by WorldTribune Staff, August 24, 2017
A debate similar to the removal of Confederate monuments in the United States is playing out in Canada.
Sir John A. Macdonald was Canada’s first prime minister and is considered one of the nation’s founding fathers. He is credited with having joined the eastern and western parts of Canada together through the creation of a transcontinental railway.
Macdonald’s legacy, however, also includes reported mistreatment of Indigenous peoples and because of that teachers in Ontario are calling for the removal of Macdonald’s name from public schools.
At a recent meeting, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) approved a resolution to urge school boards across the province to consider removing the name of Canada’s first prime minister, CBC News reported on Aug. 23.
Felipe Pareja, a French teacher in Peel region just west of Toronto, is behind the resolution, which he said passed by a substantial margin.
Pareja said that having public schools bearing Macdonald’s name leaves out his role in the starvation of Indigenous people along the railway to facilitate its construction — along with the first prime minister’s “central role as the architect of, really, what was genocide of Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island.”
David Mastin, president of the ETFO’s Durham local, agrees.
“When you name a school after someone, there’s an honor that’s bestowed,” Mastin told CBC News. “If there was a full opportunity to have alongside the name of Sir John A. Macdonald a little asterisk that said, ‘Oh yes, he did so and so…’ But that doesn’t happen.”
Former foreign affairs minister John Baird called the move “political correctness on steroids.”
“It’s one the most crazy and ridiculous things I’ve ever heard – just simply trying to erase Canadian history in the guise of an extreme and radical political correctness. I can’t believe the average teacher in Ontario would support this type of ridiculous idea,” said Baird.
Baird says he was also against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent decision to rename the Langevin Block, the building that houses the Prime Minister’s Office and was named after Hector-Louis Langevin, a strong proponent of the residential school system.
“In Ottawa, we honor our former leaders, whether it’s John A. Macdonald or Wilfrid Laurier – great Canadians who helped build a fantastic and prosperous country,” Baird said.
Asked if a similar decision should apply to Sir Wilfrid Laurier, associated with boosting the Chinese head tax, Pareja said he wasn’t sure.
“This is a part of a broader conversation about what kinds of things we can do as a society to truly reconcile ourselves as settlers to this land with the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island.”
The teachers union has no power to remove Macdonald’s name from the schools, but says it hopes school boards will be open to the idea, the CBC News report said.
“It’s a long road that we need to travel, but it’s one that we need to travel,” said Pareja. “I would hope that school boards would join us along this path.”