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Canada’s first prime minister to go on trial in Picton

OPINION – By David Warrick
As the ‘cancel culture’ gains momemtum, Canadians are finding truth not in fact, but in protest.

Is it time to remove statues of  Tommy Douglas leader of the NDP who also held racist views? Tommy Douglas was voted the “greatest Canadian of all time” as part of a 2004 CBC television series. And yet, few Canadians know that at one time he advocated eugenics and forced sterilization of “mental defectives.”

And should the Canadian Museum of History remove references to the slave trade among the Haida peoples of the west coast of Canada who went to war to acquire wealth, primarily through slave labour and the slave trade?

And should we remove statues of Pierre Elliott Trudeau because of his anti-Semitic and racist views before his gradual conversion to liberalism starting around 1944? This was the period in his life when he denounced the Allied forces fighting the Axis power after joining an elite revolutionary cell called “LX.”

I say these things only because the cancel culture is gaining momentum. Most Canadians do not know their own history. With some exceptions, it is literally not mentioned in the curriculum and not taught in schools across Canada. Truth and Reconciliation is now officially the new historical narrative of Canada.

Most Canadians don’t know that religious residential schools have a long history in Canada dating back to the 17th century in New France. They did not begin in the 19th century in Canada, nor the U.S. They were introduced into cultures around the world by colonial powers.

Most Canadians also don’t know that in 1876, the Indian Act received royal assent under a Liberal government headed by Alexander McKenzie.

They also don’t know that slavery was abolished in Upper Canada by Lt. Gov. Simcoe, 40 years before Britain and 70 years before the U.S. setting the stage for the Underground Railroad which allowed 30,000 to 40,000 slaves escape to freedom in Canada.

In the absence of reliable historical documentation, Canadians find truth not in fact, but in protest.

And now protest has arrived in the small town of historic Picton, where a bronze portrait of Canada’s first prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald was unveiled on July 1, 2015 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his birth. The bronze portrait by Ruth Abernethy depicts the nineteen-year-old Macdonald presenting his first case to a judge and jury in October 8, 1834 in the new the courthouse in Picton. He won that trial as a student of law and a few months later passed his Attorney Examination at the Law Society of Upper Canada and was awarded a license to practice law in Upper Canada. That marked the beginning of a career in law and politics that was to last a remarkable 56 years.

So what does this have to do with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

Well, the topic of Macdonald’s character and motives is as vast as the country which he helped create and lead, from the time he entered public office in 1843 as alderman for Kingston, until his death while still Prime Minister in 1891.
Over the next few weeks in the County, the Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee (PEHAC) is expected to lead a public discussion about the future of the Macdonald bronze portrait in Picton. Canada’s first prime minister is on trial.
Chair Ken Dewar is placed in an impossible position of having “to lead a conversation about the legacy of Canada’s first prime minister.”

In a few weeks?

The “constructive deliberation” cannot and should not begin in committee followed by a vote in council. The topic is simply far too complex and multi-faceted to be fully understood by discussions, conversations and presentations lasting a few minutes each. This is a topic that requires a full analysis looking at the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2008-2015 and the recommendations (a.k.a. “Calls to Action”) 2015. These are issues that require careful and detailed analyses rather than well intentioned conversations about the legacy of colonialism and “systemic racism.”

What are the qualifications of the members of PEHAC or council for that matter? Have they read the entire TRC report and recommendation? Are they familiar with the history of residential and industrial schools in Canada and around the world run by religious orders? How much do they know about the history of Canada?

Shouldn’t these questions be asked?

PEHAC is a committee composed of volunteers knowledgeable in aspects of Canadian and County history. Council is composed of elected representatives from their constituencies in the County of Prince Edward in Ontario, Canada.

Both groups have been given the unenviable task of sitting as petit jury in a trial that will judge not only the Macdonald legacy, but Canada’s past — including the 20 prime ministers who were in office when the residential schools were operating until 1996 when they were terminated. Yes, that’s 20 prime ministers, not one.

Before any action is taken to remove, modify or add to the Abernethy portrait of the young Macdonald, a new programme should be established to educate visitors and County residents about Canadian history, including the story of Canada’s Indigenous peoples and settlement. The museums, libraries, and historical groups could work in concert to provide resources for residents, visitors and businesses.

Canadians and visitors want to learn about the many stories of Canada and its history.

