“Without (John A. MacDonald), Canada would not exist,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said, again, less than a week after a mass grave of children was discovered on the grounds of a residential school in British Columbia.
Shockingly, there are many people today who do not share in the Premier’s unabashed adulation for the man who was Canada’s first Prime Minister.
And let’s just hit that quote head on, shall we? MacDonald was the country’s first Prime Minister, but French, British, and American settlers who were here prior to MacDonald paved the way for the big Mac himself.
They were the colonizers who committed fraud upon the People that were here first to create Canada as we know it today.
We do live and learn.
Our great-great-grandparents used cocaine as a pain reliever and heroin as a relaxant. Somehow, Kenney manages to hold back on detailing these early benefits while shuttering safe consumption sites.
But how could a man who jokingly called himself the “Minister of curry in a hurry” possibly be a racist? People ask.
Others ask that with a straight face – I am being facetious.
“If we want to get into cancelling every, uh, f-figure in our history who had, uh, who-who took positions on-on issues at the time that we now judge harshly, and rightly, uh, in-in historical retrospect, but if that’s the new standard, then, um, I think almost the entire f-founding leadership of our country gets cancelled,” Kenney sputtered, as he typically does when saying things that aren’t true.
Yes, that’s precisely how it works, Premier.
Instead of raving about the “great leader”, we ensure every Canadian knows that the leaders of this “imperfect” country mandated, expected, and accepted the genocide of Indigenous People they came into contact with.
Of children who never returned home.
Of children taken with the government of Canada’s authority, in the name of a foreign, and imposed, sovereign.
That in addition to direct efforts to “kill the Indian within the child”, the Canadian government used the Indian Act to effect a literal genocide of Indigenous people.
“The objective – I quote from Sir John A. Macdonald, our revered forefather – was to ‘take the Indian out of the child,’ and thus solve what was referred to as the Indian problem. ‘Indianness’ was not to be tolerated; rather it must be eliminated. In the buzz-word of the day, assimilation; in the language of the 21st century, cultural genocide.”Chief Justice Beverly McLachlan, as quoted in the Globe and Mail, May 28, 2015
We do not want these people erased from history. We want to know their names.
But we must remove those leader’s names from school buildings where our children learn. We must remove their names from the streets where we live.
We must stop pretending their “imperfections” were anything less than fatal flaws.
But by no means should we “cancel them”.
We must remember them.
All of our children, and our children’s children, should know their names. They should be able to recount each of their misdeeds and lack of humanity.
Canadians will stop saying they were “imperfect” but “great leaders”. Canadians will recognize the irreparable harm caused to hundreds of thousands of people, in their time and ours.
Their actions cannot be defended.
We need to acknowledge the ethnocentrism, the intentional lack of consideration for human life, and hold them accountable.
We have no intention of cancelling the leaders of Canada, Premier.
We want their stories told and their names will recall the shame their actions, and inaction, have earned.
This post contains opinion.
Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean is a descendent of Scottish, English, German, and Russian settlers in Canada.
Connect: @Mitchell_AB for more, @thisweekinAB for posts, @politicalRnD for something in between
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