They’re talking about taking down statues and/or changing names of schools in the U.S. as well as here in Canada. What are they thinking? We can’t obliterate history by removing these things, unpleasant as our history may be — and it is. Nor can we use present-ism to judge decisions made long ago. What we do need is to use these reminders to better educate ourselves. It is the teaching of history that has to change.
Let’s face it, the only part of our population we haven’t managed to hurt since our European forefathers hit these shores are possibly white males, and I’m not even sure of that. If we must erase the existence of former leaders, politicians and generals, we’d probably have to eliminate them all.
Who was in charge in 1885 when Canada instituted the Chinese Head Tax? Who made it legal not to allow the Chinese to attend our universities? What about erasing our
well-known and respected Canadian author/historian Pierre Berton, who in his 1970 book “The National Dream”, neglected to even mention the 15,000 Chinese workers who labored (some died) under harsh conditions for very little pay on the project completed in 1881? That railroad was vital to the establishment of our country at the time John A. Macdonald was our Prime Minister.
Furthermore, how can we know what John A. Macdonald was thinking if he did, indeed, approve the use of residential schools? Could he know or foresee the imperfections of our religious institutions? In Australia, the ‘Stolen Generation’ (1910-1970) happened because it was feared the Aboriginals were dying out! The results there were devastating as well.
When the SS Komagata Maru and it’s passengers were refused entry in 1914, some on-board were suspected of being connected to radicals,
however it seems clear racism was at the heart of the matter. Sir Robert Borden, knighted in 1915, was Canada’s prime minister. (He introduced women’s suffrage into federal elections — I applaud that effort.) Our country honored Borden by using his photo on our $100 bills right until 2016!
How about Immigration Minister Frederick Blair, who during the administration of Prime Minister Mackenzie King, famously declared:
“None is too many.” as a reason in 1939, for our country to turn away the M.S. St. Louis with 902 desperate German Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis. They were sent back to certain death. Should we now denounce Mackenzie King too? (In the Quebec of my youth, there was a quota on the number of Jewish students the universities would accept.)
The U.S. also refused the MS St. Louis entry during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency (1933-1945). Should we put aside all of Roosevelt’s accomplishments because of this unfortunate incident? (Hitler, at the time, was delighted.) I’m convinced Roosevelt played a key role in saving us from Fascism after the war.
I could go on and on and talk about the unfair suffering we caused our Japanese citizens during WW2 and the difficulties the Ukrainians endured in our country, and, and, but if I list every group we oppressed, this would be a book.
Indeed, what have we NOT done to wrong our aboriginals, who certainly have the right to complain about their mistreatment by our governments (note plural). Our native population is definitely entitled to REDRESS in capitals. However, destroying statues and renaming schools will accomplish little. We need to see to it that history is properly taught to our citizens so we know about the unvarnished past of our governments. Let’s focus instead on what is required to repair the results of all the mistakes of the past.
What do you think?