Visitors to London, Paris, Beijing, Moscow, Cairo arrive by the millions looking to learn about the remarkable history of place. History is a narrative, not a science. It is most instructive when it presents all facts about the past, both good and bad. All story-telling requires conflict. Historical narratives are no exception. Instead of erasing our collective history, we should seek to understand it in its entirety.

America’s first president, George Washington, had 300 slaves. Jefferson had 600. Macdonald had none. Here’s what he said in the Commons one year before he died:

“I have no accord with the desire expressed in some quarters that by any mode whatever there should be an attempt made to oppress the one language or to render it inferior to the other; I believe that would be impossible if it were tried, and it would be foolish and wicked if it were possible. The statement that has been made so often that this is a conquered country is à propos de rien. Whether it was conquered or ceded, we have a constitution now under which all British subjects are in a position of absolute equality, having equal rights of every kind — of language, of religion, of property and of person. There is no paramount race in this country; there is no conquered race in this country; we are all British subjects, and those who are not English are none the less British subjects on that account.”

* * *

  • David Warrick, Chair of the Macdonald Project and a retired professor of Communications and Humanities, Humber College

He holds four degrees including a PhD from York University in English Literature and a B.Ed, from McArthur College, Queen’s University. He is a former examiner in the International Baccalaureate and a researcher and consultant on educational policy. He received a Distinguished Faculty Award from Humber College for his collaborative teaching strategies and research projects on educational and training technologies. He also served as advisor to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities 1995-1999.

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NOTICE from the municipality: Heritage Advisory Committee to advise council on future of Sir John A. Macdonald statue

The Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee (PEHAC) is expected to lead a public discussion about the future of the Sir John A. Macdonald statue in Picton.

“Statutes are powerful symbols that can evoke a range of emotions for different people. Determining the future of the statue in our community will not be an easy conversation, especially given the complex legacy of Canada’s first prime minister. However, I believe we can have a constructive deliberation that respects all viewpoints,” said PEHAC Chair Ken Dewar.

The County’s Chief Administrative Officer asked PEHAC to develop recommendations and provide advice to council as it relates to the statue. It is anticipated that PEHAC will establish a working group to examine the issue. The PEHAC Chair will invite stakeholders with a range of perspectives and viewpoints to participate.

PEHAC will meet next week to review the working group membership and terms of reference. A report from the PEHAC working group is expected to go to council for consideration on Sept. 1.

The statue was presented to the municipality in 2015 by the Macdonald Project of Prince Edward County to celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of Macdonald, a leading figure in Canadian Confederation.

After it was removed to facilitate renovations at The Armoury on Picton Main Street, the statue was re-installed in front of the Picton Library in Dec. 2019. In recent years, community members have called for the removal of the statue, citing Macdonald’s mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples and his role in establishing the Residential School system.

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  1. Henri Garand says:

    The more I reread some of the earlier posts the more I am reminded of Yeats’s line about “passionate intensity”, but I suppose revolutionary spirits always run high.

    The dispute over the Macdonald statue polarizes those who defend Macdonald as a man of his time and those who condemn his acts as reprehensible whether or not he knew it. As I’ve indicated in earlier posts, there’s another way of interpreting the statue—to accept its specific reality.

    Undoubtedly, the statue would not exist without Macdonald’s becoming Prime Minister, but neither would it exist without a courtroom trial in Picton. The statue is not a conventional tribute to a Great Man; it is a pictorial rendering of a single historical event. One cannot see this unusual piece of sidewalk art without wondering what it depicts. The presence of the prisoner’s dock makes all the difference.

    Macdonald is depicted not on a pedestal high above the heads of viewers, but on the ground, accessible for close inspection. The realistic image is not of a stern old man astride a horse and carrying a sword, but of a seemingly ordinary fellow, though in old-fashioned dress. There’s also an implicit irony in its recalling a clever young man with legal ambitions and alcoholic failings, a flawed human being who was found “Not Guilty” in court but scarcely innocent in public opinion.

    Of course a viewer can recoil in dismay upon recognizing the figure as Macdonald, but one can also understand the statue exclusively in terms of Picton’s pioneer history, the equivalent of an American sign reading “Washington slept here”.

    If the statue must be linked to Macdonald’s later record, surely it’s sufficient to install a plaque briefly mentioning corrupt business practices and policies harmful to indigenous and other peoples. Indeed, then the statue should definitely remain outside the library to provide, as some have suggested, a learning opportunity for those who inquire into its meaning. In other words, it could become an agent for telling the truth and reconciling with history.

