Get the full story.
I believe that presenting the history of any person or event, warts and all, is the best way to go. Rather than applying only current feelings and outlooks onto our imperfect past, let’s present the whole story, as best as we can, based on ALL of the evidence available to us. Let’s not make things up about our history that are not true. Lets not erase the history that can be documented as fact. Let’s add to our history and celebrate a fuller view of our past.
I am commenting here on Sir John A. Macdonald in general, and about the “Holding Court” statue in particular.
SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD
There has been much talk, and much confusion, about what Sir John A. Macdonald did or did not do to Aboriginal groups in Canada while he was Prime Minister of Canada. I have seen several newspaper articles that quote various persons who have made disparaging remarks about Macdonald, and I’m sure various social media platforms are replete with negative comments about him. However, I have never seen a single well-documented article or report that even attempts to summarize Macdonald’s so-called “evil doings”. Newspaper articles quote individuals who may or may not have seen such reports, but the reports are not quoted, just the opinion of the interviewee is mentioned… and we certainly cannot rely on the veracity of claims on social media which are backed up by nothing more than re-posts of Facebook pages and re-Tweets of Twitter comments.
On the other hand, there are mountains of scholarly works which fully document Sir John’s political career, and most of them present a litany of great things that our first prime minister accomplished. Here’s only a few of the books about him: Donald Creighton, “John A. Macdonald, Confedeation and the West”, 1967 P.B. Waite, “Macdonald: His Life and World”, 1975 Richard Gwyn, “John A: The Man Who Made Us”, 2008 Richard Gwyn, “John A: Nation Maker”, 2012.
It takes a great deal of time and effort to put together a comprehensive report on a historical subject. The historians who wrote the books listed above collectively spent decades doing that. I’m sure that the Holding Court Statue Working Group does not have the time to produce a well documented report summarizing what Macdonald did to whom and when, yet without that vital information it will be impossible to make any valid decisions.
Such a report would show things like…
— in 1876, when the Indian Act was voted in Parliament, Sir John A. was not even the Prime Minister! The PM at that time was Alexander Mackenzie (another potential “next target”)
— in 1885, Macdonald personally pushed the Franchise Bill through Parliament amid protests from both the Liberal opposition and from his own Conservative caucus. This Bill gave the vote to many indigenous persons and it remained in force until Sir Wilfred Laurier’s Liberal government repealed it in 1898
— in 1894, the Indian Act was amended to “establish an industrial school or boarding school for Indians” and “for the committal… of children of Indian blood under the age of sixteen years, to such industrial school or boarding school, there to be kept, cared for and educated for a period not extending beyond the time at which such children shall reach the age of eighteen years.” This was was real beginning of what we now call the “Residential Schools”. [‘An Act to Further Amend the Indian Act’, “Senate and House of Commons Bills, 7th Parliament, 4th Session”, 1894, pp. 1063-1064.] However, in 1894, Macdonald had beed dead FOR THREE YEARS!
THE “HOLDING COURT” STATUE
Was this statue specifically erected to recognize a person who may have done serious wrongs to Aboriginal peoples? The answer is NO.
Was this statue specifically erected to commemorate any event that may have had a negative impact on Aboriginal peoples? The answer is NO.
Was this statue erected to memorialize a Prime Minitster of Canada? The answer is NO.
Then, why was this statue erected?
This statue represents a young John Macdonald as a lawyer practicing law in Prince Edward County in the 1830’s. He later went on to become Canada’s first prime minister, but the statue represents Macdonald BEFORE he even entered politics.There is no doubt that this statue would not have been erected if he did not later go on to become prime minister of Canada . However, the statue itself is of a man whose only connection to Aborignal persons at the time was acting as a lawyer defending several Aborignal men in court, and singing in a Mohawk choir! (see Richard Gwyn, “John A: Nation Maker”, 2012.)
This statue shows a tiny portion of Prince Edward County’s history. It shows a young man arguing a point of law in a courtroom. It could easily be interpreted as John Macdonald arguing a case on behalf of one of his Aboriginal clients.
Rather than applying only current feelings and outlooks onto our imperfect past, let’s present the whole story, as best as we can, based on all of the evidence available to us.
Lets not erase history.
Let’s add to it.
Consultation has concluded