John A. Macdonald Should Not be Forgotten, Nor Celebrated


Excerpt from Article:

“Many have justified removing Macdonald's statue because of the residential schools that were implemented under his watch. Though those schools have had a tremendous long-term negative impact on First Nations people, it was only one of many policies that negatively impact First Nations and Metis people.

For example, while Macdonald was prime minister, the Metis were attacked twice, the Canadian army led an unprovoked attack against Chief Poundmaker's people, many First Nations and Metis leaders were jailed (with a number of them dying in jail or shortly after they were released), Louis Riel was hanged for treason even though he was an American citizen, the largest mass execution in Canadian history occurred with the hanging of eight Cree and Assiniboine men in North Battleford, Sask. The Indian Act was amended and became much more oppressive and punitive and a starvation policy was implemented...

Macdonald implemented the recommendation of Edgar Dewdney to close Fort Walsh, located in the Cypress Hills in southwestern Saskatchewan, as a means to assert control over First Nations and Metis people, removing Indigenous people from the area in which the Canadian Pacific Railway would be travelling.

At the time, thousands of First Nations and Metis were living in the region and depended on the food rations that were offered at the fort. The government knew that the food rations were needed because starvation was rampant.

The result of the starvation policy decision resulted in many deaths. Historians have not yet done a good job of finding out how many Indigenous people died, but Cowessess First Nation demonstrated that this policy led to the deaths of 320, or 33 per cent of its band members.

Cowessess was just one band of many who were in the Cypress Hills and directly impacted by this genocide. However, as I recently wrote in ‘Historians and Indigenous Genocide in Saskatchewan:’ ‘The genocide that took place in the 1880s in Saskatchewan has been erased from the provincial and national historical consciousness.’

...To associate removing statues or other commemorations with erasing history is flawed. Most statues are erected to commemorate or pay tribute to a person, people or event.

Certainly, the statues of John A. Macdonald serve this purpose. Yet even though there are many statues of Macdonald, the fact that so few Canadians know the history of his genocidal policies inflicted on First Nations and Metis people speaks to how statues and commemorations can act to actually erase history.

Perpetrators of genocide should never be forgotten, but they should not be celebrated either.”

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Publication Information

Innes, Robert Alexander "John A. Macdonald Should Not be Forgotten, Nor Celebrated." The Conversation Canada. August 13, 2018.

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