    What better purpose is accomplished by isolating the statue near Shire Hall or elsewhere and perhaps protecting it from vandals behind wire fence?

  2. olmnonthemtn says:

    ” Imagine how a statue of Chanie Wenjack sitting in the witness box how it would stimulate conversation and encourage people to ask questions. Just an idea and a chance to honor another Famous Canadian.

    Great idea Paul Cole the interplays would be incredibly meaningful given current circumstances

  3. Jamie Hallman says:

    Exceptional article, and unusually thoughtful comments as well. As a relatively recent resident of the County, I have to confess to being somewhat unaware to the deliberations around the ‘statue’ preferring to assume that Picton was merely proud of it’s role in Canadian history. I find the statue thought provoking and tasteful and am now impressed by the dialogue it has provoked. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Picton expanded on this concept and added more vignettes to perhaps balance whatever historical or political narrative this one evokes. It would only add to the historical charm of what is one of Canada’s hidden gems.

  4. Dennis Fox says:

    The fact is that for over 150 years, mainstream Canada ignored the contributions of the Chinese railroad labourers and how many of them died due to cruel working conditions – work that Macdonald forced them to pay for just to enter into the country – to build his railroad. A project that Macdonald received illegal kickback money from – he was eventually removed from office because of it. It shouldn’t be a surprise that he was elected again several years later – a lot of people made money when John A. was the PM.

    Until “Truth and Reconciliation,” our nation also ignored and collectively decided to forget about the inhumane treatment of our aboriginal people. Macdonald lead a planned cultural genocide against these people – from relocating them onto reserves – to the removal of children from their parents and placed them into the care of “supposed” religious schools where children were used and abused. Apparently this was all done to help ‘colonize” the British Empire. This attitude of “colonization” still exists today – how else could over 1500 aboriginal women go missing and no police force bothered to look into it, until now? Just to remind people, aboriginal people were not allowed to own property, have a lawyer to represent them in court and did not have the right to vote until the 1960’s! Yes, it has taken many years to get away from Macdonald’s colonial Canada – we still have work to do.

    Celebrating and honouring Macdonald with a statue has become a joke – recognise him as our first PM and a “Founder” not father of Confederation and move his statue to either Shire Hall or better still to the Court House where he might have practised the law – laws he so conveniently ignored himself.

    Today, we have a chance to correct some of what we and our ancestors have done. No excuses – we do it or we don’t, but be aware that if our generation doesn’t do it, the younger one will and wonder what was wrong with us?

  5. Dave Macdonald says:

    One thing missing from this conversation. A statue is not a celebration, or a form of worship. It is an acknowledgement. The statue of Sir John is not intended to praise his mistakes, disguise his errors, or his well-known drinking habit. It was intended to tip a hat to his work in forming our country and, of course, to chuckle a bit about his time spent in the County, which kind of makes us feel happy.
    The only good thing about this discussion is to see how many people know their history, and how many don’t. Passion about the statue has brought out many truths and myths and outright misinformation. Maybe that’s why he should stay on Main Street. So we can learn more.

  6. Brian Barber says:

    On the cusp of Canada Day, it is worth remembering that Richard Gwyn, one of Macdonald’s principal biographers, said “No Macdonald, No Canada”. Although well short of perfection, Canada is the envy and desired destination of many throughout the world. Macdonald, who clearly played a key role in the founding and development of Canada, spent a formative decade growing up in and around the County. When visitors walk by his statue on Main St in Picton and ask “Who is this person…and why is he here?” it will hopefully launch a discussion of our first Prime Minister’s legacy, warts and all. A better understanding of our collective history, and Macdonald’s role in it, is essential to making real progress towards a brighter future for all Canadians.

  7. Henri Garand says:

    My reading of Canadian history mixes achievements with oppression, and I prefer to recognize facts rather than speculate on any dead person’s motivations. After 1759, upper-class English and Scots were at the top of the social order. Irish immigrants and Quebecois, for example, were definitely oppressed in many ways, as were indigenous people and every new group of immigrants coming from Europe or elsewhere. Unless one’s ancestry is pure Anglo-Scot, nearly all longtime Canadians, regardless of ethnicity, have historical grievances.

