Historical association wants to rebrand award named after John A. Macdonald

In a statement about the proposal, CHA president Adele Perry wrote that it’s the responsibility of historians to think not only about the lives of significant Canadian figures, but about what their commemoration continues to mean.


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The Canadian Historical Association wants to rename an annual writing award so it’s no longer associated with the country’s first prime minister.

The association’s elected council wants to change the title of the Sir John A. Macdonald Prize to the CHA Prize for Best Scholarly Book in Canadian History.

The $5,000 prize recognizes non−fiction writing that’s been deemed to make a significant contribution to the study of Canadian history. It’s awarded annually at an event at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

In a statement about the proposal, CHA president Adele Perry wrote that it’s the responsibility of historians to think not only about the lives of significant Canadian figures, but about what their commemoration continues to mean.

In August, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario also called for Macdonald’s name to be removed from schools in the province. The federation said Macdonald “has been celebrated based on an incomplete version of Canadian history” and that he “played a key role in developing systems that perpetuated genocide against Indigenous people.”

Members of the Canadian Historical Association will vote on renaming the prize at its annual meeting in May.

In discussing changing the name of the prize, Perry drew parallels to the federal government’s renaming of the Langevin Block near Parliament Hill. Hector−Louis Langevin was a father of Confederation but also an architect of the residential school system.

The building is now called the Office of the Prime Minister and the Privy Council.

“Keeping that name on the Prime Minister’s Office is inconsistent with the values of our government and it’s inconsistent with our vision of a strong partnership with Indigenous Peoples in Canada,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in June.

Perry also pointed to how Montreal announced earlier this year that it was changing the name of a street that commemorated British general Jeffrey Amherst, who supported giving smallpox−laced blankets to Indigenous people in the 1700s.

Maija Kappler, The Canadian Press


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