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

Revelstoke Secondary School celebrates Pride Day

Students at Revelstoke Secondary School celebrated their first ever Pride Day on… Continue reading

BC Book Award finalists coming to Revelstoke Library

Two finalists of BC Book prizes will be visiting and reading at… Continue reading

It’s Bike to Work Week

Last year Revelstoke was the Biking Capital of B.C.

Folk and bluegrass singers performing in Revelstoke June 14

Nelson singers Laura Landsberg and Allison Girvan will be playing at the… Continue reading

Revelstoke RCMP seeking information on theft from a vehicle

They are looking for this man in relation to the incident

Marriage proposal on the big screen at Enderby drive-in

Kelowna man gets engaged in front of hundreds to Vernon sweetheart

Federal government funds millions to help B.C. police spot drugged driving

Many police departments have expressed wariness about using the only government-approved roadside test

Judge: Mississippi 6-week abortion ban ‘smacks of defiance’

The new law would prohibit most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected

On-duty Vancouver cop facing dangerous driving charges after cyclist hit

The woman was taken to hospital with minor injuries

Government dedicates $5 million to address workplace sexual harassment

Four organizations in B.C. will split the stipend

Oil companies, 24-cent gap between B.C., Alberta to be focus of gas price probe

Premier John Horgan called the spike in gas prices ‘alarming’

Okanagan College Enactus chapter brings home national gold

Students are leading the way to social betterment

Driver, animals escape injury after collision on Highway 1 near Sicamous

RCMP say road conditions were not a factor in afternoon crash

Motorcycle deaths spike 50% since 2017

Riders were most likely fatally crash on the weekends compared with the rest of the week

Most Read