    But there’s no success to be had in joining the cult of victimhood and competing with each other for most aggrieved. It’s more important to address ongoing wrongs than to seek facile redress for past ones. By all means we have to acknowledge the sins of our fathers but not inflict punishment for them on ourselves and children.

    Canada has enough current economic and social problems without our fixating on historical injustices. In fact, pulling down a statue is too easy an act of repentance. Real contrition focuses on steadily reducing socioeconomic inequities.

  8. Henri Garand says:

    Whether the vandalism is due to foolish perpetrators (like the Glenwood teens) or to Cancel Culture, it should not be used as an argument for moving the Macdonald statue. Council should not respond to pressure tactics or out of concern over social friction. It must stand firm and show that its decision making will be based solely on lawful public consultation. Meanwhile, I hope the OPP is as persistent in identifying and prosecuting the vandal(s) as it was in the senseless Glenwood destruction.

  9. Dennis Fox says:

    How about the current aboriginal people whose ancestors were here at that so called “time of innocence” that some are now claiming existed back in Macdonald’s time? They never shared in the peace and wealth of this nation that some hold so dear now – and they still don’t!

    We need to remember that Canada was controlled by white Englishmen who felt entitled to do whatever they wanted – and they did. It doesn’t require a crystal ball to know this, so stating that they didn’t know is nonsense. If anyone reads the history of this country, they will soon know that it wasn’t just people of colour who were discriminated against – so were the Irish. The English didn’t like them either – the deaths from the potato famine didn’t happen by mistake. The fact that most people in Canada voted for English politicians should not come as any surprise.

    Regardless of where any of us stand on past events, our generation will be judged on how we deal with these long outstanding issues now. Claiming innocence or not knowing your history, or taking refuge in some obscure claim of not being able to get into the mind of some past historical character. isn’t being well received by our younger generation. These old excuses just don’t cut it anymore.

    iT is time to move JAM and to place a factual report of his time as our PM with it.

  10. JennyD says:

    Not the electorate, but rather the crown ruled the people and what was then, British North America.
    And, at a time when there was ridicule and requests to remove these statues across the country, Picton decided to create and erect one. Keep the history for the text books and classrooms.
    This doesn’t belong on main street – give John A. the boot.

  11. Paul Cole says:

    This discussion may present an opportunity to recognize another great Canadian bear with me while I explain. Gord Downie was kind of the opposite of John A Macdonald as in John A left The County for Kingston, Gord Downie left Kingston to come to The County, Mr.Downie’s last albums was called The Secret Path and was the true story about a young Ojibwe Boy who died from exposure after running away from a Residential School trying to return home. Imagine how a statue of Chanie Wenjack sitting in the witness box how it would stimulate conversation and encourage people to ask questions. Just an idea and a chance to honor another Famous Canadian who called The County home for awhile…

  12. I agree with Mr. Warrick’s implication that this is a time that the whole suite of Canadian prime ministers,thus Canadian governance,needs come up for scrutiny vis-a-vis the Indigenous question. Starting with Sir John A.

    And if Ms. Abernethy’s skilful portrait succeeds in bringing people together in sincere exploration of this issue, it has done it’s most important work.
    It’s a point of view problem,is it not? There are deep contradictions between the reality and the mythology of Canadian history. We surely do need to understand our history in its entirety.

    “ The indigenous-settler relationship was carefully developed over hundreds of years, largely in good faith.’… (the Great Peace of Montreal 1701, the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the Treaty of Fort Niagara, 1764).

    ..What followed from the 1870’s on was quite different. Increasingly, non-Aboriginals did not act in good faith.And each of these betrayals we undertook in order to help them disappear. For their own good…”
    (* John Ralston Saul-THE COMEBACK)

    It isn’t only about residential schools, it’s about land, resources, wills, education, band administration -the ascendance of our culture in favour of Indian assimilation into Euro-Canadian society. Erasure of the Indigenous perspective.To our detriment.

    In view of the history of residential schools and the sadistic clearing of Southern Saskatchewan for Macdonald’s Great Railway Project I find the quote that Mr. Warrick offered at the end of his commentary laughable…”equal rights of every kind”…!!

    I have more faith than does Mr.Warrick in the common sense of any committee to weigh the balance of deeds and words in the Canadian story and then begin to imagine a better way.

