The Trudeau government’s latest attempt to re-write Canadian history and run-down Canada’s first Prime Minister hit close to home… Sir John A. Macdonald’s one-time home, to be precise.
Mere days before this Canada Day – a holiday made possible by Macdonald’s Confederation determination – the Trudeau Liberals announced they would be re-casting Macdonald’s narrative as part of an ongoing renovation of Bellevue House in Kingston.
(Macdonald and his family only lived at Bellevue for about a year, but it’s now a national historic site and focal point for tourists.)
Trudeau’s MP for the area, Mark Gerretsen, proudly re-announced money to fix up the place.
Buried deep in a background document, though, we find that the government will also “renew” and “update” the “visitor experience” at Bellevue.
That’s Trudeau-speak for casting 21st Century judgment on 19th Century leaders’ actions.
Sir John A. has recently become a lightning rod for the social justice warrior set that Trudeau needs to court if he has any hope of winning re-election in October.
As PM, Trudeau has sacrificed his predecessor’s image and memory in the name of ‘reconciliation.’
He removed Macdonald from the $10 bills that are common currency for Canadians who still carry paper money.
He was silent when the Canadian Historical Association removed his Macdonald’s name from a prestigious book prize they’d handed out annually for decades.
And when Ontario teachers pushed for Macdonald’s name to be removed from schools across the province? Again, crickets from the Prime Minister’s Office (which, incidentally, is in a building that used to be named after Macdonald’s public works minister, but that too has been changed.)
Poor Sir John A… Yesterday’s father of a nation. Today’s whipping boy.
Canada’s first Prime Minister was admittedly imperfect.
He was human. We are all flawed in our own way.
He was also a product of his time. And his critics often miss important context.
They point to cherry-picked quotes referring to Indigenous people as “savages.”
But can anyone reasonably argue that our Indigenous peoples would be better off today if what is now Canada had fallen under American control?
(That was a very real possibility had Confederation efforts failed.)
Some critics don’t like how Macdonald’s government treated different groups while building our railway or quashing Prairie rebellions.
Building a country is tough work it turns out.
And Macdonald had just witnessed Americans nearly tear their country apart in a bloody Civil War.
Compared to some of his contemporaries, Macdonald was positively progressive.
The first two US Presidents who served during Macdonald’s time in office owned slaves.
Canadians should reflect on our history and redress past wrongs where needed.
But what is most galling about Trudeau’s complicity in the Macdonald revisionist movement is its pure partisanship.
Sir Wilfired Laurier, namesake of roads, hotels, schools and even the Liberal Party of Canada’s own club for top donors, wasn’t much different than Macdonald in his treatment of Indigenous peoples. He also signed an order keeping black Americans out of Canada and massively raised a head tax on Chinese migrants.
Later, Mackenzie King refused entry to a boatload of European Jews fleeing Nazi Germany.
Louis St-Laurent’s government changed the Indian Act and paved the way for what would become known as the Sixties Scoop.
Has our current PM, a near non-stop apologist, moved to erase those predecessors’ names or re-write their narratives?
Not on your life.
And there’s the rub.
Just months before our next election…with his own approval ratings tanked…our current PM is finding political expediency in denigrating a founding father over others.
That shouldn’t stand.
Historical revisionism is fraught, and even more so if you do it selectively.
Trudeau’s legacy may be one of apologizing for Canada.
Macdonald’s legacy remains Canada itself – the true north, strong and free – and, 152 years on, the greatest country in the world. Warts and all.
Happy Canada Day.