Portrait of Sir John A. Macdonald (U.S. Library of Congress)

LETTER: Sir John A. Macdonald’s role in residential schools

Canada’s first prime minister was progressive for his time

Re: Victoria to remove Sir John A. Macdonald statue from city hall

An open letter to Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and council:

Hearing of council’s action to remove the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald, I was surprised that one would even exist in Victoria. The city should attribute its creation more to Sir James Douglas and the Lekwungen peoples, the Songhees and the Esquimalt Nations, as Douglas was the Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company when Fort Albert (later to be called Fort Victoria) was built back in 1843.

As a historian of Macdonald, I am fully aware of his role with First Nations, starting with the removal of Mississauga First Nations people from what is now the Fort York site and the forced movement of some of them to land just west of Kingston, something young Macdonald learned about while going to grammar school in the 1820s. That was his introduction to how society at the time felt that First Nations should be dealt with.

As he grew up and became a lawyer and then a politician in the Province of Canada and then the country itself, he was in a society that, unfortunately, did not pay the respect to First Nations that they should have. Hence, history has only recorded the more ‘promoted’ aspects of what has happened in our past as it has done with him and many others.

As for the residential school system and its development, that must be attributed to Edgar Dewdney moreso than Sir John. It seems that Sir John must take the heat for the residential schools phenomenon that was really the creation of Anglican, Methodist, and Roman Catholic institutions in Upper Canada (Ontario).

One has to wonder what actions are being taken regarding reconciliation that address the roles of the various churches that wanted to change the mindset of so many First Nations throughout the country, making them into ‘white men’.

There could even be a school of thought that would like to have the name ‘Victoria’ changed to ‘Camosun’, which would much further respect the role of the three First Nations in the area that is now encompassed by the city. But seeing that Sir John was the Prime Minister at the time, it always seems that the most senior person in governance must take responsibility for the decisions made by the legislative body of which that person is the ‘leader’.

Most people are benignly ignorant of Sir John’s complete legacy. That included considering extending the franchise to women and various ethnic groups that were minorities in what was quickly becoming a neo-European society, decades before the franchise was so extended, due to the myopic view of the male dominated society at the time.

I trust that council will remove the statue carefully, rather than like some instances in the southern U.S. states.

Graham Evan MacDonell, Scottish-Canadian Genealogical Research Services, Abbotsford

Just Posted

Shuswap residents taking treated sludge protest to Kamloops

Opponents to proposed use of biosolids at Turtle Valley ranch will air concerns at city hall

VIDEO: Weekend weather for the Okanagan-Shuswap

A mix of rain, clouds and sun are expected for the Okanagan, Shuswap and Similkameen

Vietnam visit focused on waste management, greenhouse gases

Landfill within cemetary one of the challenges looked at by CSRD’s Ben Van Nostrand

Zoning change to ease plans for housing for homeless in Salmon Arm

Forty units for homeless considered by BC Housing along with 70 units of affordable rental housing

Easter dinner at Kelowna’s Gospel Mission

Clients of the Gospel Mission are in for an Easter feast.

Okanagan start-up asks Ottawa to protect kids online

Mazu’s online petition to protect children while online is over halfway to it’s goal of 500 signatures

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

B.C. RCMP arrest foreign national in connection to airport thefts

A woman, 60, is being held in police custody as Richmond RCMP investigate

Westjet tries again to dismiss proposed class-action lawsuit alleging discrimination

Former flight attendant claims airline broke contractual promise to create harassment-free workplace

Snow falling at Big White near season’s end

Big White is open until April 22

Man airlifted to hospital after apparent hunting incident in East Kootenay

The man was in stable condition when he was flown out of Fairmont Hot Springs to a Calgary hospital

Letter: Writer hopes Alberta will turn off the tap, teach B.C. a lesson

So glad to see Jason Kenney get elected in Alberta and hope… Continue reading

Police probe eight fires set at B.C. elementary school

Nanaimo RCMP say fires appear to have been set intentionally

Rain closes North Okanagan fields

Forecast calling for more rain Friday

Most Read