Stop hating on John, Eh? – PCP Against

Kai Huang & Rafiq Habib - 1A Computer, 1A Management
Posted on: September 23, 2017

Sir John A. MacDonald: Founding Father of Canada, uniter of the British Colonies in North America, spearhead behind the Canadian Pacific Railway. He was our first Prime Minister, and a man that many consider a hero.
Perhaps you feel the same way.
Then why was it that, just one month ago, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) voted to call on all school districts to strip his name from every educational institution that bears it?
What if I told you that Sir John A. McDonald was one of the men responsible for starting the residential school program, indirectly responsible for thousands of deaths? Would you too rally alongside them, vehemently calling for a mass renaming? Would you consider their reaction to be too extreme, and try to understand the circumstances surrounding the situation yourself?
This is not the only recent case where the legacy of historical figures was called into question. The Ryerson Students’ Union – the same society that has publicly announced it will not celebrate Canada 150 because of “colonialism” – has repeatedly demanded that the university be renamed and a statue of its founder, Egerton Ryerson, be removed. Additionally, Indigenous leaders successfully called for the Langevin block at Parliament hill to be renamed.
The advocates claim that these actions will pave the path to truth and reconciliation. They suggest that it’s a very progressive movement, that the historical figures will be “put in their proper places.”
Where exactly are these so-called “proper places”? Off the books, out of sight, out of mind, erased from ever existing? When the history is all but forgotten, it will not heal the scars of those who have suffered, and it will cease to teach those that need teaching the most.
The people that bear the wounds of the residential schools may sleep easier, but at what cost? The Indigenous children may now grow up with less and less knowledge of the suffering their elders faced. For that matter, all children will now grow up with less and less knowledge of the atrocities that were committed. By conveniently forgetting this history in the moment, we lay the groundwork to a future where it might repeat once more. At the same time, we also take away from the incredible accomplishments that some of these people have had. Without Sir John A MacDonald we would not have a country. Egerton Ryerson was a leader in moving towards secularism in public schools and the standardization of school textbooks.
And even if some people have fewer atrocities to remember, that isn’t going to change anything today. The quality of life for the First Nations will not miraculously get better. Their relationship with the rest of Canada will not be mended. Instead, this will just bury the problems, hoping that they can be put far enough away and disconnected enough from our lives to be able to pretend that they never existed in the first place.
These relics of our rich history must be preserved. They provide a gateway to understanding what happened, and why. They serve as a reminder to past sufferings and injustices. The activists fighting for change want to put these people “in their proper place”, but the industrial shredder is not that place. Melting down the past just makes it harder to reconcile. The activists’ efforts are wasted on renaming locations. Rally and call for better education in our society, to help all sides heal and preserve. Only this way can all of us move forward; together.