The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario has been criticized these past several days for wanting public schools to remove Canada’s first Prime Minister from their names. Again, there is an uproar over how the “left” is trying to erase history, and overwrite Canada’s national identity. Social media is alight with people furious with the teachers, and proclamations that teachers need to restudy the subject and learn how to teach the real history.
The prevailing argument to be had, against removing MacDonald’s name, is that he shouldn’t be judged by the values of 2017, and instead be placed in the context of his time. For whatever reason, people seem to be unaware that MacDonald didn’t exist in a vacuum in the 1800s. He faced criticism for his racism then, and his contemporaries were shocked by it. For those claiming that “identity politics” are being foisted upon MacDonald’s good name don’t seem to understand that identity politics is what he built his career upon. Identity politics are what created the problem 150 years ago.
So that takes care of that argument, but let’s dig a little deeper. When the word “values” is mentioned in these arguments, whose values are being addressed? If we forgo the niceties, we can essentially label them “white Canadian values”. Yes, the values of many white Canadians have indeed evolved since the 1860s. However, I am willing to bet that many First Nations peoples, who were intentionally starved so the MacDonald government could save money, never agreed to be ethnically cleansed. I am fairly certain the values of Indigenous Peoples were the opposite of wanting to be exterminated. Why then, are the values of Indigenous Peoples discounted in these discussions?
If the argument is that MacDonald should be judged by the values of his time, then why are only white Canadian values the ones we are considering? Curious how that works.
What many people (basically non-BIPOC) fail to realize is that our public schools in Ontario are very diverse. Indigenous children do attend these schools, and do so while names complicit in their cultures’ destruction hang over their heads in big bold letters. MacDonald deemed Indigenous Peoples to be savage, so his name means something very different to Indigenous students. If schools are to be places of inclusion, and equity, then the glorification of a man like MacDonald fly in the face of that.
People who condemn the teachers for their stance should just admit to that. They don’t want schools to be inclusive; they want their narrative to be the only one that matters.
Should Canadians glorify an individual who ethnically cleansed populations he found a drain on resources? Yes, he had a strong hand in creating the current country, but let us not kid ourselves on whose land this country was built upon. Let us not forget that many of these public schools, bearing the names of Prime Ministers who presided over the atrocities of the Indian Residential School System, are on unceded land. Again, whose values are more important?
For those still dismissing MacDonald’s atrocities as a product of their time, perhaps you should restudy the subject.