    I am picturing another sculpture,equally well executed by Ms. Abernethy, portraying Sir John A in the dock being questioned by ……perhaps Louis Riel……. or perhaps Big Bear(Plains Cree-1825-1888).

  13. Fred says:

    I believe that Henri raises a good point. Who can judge the mindset of our former leaders particularly when they were vastly supported by the electorate of the day. I doubt very much they saw what we do now, but they are our ancestors attempting to build a Country. Most all nations were built through some suppression. It is easy and comfortable for many enjoying the riches and freedoms this Country now provides to criticize, because they were not there. Their ancestors who supported Country building have left many with riches without raising a hand, but able to protest freely.

  14. Mark says:

    They want Sir John A torn down and sent packing, however some of those with this mindset feel a need to spray him with red paint on Sunday night. Disgraceful!

  15. Henri Garand says:

    Unlike some other commentators, I don’t have access to the mind of John A. Macdonald and I am not sure what he thought or knew unless interpreted by an able biographer like Richard Gwyn. What we can all recognize, however, is that the Picton statue refers to a vignette in Macdonald’s life. It’s less about the man than the moment. As a piece of sidewalk art it has both charm and curiosity, and it shouldn’t bear the full weight of Macdonald’s political baggage. Nor should it be moved away from the library, which houses many tarnished reputations.

  16. Grahamcobb says:

    Sir John A painted . Again I say cameras,camera’s, camera’s.

  17. Marion Campbell says:

    You can not go back and change the beginning but you can start where you are and change the ending by C.S.Lewis. What next? Burning history books in the market square?

  18. Dennis Fox says:

    Hello Mr. Carpenter – I think you might want to read again my post. I want the statue to be moved off Main St. and I’m not into empires either – but I do support the parliamentary form of government. We can change some things and keep many others – but it is time for the facts about John A. to be told.

  19. olmnonthemtn says:

    Toronto Star columnist Richard Gwyn is the author of the bestselling two-volume biography of Sir John A. Macdonald, John A: The Man Who Made Us and Nation Maker writes:

    ” Consider that Macdonald was the first national democratic leader in the world to try to extend the vote to women, introducing such legislation in the Commons in 1885. He got nowhere, but he described the future exactly, warning MPs it was “certain” that the female would “completely establish her equality as a human being and as a member of society with man.” That’s a description of the gender equality we’ve at last achieved, more or less.

    The truth is, though, that for his time, Macdonald was unusually liberal-minded. Among his lifelong friends were Indians and Métis. He wasn’t in the least afraid to tell the truth about relations between native people and whites, as in: “We must remember they are the original owners of the soil of which they have been dispossessed by the covetousness or ambition of our ancestors.”

    Most remarkably, he got MPs to agree to the most imaginative reform of his time: any Indian could gain the vote while retaining all his privileges, such as freedom from taxes. Unhappily, Laurier cancelled this reform, with the measure not restored until John Diefenbaker did so in 1960, which was far too late to make any difference.

    His actual policy for getting food to the Indians — one his critics always avoid citing — was: “We cannot as Christians, and as men with hearts in our bosoms, allow the vagabond Indian to die before us . . . We must prevent them from starving, in consequence of the extinction of the buffalo and their not yet (having) betaken themselves to raising crops.

    Circumstances made that task extremely difficult. Amid a depression, few Canadians were prepared to be generous. The opposition Liberals seized the opportunity and repeatedly charged that by feeding native people, Macdonald was turning them into permanent dependents of government. It’s still true that he didn’t do the job well. But no other Canadian government until the 1930s gave anyone money, food or anything else to its people just because they had no job or nowhere to live or no pension. In those days, charity was the exclusive responsibility of the churches.”

  20. Peter Carpenter says:

    Count me in with Mr Fox- keep the statue right where it is! Let’s not stoop to re-writing history. Sir John A established our constitution. Colonialism gave us Parliamentary government, our system of laws, even our railroads, currency and postal system. Our economy grew substantially through free trade within the Empire.

  21. Mark says:

    When we sing O’Canada on July 1st we can say a thank you to Sir John A for building a great Country where we enjoy the riches and freedoms of speaking out against what we oppose. Ironic!

