There’s a disturbing trend happening in our country these days. Most recently the toppling of Sir John A MacDonald’s statue in Montreal. This is not the first time that an historic monument has been targeted in Canada by overzealous mobs keen on virtue-signalling.
As our first Prime Minister, Sir John A MacDonald envisioned a nation united. The primary means to accomplish this was to ensure that our coasts were reliably linked to the interior for transportation of goods, materials, and people. The completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway united Canada from coast to coast. This project was not without its hardships. There were massive setbacks, disasters in the mountain passes, controversy, and lamentable human toll.
So, should we dismantle our railway system? Should we erase the names of all those involved in building the railway? No. That’s ridiculous. Both hardships and victories are important parts of the fabric of Canadian culture. No, our first Prime Minister was not perfect. No one among us is. The purpose of these historical monuments is to remind us of where we came from. They provide us with a launchpad from which to start the all too important conversation of, “How does our past relate to the issues we face today?”
Context is important. In order to evaluate our approach modern issues, and measure the efficacy of current policies and practices, we must look to our past for a fulsome understanding of the many facets that shaped our past decisions. Tommy Douglas is celebrated for being the father of universal healthcare in Canada. He also believed in eugenics and held other very strong views that are abhorrent by today’s standards. Should he be relegated to the dust bin as well? We, as sophisticated humans, are perfectly capable of lauding great achievements while also harbouring a distaste for repulsive ideas or behaviors. If these two qualities exist in the same person we can seize the opportunity for growth. Erasing our history is the same as ignoring it which will ensure that we will repeat the same mistakes.
Take a look around the world at monuments that have stood the test of time. The pyramids of Giza, the Taj Mahal, Hagia Sophia, Machu Pichu, Writing-On-Stone, Majorville Cairn and Medicine Wheel. These historic sites all carry deep connections to our past and tell us the story of our collective human history. They are celebrated for their architectural and technological marvel, their beauty, and their spirituality- all important aspects of the human condition. They also carry with them stories of our shortcomings; whether that be our reliance on and acceptance of slavery, our barbarism, our overuse of finite resources.
Canada has a relatively short history. That’s not to say it’s not without its fair share of triumphs and catastrophes. There’s a lot to celebrate and a lot to learn from. Defacing or destroying a memorial Constable Ezio Farone in Edmonton, known for his compassion and dedication to community and who died in the line of duty, does absolutely nothing to address the issues we face today. The only message that vandalizing houses of worship sends is one of intolerance and division; hardly a platform for productive discourse. Renaming schools or entire neighbourhoods will not erase the sins of the past- only bury them.
I fully support anyone’s right to bring attention to an issue- I even encourage it. But attempting to obliterate our history will only serve to distract from tangible solutions. It is often said that we are the sum of our experiences; everything we do in life- good or bad- makes us who we are today. The same can be said for our country.
Michaela Glasgo, Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA