We appear to be evolving to an era where, if historical events are uncomfortable for us, we simply change the past. This is eerily reminiscent of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, where the Ministry of Truth essentially concerned itself with lies by rewriting the past. The latest example of this comes from the socialist capital of Canada: Victoria, BC. In early August, Victoria City Council voted 7-1 to remove a statue of Sir John A. MacDonald that stood outside of City Hall. This appears to be a part of a larger anti-MacDonald movement all across Canada. Last year in Ontario the Elementary Teachers Federation urged schoolboards to remove MacDonald’s name from public schools.
MacDonald’s sin is that he was the architect of residential schools. I agree that the idea behind residential schools is extraordinarily appalling. However, MacDonald was a smart politician and mostly always had his eyes on the electorate, so he rarely did anything that would not get him votes (aside from his excessive drinking). He was likely not alone in supporting the idea of residential schools. The problem appears to be that the idea of residential schools makes us very uncomfortable today. The left-wing response to this discomfort is to erase history, rather than learning from it.
In response to criticism of removal of the statue, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said, “It is about rewriting history, but is not about erasing history.” This is a good example of left wing gobbledygook. Rewriting history would be about opening a dialogue concerning MacDonald’s accomplishments and failures. Removing the statue is erasing MacDonald from our consciousness.
We seem to have forgotten that MacDonald was the driving force behind the creation of Canada from the colonies that existed in 1867. However, like all of us, MacDonald was not perfect. I have always admired Sir John A. However, as well as the residential school issue, he did what I consider to be some very questionable things. For instance, MacDonald is arguably the father of Canadian political patronage, which costs taxpayers today untold amounts of money. History is full of celebrated individuals whose ideas and policies still haunt us today.
One of the more interesting responses to this rewriting of history came from opposition leader Jason Kenny, who called this move an act of “historical vandalism.” Mr. Kenny pointed out that MacDonald was ahead of his time in calling in 1885 for women to have the right to vote and extended the right to vote to Indigenous people who met certain property conditions. Interestingly, Laurier later removed this right. We do not seem to be condemning Laurier for this.
This whole episode should be another reminder to us that we are moving slowly towards an era where we are being told what to think, moving eerily towards a 1984 world. Apparently thinking for ourselves leads to incorrect conclusions in the eyes of the politically correct police. George Orwell must be spinning in his grave.
Frank Atkins is a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.