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What are we commemorating?

by Andrew Faulkner,

As a resident of Picton, I find myself rather embarrassed by the John A. Macdonald for several reasons.

Many County residents have already used their deputations to discuss the fact that Macdonald was an avid racist, notable even among his contemporaries for his disdain for Indigenous people. I will not re-document the overwhelming human suffering that resulted from his creation of the residential school system, nor will I delve into the countless examples of genocide that he willfully enacted in Canada's early years.

What I will state is that our first prime minister has already sealed himself in the history books—nobody will learn about him for the first time from a statue on Main Street—and I do not want to see his awful legacy celebrated every time I walk to the library. Each time I pass "Holding Court", it makes me a little ashamed of my otherwise big-hearted town.

The statue is also embarrassing on a smaller scale. It doesn't even commemorate the big-ticket nation-building items that are trotted out in Macdonald's defence. Instead, it memorializes him beating a minor charge in court. Do we want to be known as the municipality that celebrates being the place where John A. was non-definitively guilty of a minor legal offence?

I believe the statue should be removed. (Or perhaps we can replace it with a statue of the next person to get out of a jaywalking ticket for not crossing at one of the crosswalks.)

However, if the the Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee decides to keep the statue in an attempt to commemorate history, at the very least let’s do it properly. Should the statue remain, let’s note the full scope of McDonald’s statecraft—building Canada as a nation by way of brutalizing a vast population of people, with truly awful repercussions for generations. If we want to celebrate how many miles of train tracks he built, let's also note how many bodies he buried along the way. It's history, after all.

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