The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario caused a stir by passing a motion earlier this month calling for Sir John A. Macdonald to be removed from schools across the province bearing his name, citing his role as the “architect of genocide against indigenous peoples.”
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne quickly poured water on the idea late last week. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also weighed in on the issue, saying Monday that the federal government had no plans to remove Macdonald's name from anything under its responsibility.
But given the federal government's renewed push for reconciliation with indigenous peoples, and all that entails, it should come as no big surprise that Macdonald's name has cropped up—despite being Canada's first prime minister.
The question has become where to draw the line? Prime Minister Trudeau had no qualms about removing the name of Hector-Louis Langevin, a father of Confederation but seen as an architect of the residential school system, from the building that houses the Prime Minister's Office in Ottawa back in June.
Why him and not Sir John A., too?
It's an issue that's come up here in Fort Frances. Town council, for instance, decided to remove the name Pither, a former Indian agent here, from Point Park some years ago but has been cool to recent calls to rename Colonization Road, which carries a negative connotation to local First Nations. Granted, the latter presents a much greater inconvenience and cost but should that be a factor if the overall goal is to build a cohesive relationship between aboriginals and non-aboriginals, not a divisive one?
Removing/changing names has sparked controversy yet it really is just the tip of the iceberg. If we can't find common ground on this issue, achieving true reconciliation will prove much easier said than done.