  22. Angela says:

    Who will decide who are future heroes will be? Surely unless they are saints they will not be recognized for their positive contributions. Let’s take down all the statues and pretend that history never happened. Let’s ban the books that contain thoughts and ideals that we feel could be offensive to some. After all they did it in Germany once. Who are these self-righteous individuals who have appointed themselves the judges of men such as Sir John A. Macdonald? Interestingly, it is not a group of Indigenous people calling for the removal of his statue. This kind of censorship is more to be feared than a statue erected to mark the strong ties of Canada’s first prime minister to Prince Edward County.

  23. olmnonthemtn says:

    A thought on Iconoclasm: the social belief in the importance of the destruction of icons and other images or monuments, most frequently for religious or political reasons.

    Alexander Adams: Iconoclasm and the Erasing of History Areo magazine April 2019

    “Our willingness to live with historical relics we feel ambivalence towards is a demonstration of our toleration of dissent. Likewise, an openness to imagining ourselves in past times—constrained by the conventions and laws of a different era—forces us to question common assumptions about the completeness of our knowledge and our moral certainty. If we can make this leap of empathy, we can free ourselves of ideological possession. We have the ability to empathize with both slave and slave owner. Empathy makes it harder to justify destruction of the cultural relics of an older age or silence the voices of individuals, who might share insights into life.

    The toleration we extend towards symbols of former regimes and proponents of ideas with which we disagree shows our willingness to be honest about our nations’ pasts. To accept our flaws as a necessary part of our development is to display the maturity, restraint and empathy that define the confident yet self-critical nation. For if we cannot stand the sight of a dead political opponent carved in stone, how can we restrain ourselves in the face of a living political opponent who speaks against us?”

    Alexander Adams is a British critic and artist. His book “Culture War: Art, Identity Politics and Cultural Entryism” is published by Societas/Imprint Academic.

  24. Henri Garand says:

    Let’s remember why the Macdonald statue was erected. It’s because the little town of Picton has a significant connection to Canada’s first Prime Minister. That’s not something many Canadian towns can claim. The statue memorializes an important career event in the life of a nineteen year old that is unrelated to his later social opinions and political actions.

    This statue should not be conflated with those honoring lifetime achievements or recognizing military valor. Consider how different are the circumstances for statues of Robert E. Lee and other military leaders of the American Confederacy. Those statues reference actions, however individually courageous, which were in defense of slavery. The Macdonald statue bears no such taint unless one insists upon retroactive guilt.

    Moreover, how does removing the Macdonald statue facilitate understanding of the past? It just leaves a void to be filled by misinformation and ignorance. Surely a small plaque identifying what the statue does, and does not, commemorate should be sufficient to preserve its public display.

  25. Dennis Fox says:

    I believe that John A. was a man of this time – a man who believed that our loyalties belonged to England, a man who believed that women were not worthy of having a vote, nor could a woman, aboriginal, black or Asian hold public office. So much for being a “Founding Father of Confederation” – it couldn’t have been any other way because only men could have been a “founding anything!”

    The idea that John A. didn’t know that he was wrong about his treatment of people of colour is nonsense. He knew very well that he was wrong with the treatment he inflicted particularly onto aboriginal and Asian people. He did it because he was a white man in a position of power – a British subject that could do whatever he pleased, without answering to anyone. He abused his power and position as our PM.

    If the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe(1791 – 1796) passed anti- slavery laws – the first in the British Empire, then Macdonald, as a supposed well educated man, knew his policies were in conflict of those ideals that came many years before he was ever heard of. While there is no argument that Macdonald was our first PM, and a founder of confederation – he knew his actions and policies were wrong – but they were very convenient and profitable for the English white man.

    What we do know in the year 2020 is that a lot of people in Canada have not been treated very well by our past governments. If we know that a group has been marginalized and discriminated against for hundreds of years, then isn’t it our duty to try and correct it now? If the statue of a person still inflicts that much discomfort onto people, then why keep the statue? Or if many still want to keep the statue, then we should at least tell the full story of both the good and the not so good. The opening sentence of this article refers to taking such actions as “cancel culture” – I disagree.

    If Canadian culture is based on only half truths, sticking our heads in the sand and making up legends, which is what we have done with John A. – then it is time we correct that false image. Honour the man by telling the full story with the facts. We are Canadian and we can handle that.

  26. jason clarke says:

    History may not be perfect.
    Things were done the best way they could at the time.
    Imagine a lifestyle with no grocery stores and you had to provide food for the whole year.
    I would not like to go back to the time, of outhouses and no indoor plumbing.
    I mention these because ideals change.
    As we have evolved to have these modern conveniences, we must also evolve to have equality for everyone.
    The past is building our future.

