TALONS English 10
May 1st, 2019
John A Macdonald: A Moral Disaster
Morals build the framework of oneself. Our morals and values guide us in all our decisions and dictate what we consider right, wrong, justifiable, and cruel. For the better or worse, our morals are easily influenced by those around us. John A Macdonald is one of the many people who influence us today. A celebrated figure and the founding father of the country we are so proud of, we name schools after him and put up statues in his honour. A man of “vision, knowledge, wiliness, character, and courage to accomplish great things”, some say we might be influenced to be the same (Symons). However, as the history of John A Macdonald comes into light, his influence is changing to one that perpetuates discrimination, corruption, and brutality. He now represents discrimination against the Chinese and the Indigenous peoples, and some say, was “an architect of genocide” (Ballingall). John A Macdonald must be taken out of the public sphere due to his morals that resulted in political corruption and the value of white supremacy that he represents.
John A Macdonald is not fit to be celebrated in the public eye, due to moral fallacies that do not stand in the past nor in the present. If we look at the Pacific Scandal, John A Macdonald committed an act of severe political corruption. During John A Macdonald’s 1872 election campaign, in an attempt to remedy his party’s dwindling funds for electoral campaigns, he sent a telegram to Sir Hugh Allan. Sir Hugh Allan, a business magnate, had been previously promised a deal with the Pacific Canadian Railway and in this telegram, John A Macdonald demanded “more bribe money from railroad contractors, [saying] “I must have another ten thousand; will be the last time of calling; do not fail me; answer today” (Hopper). This became Canada’s “most scandalous case of political corruption in the 1870s”, shocking all the people who had entrusted their good will to John A Macdonald (Kennedy). As someone endowed with the title of the founding father and as an individual who was a part of our government, John A Macdonald should uphold the values of the very democracy he strove to erect. In the past, democracy was about representing the people and meant a government that was transparent. In the present, democracy still carries the same definition. John A Macdonald is someone who did not, and still does not accurately represent the values of Canada.
There have been arguments that say we cannot judge John A Macdonald because he is from a different time. These arguments claim that from a historical perspective, John A Macdonald was only acting according to the values of the past. However, in the present, it’s about what John A Macdonald represents. We celebrate John A Macdonald by quite literally putting him up on pedestals, but what we seem to forget is that by putting John A Macdonald into the public eye, he becomes a representative of Canada as a whole. However, his story contains ruthless actions such as the implementation of residential schools on the Indigenous peoples, withholding the right of Chinese people to vote on the basis that “they were a different species from the Europeans”, and taking “control over Indian Affairs and immigration” to achieve his goal of what he “called an Aryan Canada” (Stanley). John A Macdonald represents those actions that were driven by values of discrimination and white supremacy. In our present, where terrorism is becoming a more prominent issue by the day, these values of discrimination being indirectly paraded by these statues may only perpetuate and exacerbate the very issue our government is trying to combat. The Canadian government is displaying a contradictory message if they continue to celebrate John A Macdonald. In the past, the values of discrimination may have been valid and even considered normal, but in the present, what John A Macdonald represents is the direct antithesis of what our government and country stands for.
Many people argue that “the Canadians of 1867 largely took white supremacy for granted” and that ”as the ugly business of nation-building goes, Macdonald can still boast some of history’s cleanest hands” (Hopper). On the other side, we hear that John A Macdonald is a symbol of political corruption and “stands as a symbol of ‘colonialism, racism and white supremacy’” due to him “directly contribut[ing] to the genocide of Indigenous peoples with the creation of the brutal residential schools system, as well as other measures meant to destroy native cultures and traditions” (Olivier). When we examine the actions that John A Macdonald has done while creating our country, it is evident that John A Macdonald is someone who is not fit to represent our government or country, due to his morals, values, and actions that were not acceptable in the past as well as the present. Fundamentally, even as time goes on and values change, there are actions that reflect morals that do not belong in the past nor in the present. In the controversial instance of John A Macdonald, the values he represents and the ideologies his actions are attributed to are discordant to the past and present values that Canada holds dear.
Ballingall, Alex. “Sir John A. Macdonald: Architect of Genocide or Canada’s Founding Father?” Thestar.com, 24 Aug. 2017, www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/08/24/john-a-macdonald-schools-should-be-renamed-elementary-teachers-union.html.
Hopper, Tristin. “Everyone Knows John A. Macdonald Was a Bit of a Drunk, but It’s Largely Forgotten How Hard He Hit the Bottle.” National Post, 9 Jan. 2015, nationalpost.com/news/canada/everyone-knows-john-a-macdonald-was-a-bit-of-a-drunk-but-its-largely-forgotten-how-hard-he-hit-the-bottle.
Hopper, Tristin. “Sure, John A. Macdonald Was a Racist, Colonizer and Misogynist – but so Were Most Canadians Back Then.” National Post, 24 Jan. 2015, nationalpost.com/news/canada/sure-john-a-macdonald-was-was-a-racist-colonizer-and-misogynist-but-so-were-most-canadians-back-then.
Kennedy, Mark. “Sir John A. Macdonald: The Comeback King.” Ottawa Citizen, 11 Jan. 2015, ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/sir-john-a-macdonald-the-comeback-king.
Olivier, Annabelle. “Activists Deface Statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Downtown Montreal.” Global News, 12 Nov. 2017, globalnews.ca/news/3857052/activists-deface-statue-of-sir-john-a-macdonald-in-downtown-montreal/.
Stanley, Timothy J. “JOHN A. MACDONALD AND THE INVENTION OF WHITE SUPREMACY IN CANADA.” Canadian Issues/Thèmes Canadiens (2014).
Symons, Thomas. “Professor Thomas Symons: John A. Macdonald: a Founder and Builder.” The Macdonald Project, macdonaldproject.com/education/professor-thomas-symons-macdonalds-qualities-as-leader-builder-withstand-welcome-wave-of-critiques/.