The Name Game: Addressing MacDonald’s Problem


By: Breanna Schnurr

Sir John A Macdonald is known as one of the founding fathers of the country as well as it’s first Prime Minister. But what happens when his troubling Aboriginal Policies are considered in today’s society? Recently, the EFTO (The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario) passed a motion for buildings bearing the name “Sir John A. MacDonald” be renamed. On the EFTO’s official website they stated: “The motion recognizes that MacDonald has been celebrated based on an incomplete version of Canadian history. As a central architect of the Indian Act and residential schools, MacDonald played a key role in developing systems that perpetrated genocide against Indigenous people”.

Sir John A. MacDonald statue that stands at Queen’s Park Grounds, TO.

With this motion, the EFTO hopes to provide an even safer learning environment, as well as address this darker part of Canada’s history, as well as recognize it’s impact.

However, not everyone agrees with the EFTO’s motion. Robert-Falcon Ouellette, an indigenous liberal MP does not believe that erasing the Prime Minister’s name would benefit today’s youth.

Sir John A. MacDonald Secondary School in Waterloo, ON


“When we start effacing completely that history, and not recognizing it, then people can forget very readily what occurred. And so for me it’s always important to have that anchor,” Ouellette stated in an interview with CBC. He believes that Sir John A. MacDonald was, “Very important to the founding of Canada” and tries to make the best out of a dark situation. “Everyone has warts,” he said. “It’s what makes us human beings.”

The Fjord spoke to Julia Candlish – Director of Education for Chiefs of Ontario – for her personal opinion on the name change. Candlish’s perspective did not include a yes or a no to a name change:

“I love to hear public involvement in issues relating to First Nation peoples.  We have been working diligently for many years…It is difficult for mainstream society to understand high suicide, incarceration and poverty rates among First Nations peoples if they do not understand the “darker” part of our shared history that has contributed so greatly to this troubled contemporary reality”.

Although Candlish believes bringing said darker history into conversation, she believes that it must be a community decision to make, as no one voice should be heard above all others.

The principal of Waterloo’s Sir John A. MacDonald secondary school, Jennifer Shortreed, spoke to WCI students on her opinion of this issue as well:

“I think it is an issue that requires the attention it is currently getting. I believe we are stronger as a society and a local community if we critically examine our history and historical figures in the context of our culture and values today”. Shortreed stated during the interview. With that being said, SJAM’s principal also stated, “I think our many strengths outweigh any physical part of our schools.”

Two students at Sir John A. MacDonald agreed, with one student saying: “It’s good that this awareness is being raised but I don’t think action should be taken in regards to the school.” and another student sharing, “…I think that it would be much more useful to use this as an opportunity for learning rather than wipe him out of our history.”

The EFTO is currently still waiting on school boards to consider the problem at hand, despite hearing both sides of the argument. How long will the Name Game Last?

What do you think?