  27. Gary Mooney says:

    Sometimes we hang onto things long after they have outlived their real value. Two things that come to mind: 24 Sussex Drive and fax machines.

    I wonder if this is the case with statues. A statue presents only one side of a story. Now folks are interested in both sides of the story.

  28. Paul Cole says:

    This is about a statue on the Main St. of Picton not all the other fellows he mentions. The Gradual Civilization Act was first introduced in 1857 in the Province of Canada(upper ands lower Canada) by co Premieres John A Macdonald and Étienne-Paschal Taché , after confederation the act was renamed the Gradual Enfranchisement Act in 1869, The act was amended again in 1876 to incorporate other laws from across the land and became known as the “Indian Act”.

    Early “residential schools” were called Mission and Industrial Schools established by the Catholic and Anglican Church’s Indigenous Children were not force to attend these schools. In 1883 the Residential school system was established with “aggressive assimilation” the priority Indigenous Children were forced to attend.

    These are Historical facts and knowing the whole TRUTH is key in making the right choice. Truth and Reconciliation will work excepting the Truths is the hard part…

  29. lance says:

    I think its disgusting that our founding father and the main reason we’re a sovereign nation today is being scrutinized and defamed in this manner. We should be proud of our heritage and not caving into the pressures of activists. … George Washington owned 143 slaves, but do we see the Yanks demanding his effigies pulled down? They have National pride, something sorely lacking in this country. Canada needs to grow up and get some pride.

  30. Glen Holm says:

    If something is so divisive to a community then perhaps that very nature should preclude it from public display. Heritage items, statues and virtually anything a community puts it’s resources in to should always be inclusive and serve to bind the community together.

  31. Michelle says:

    So can PEHAC save us all time and review the towns name “Picton”, and whether that should be now changed since we are headed down a road of culture protest,

  32. Phil St-Jean says:

    To be clear the Heritage Advisory committee has been assigned the unenviable task of reaching out to the public on this extremely divisive matter.
    The committee will be seeking an open, rational, inclusive and respectful public conversation and consultation.
    The public consultation will assist PEHAC to formulate a recommendation (which is their role) that will in turn assist county council to make an informed decision on behalf of all residents.

    I for one see this as an opportunity for county folk to once again take the lead, show the outside world our better selves and prove that we can talk to each other politely to decide the best course of action for our community.

    This is public engagement, inclusiveness and municipal transparency in action, let’s all embrace it.

    I strongly urge everyone who lives in the county to join in the process and speak up pro or con.
    I want to hear all opinions.
    I simply ask that we all do it respectfully, with civility and that everyone remain open minded.
    Let’s not allow anger, outrage or prejudice to stand in the way of good and healthy public discourse about such a timely and sensitive matter.
    We all have an equal right to our personal feelings and beliefs.
    We all have an equal right to speak and think freely.

    It is apparent that SJAM holding court is a polarizing issue that can only be resolved with public input.
    Who better than the Heritage Advisory Committee to guide our community through what will no doubt is a divisive and hotly debated matter.
    I for one am pleased and so should everyone on both sides of this issue, that county residents will be consulted prior to any actions one way or the other.

  33. Dennis Fox says:

    We are living through a time of re-evaluating our history. I think this is a healthy exercise – provided we do it sensibly. One one hand John A. is one of the “Fathers of Confederation” (a sexist term I know) and Canada’s first PM. There is nothing that can be said that will change that – it is fact. BUT, he was far from perfect – and he knew that his position on our aboriginal people and on Chinese labourers was wrong and inhumane. For me, I can live with a true explanation of John A’s actions(both good and not so good) accompanying the statue wherever it finally ends up. I think Shire Hall’s front lawn is a good spot for it.

  34. Susan says:

    It is extremely disappointing to me that Sir John A is under siege. Perhaps they can now look at Sir Thomas Picton and recommend a change of our towns name. Picton mistreated slaves, tortured a 14 year old semi dressed girl and had persons executed out of hand. When you start to erase the past, where does it end? Typically we learn from mistakes as we advance, not erase it from society.

  35. Mark says:

    Excellent opinion piece Mr.Warrick. You cited my first thought, as to how and why volunteers on a heritage committee would be leading a discussion in regards to our Father of Confederation. How was it determined that none of these committee members hold no bias towards Sir John A.

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