Negativity has become such a large factor within Canadian lives that the positive is often overlooked, although both sides ultimately contribute to the creation of Canadian identity. Likewise, John A. Macdonald contributed both negatively and positively to Canada today during a time period of different values and norms. Recently, the public has been re-evaluating the presence of certain historical figures, such as John A. Macdonald, and arguments have arisen as to whether his name should remain in the public sphere. Those in favor of removing Macdonald argue that his past actions towards specific groups is unacceptable and does not match Canada’s current values. Those opposed state that his overall contribution to Canada today outweighs the negative, and he should remain as a public figure. Reasons such as John A. Macdonald’s bold decisions like attempting to provide women voting rights and the creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway support the argument that he should stay within the public sphere.
Macdonald’s courageous thought process went against the norms of his time, shaping Canada into what it is today. In the mid-1980s, Macdonald implemented one policy and attempted to implement another, both of which were Canadian firsts and possibly international firsts. The policy implemented was to allow “native people to gain the franchise […] without losing any of their rights under either the Indian Act or any of their treaties” (Gwyn). At the time, this was a questionable outlook on the indigenous, and although this policy was cancelled in 1898 by Wilfrid Laurier, it opened up conversation and was of immense importance. His other attempted policy focused on the rights of women, an uncalled-for opinion during his electoral campaign. This policy “pre-dated the granting of the vote to women in Canada in 1918 by a third of a century,” beginning to shape what was soon to become a large characteristic of Canadian identity (Gwyn). Macdonald wanted to amend the act so that the “Persons” clause would read “Person means men […] or women who are widows and unmarried,” taking a major step for the entire world. There are no known reasons behind his actions; he had never publicly commented on his thought process before or after. Despite the values and norms of the time, John A. Macdonald’s daring efforts regarding equality mirror the values that Canada shares today, showing how ahead of the time he really was.
Although John A. Macdonald’s accomplishment of creating the Canadian Pacific Railway is incredibly important to Canada today, those supporting Macdonald’s removal argue as to whether the low paid labor and estimated 600 Chinese immigrant deaths were worth the large economic benefit of the railway. Despite the sacrifices made, the CPR plays too large a part within Canadian identity to be excluded as one of Macdonald’s great feats, working as “an agent of economic modernization” (“Dictionary of Canadian Biography”). Over the course of its life, the CPR acquired trade, transported goods, welcomed immigrants, built hotels, assisted in war, and plenty more. An example of this is how the CPR “sold […] package[s] that included a passage on a CP ship, travel on a CP train, and land that was purchased from the CP railway” to mainly immigrants, welcoming them into Canada as well as aiding the economy (“McGill”). Macdonald’s efforts regarding the CPR paid off, not only completely shaping Canadian economy today, but also creating an icon of Canadian nationalism.
John A. Macdonald was a political leader who although shaped what Canada is in the present, held different perspectives from what Canadians value to this day. Arguments supporting his removal state that “Macdonald […] was one of the leading architects of residential schools [instigating] the cultural genocide of Indigenous people,” whereas those opposed to his removal believe that history is inerasable, and that we should strive to learn from the good and bad in the past. After truly analyzing John A. Macdonald’s unconventional approach to politics and his triumph in creating a symbol of Canada, the importance he holds to Canadian identity reveals itself, as well as the need for him to remain in the public sphere. John A. Macdonald was a political leader who believed in what Canada believes in today, the idea that no matter what we are, we are Canadian. As he once said, “Let us be English or let us be French . . . and above all let us be Canadians.”
“Canadian Pacific Railway.” Canadian Pacific Railway, www.cs.mcgill.ca/~rwest/wikispeedia/wpcd/wp/c/Canadian_Pacific_Railway.htm.
“John A. Macdonald.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Apr. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_A._Macdonald.
Lavallé, Omer. “Canadian Pacific Railway.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2008, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/canadian-pacific-railway.
National Post. “Richard Gwyn: How Macdonald Almost Gave Women the Vote.” National Post, 14 Jan. 2015, nationalpost.com/opinion/richard-gwyn-how-macdonald-almost-gave-women-the-vote.
Pennington, Christopher. “Facing Sir John A. Macdonald’s Legacy.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2015, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/facing-sir-john-a-macdonalds-legacy.
“Sir John A. Macdonald – Dictionary of Canadian Biography.” Home – Dictionary of Canadian Biography, www.biographi.ca/en/theme_macdonald.html?project_id=98&p=18.