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Comment: Don't rush to get rid of the Macdonald statue

A commentary by a retired (history) teacher and school administrator.
The statue of John A. MacDonald that used to stand in front of Victoria city hall, before it was removed in 2018. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

I note that Victoria’s outgoing civic administration plans to ship the “removed” statue of Sir John A. Macdonald to a warehouse in Ladner. Please reconsider.

In 2018, this same body, with a heightened sense of political correctness, deemed it necessary to have the statue of Macdonald taken down. Sir John, by the way, was Victoria’s MP in times past and also, incidentally, the first prime minister of Canada and, considered by many, to be the man most responsible for creating our nation.

In his book Celtic Lightning, Ken McGoogan adds a few details about Macdonald, whom he describes as a 19th Century figure condemned by 21st Century standards.

Macdonald did indeed lend his support to having First Nations children taken from their families and educated elsewhere. Not a great idea as it turned out though, ironically, he felt it was the right thing to do.

He had no idea that those whom he commissioned to undertake this responsibility would do it so badly; so tragically.

His tempered empathy for First Nations people is evident with his quote, “They are the original owners of the soil of which they have been dispossessed by the covetousness and ambition of our ancestors.”

Macdonald also made his negative feelings known when it came to Asians who were then wishing to immigrate. Nor did he deal sympathetically with those involved with the Northwest Rebellion.

However, to balance these policies, he enabled this country to come into existence by managing, against the odds, to build a railway to the Pacific. This alone should endear him to us for B.C. would have undoubtedly become part of the U.S. had this effort failed.

He also established what we now know as the RCMP and laid the foundations of our welfare systems as it pertained to asylums and jails.

Under his watch, American slave hunters were not permitted to return to America with slaves they might have found. Macdonald also attempted – sadly, unsuccessfully – to extend the vote to both women and First Nations people.

When the dust settled and our first constitutional framework was presented that led, ultimately to the union of the first four provinces, or “Canada,” Macdonald, it appeared, had himself authored 50 of the 72 initial resolutions.

Heroes don’t always get it right. Churchill’s support of the Gallipoli campaign proved to be wrong and many would question his willingness to allow the German bombing of Coventry without warning the population.

Critics of both events have not rushed to demolish his statues. Perhaps they, unlike some who live here, are able to accept that hindsight cannot often be perceived in advance.

My suggestion is that if the statue of one of Canada’s most distinguished and influential citizens is so irksome to those who now circulate around city hall, the decision of what to do with it should be left to the new administration after the upcoming election.

Personally, I’d like to see it on the grounds of the legislature.

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