd brought him up. Yes, residential schools did not turn out well, and I think you can mostly blame churches for that, but John A started them with the best of intentions.

  4. But was he more interested in defending the pecuniary interests of his masters/sponsors more than building an imperfect country for all to be thankful? Official history has been written with a lot of bias not with a lot of reality regardless of the country in question. Yes perhaps it is time to revisit the axioms.

  5. Sean McGuinness // August 13, 2018 at 7:07 AM // Reply

    An interesting conundrum. I see tearing down a stature as really only a token gesture. Our cities (including the city of Victoria itself) are bigger monuments to the oppression of indigenous peoples. What is more important is that history be rewritten in a more truthful manner. Kids in our schools should also know, in addition to his good deeds, what Sir John A did to the First Nations people.

  6. The reference for casting the stones is taken from John 8; it would be worthwhile to read the first 11 verses. Of note, the woman who was caught in the very act of adultery was brought to the temple alone; where was the man?
    The account ends with Jesus saying to the woman that He did not condemn her (either) and she was to go and sin no more.
    Victoria’s city council might have gained some insight into the dilemma they faced by reading those 11 verses. It is hard to condemn Sir John A. while still pumping raw sewage into the ocean. Yet, the sight of the statue had become a political embarrassment in the 21st century.
    Would they have been better to have let the statue remain as a reminder to a dark chapter in Canada’s history and put up a statue to compliment the new attitudes and new covenant Canada wants to embrace with our indigenous people?
    A dark past in tension with the promise of a new beginning and a better future; political correctness at its finest.

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