The so-called debate around the legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald — I write “so-called” because you need two sides for a debate, and the report being presented to city council tonight is so one-sided as to make a propagandist blush — has saddened me.
People speak in generalities of Macdonald’s misdeeds, without specifics, without acknowledging that residential schools date to the 1820s, long before Macdonald’s time. And I’m saddened by the fact that the report prepared by city staff does nothing to denounce the vandals and cowards who burn effigies, throw paint, attack Kingstonians in their own homes, and even desecrate a man’s burial site. Yes, it’s come to that, and we should be ashamed to live in a community that allows such things without condemnation, but instead accepts them as credence to a point of view.
It seems anyone who speaks up for Macdonald is immediately tagged as racist, and the discussion ends there. The facts and opinions are dismissed out of hand. How is that helpful in achieving a balanced — and accurate — portrayal of the man? Macdonald’s legacy is being examined, not in the lens of his time but in what we believe to be a more enlightened lens of today.
If we embark on that road, and solely judge yesterday’s leaders by today’s standards, what are we to do with Mohawk leader Molly Brant? What if, for instance, a study of this rightly honoured Kingstonian revealed that she owned a slave? Would we then be talking about taking her name off the new school in Kingscourt and rewriting her plaque at St. Paul’s church to reflect that? Of course not, considering it within the entirety of Brant’s life and her contribution to Canada.