April 18, 2018
John A. Macdonald: A Racist, Violent White Supremacist
It’s truly fascinating how years of prejudice and bigotry can be traced back to a single man. John A. Macdonald’s actions have been romanticized for decades, the glorification of such an unprogressive leader displayed through statues, monuments, and eponyms. While some see Macdonald as the brilliant leader who founded Canadian confederacy, others are fully aware of his violent and discriminatory policies, fighting to put an end to the harmful misconceptions that haunt today’s society. Due to his contributions to Indigenous genocide and residential schools, as well as the racial antipathy he showed towards those of Chinese descent, his name and figure should be removed from public institutions.
The irreversible spiral of racism and oppression that Macdonald initiated has brought so much trauma into the lives of Indigenous children and families. He was “[an] architect of Indigenous genocide, [attempting to use residential schools to] remove [their] story, negate [their] well-being and ignore [their] continued survival” (Dimaline). The students who were forced to attend these schools were isolated, removed from their homes and families, unable to protest the unacceptable quantity and quality of their meals and the “ill-fitting, shabby [… and inadequate clothing they were given] (Miller). Not only did these children experience physical and emotional abuse, but many were sexually abused by staff members. Continuing to illustrate the so-called “success” of John A. Macdonald is ignoring the pain he inflicted on Indigenous communities throughout Canada, further silencing the voices of those who feel the burden of the 6,000 deaths that occured in these inhumane, overcrowded schools (Puxley). We must recognize that facing consequences for tearing apart families and wiping out Indigenous culture is inevitable, regardless of whether or not Macdonald’s actions were considered ethical at the time.
Some may argue that Macdonald’s name and figure should remain accessible to the general public, as we must learn to accept mistakes of the past in order to move forward and refrain from repeating negative aspects of history. However, by removing his presence from public institutions it will become evident that Canada is admitting to past wrongdoings and taking the necessary steps to ensure the ideas of the past aren’t still being perpetuated today. His behaviour towards Chinese immigrants and the initiation of the Chinese Head Tax—a law created by Macdonald that “[all] Chinese people had to pay $50 (later raised to $100, then $500) to come to Canada”—contradicts the common belief that Canada is a diverse and accepting place (Chan). He “made life difficult for many Chinese families that were […] separated by discriminatory Canadian law”, purposely excluding them and punishing them because he believed it was the only way to exert European dominance (Lee). Showing only the progressive side of Macdonald is disregarding the thousands of Chinese immigrants who were separated from their families and forced to pay hundreds of dollars, money that even the white, privileged citizens of Canada didn’t have. Statues often only illustrate the positive attributes of a person or event, and although John A. Macdonald did accomplish great things during his time as prime minister, there are many tragic events that outweigh his other achievements. Removing the statues and monuments of MacDonald will promote multiculturalism in Canada, and prove that we are moving away from the mindsets of the past.
The ongoing debate on whether or not John A. Macdonald’s legacy should remain in the public eye is being fought by a multitude of demographics; some argue that his achievements still deserve to be acknowledged, while others insist that his racist policies are enough to have monuments that portray him as a hero removed. When one considers the extent of his contributions to centuries of oppression for Indigenous people, and his purposeful segregation of Chinese immigrants from those of European descent, it is clear that he should be removed from the public eye. It is important to empathize with those who have been deeply affected by his actions, as their safety and comfort should be prioritized over the preservation of history.