May 2, 2019
John A. Macdonald: Canada’s Master of Words
People often see others for their negative actions, rather than the positives. Similarly, John A. Macdonald’s racist and harmful policies led many people to see him as a villain, and someone we should remove from society because of his negative examples. While some critics view Macdonald as an ‘Architect of Genocide’ because of the damage he caused against the First Nations people, and his racist laws on Chinese immigrant workers, others argue that he saved us from oppression by the United States and created the country we call home. Due to John A. Macdonald’s ability to unify the country peacefully through negotiation from sea to sea, in accord to the values of the time, he should stay in the public sphere.
Without John A. Macdonald’s dedication to unify all of Canada from coast to coast, Canada might not exist today. Western Canada and Eastern Canada used to be divided, and without Macdonald’s railroad to bridge the two, we would be seperated and easier to take over by the USA. Canada is a large land mass, and Macdonald’s railway “connected Eastern Canada to BC and played an important role in the development of the nation,” since it was what united the two locations (Lavallé). Macdonald “paid a heavy price” in building the railroad, as he was faced with lots of opposition against his project, including rebellions (Symons). Despite these hardships, he pressed on, determined to connect the massive country and fulfill his promise of physically connecting the west with the east. Think of the saying ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. By uniting the two regions, Canada became twice as strong with twice the amount of forces. If we were still separated, it would be easier for our neighbour, the USA, to invade us and make us a part of their country. It was Macdonald’s dedication that kept Canada it’s own individual country, and saved us from annexation by the USA.
On the contrary, those who believe in John A. Macdonald’s removal from the public sphere argue that Macdonald’s actions towards indigenous people and the harm he caused them is unacceptable. However, one must consider John A. Macdonald was only acting with values of his time. His actions fit the beliefs people had in the time, “when such views were pervasive and unchallenged,” part of a “system that existed for more than a century” (Ballingall). It isn’t fair to “judge a historical person’s actions based on contemporary standards” (Innes). These quotes show us that these views were supported in the time, and that Macdonald’s actions were accepted by the majority of people. People only began thinking about Macdonald’s actions as our beliefs changed, and begun to clash with his policies. Maybe in twenty years something that we take for obvious will be widely frowned upon, and some of our most common practices will be forbidden. John A. Macdonald’s actions were justified in his time, and his accomplishments far outweigh his shortcomings.
The controversial debate as to whether John A. Macdonald should be removed from the public sphere or not continues, but his dedication to build a physical connection between our country and to unify it from sea to sea played a large role in our success as a country today. Furthermore, Macdonald’s actions are justified in his time and it is our changing values that make him seem faulty. John A. Macdonald’s success in maintaining peace while lawfully uniting Canada should justify his stay in the public sphere. It is essential that we don’t consider Macdonald’s actions from today’s perspective, because it isn’t fair to judge someone for something that was okay in their time but isn’t acceptable a century later. Without John A. Macdonald Canada wouldn’t exist, and we would have no ‘home and native land’ to call home. Without statues to commemorate them, how will we remember all the sacrifices people went through to build what we take for granted today?
Wherry, Aaron. “’A Teachable Moment’: Debating Whether John A. Macdonald’s Name Should Be Scrubbed from Schools | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 25 Aug. 2017, www.cbc.ca/news/politics/john-a-macdonald-etfo-schools-analysis-aaron-wherry-1.4260366.
Lavallé, Omer. “Canadian Pacific Railway.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/canadian-pacific-railway.
Symons, Thomas. “Professor Thomas Symons: John A. Macdonald: a Founder and Builder.” The Macdonald Project, http://macdonaldproject.com/education/professor-thomas-symons-macdonalds-qualities-as-leader-builder-withstand-welcome-wave-of-critiques/
Ballingall, Alex. “Sir John A. Macdonald: Architect of Genocide or Canada’s Founding Father?” OurWindsor.ca, 25 Aug. 2017, www.ourwindsor.ca/news-story/7520562-sir-john-a-macdonald-architect-of-genocide-or-canada-s-founding-father-/.
Innes, Robert Alexander. “Don’t Forget John A. Macdonald – But Don’t Honour Him.” The Tyee, The Tyee, 15 Aug. 2018, https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2018/08/15/John-A-Macdonald-Reflection/