Controversy is brewing over the legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald and whether elementary schools in Ontario should bear his name.
The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario is pushing to remove the name of Canada’s first prime minister from a handful of schools across the province.
It’s certainly not hard to spot his name around Kingston, his hometown. In fact, one of the city’s newest schools, which opened back in 2012, is named after him. It’s also one of the schools the ETFO wants renamed.
The name was chosen by the Limestone School board from a short list of names provided by the community.
In a statement, the school board said trustees wanted to choose a name that reflected the city, adding:
“There is no doubt that Sir John A. Macdonald is a controversial historical figure and there are big questions that are being addressed as part of the national reconciliation process.”
The ETFO said using Sir John A. Macdonald’s name creates an unsafe environment for kids to learn and work in because Macdonald was a supporter of residential schools back in the 1800’s.
In reponse, the Limestone School board said, “given this is an ETFO provincial motion, we need to consult with our provincial trustees’ organization and Indigenous leaders for a response to ETFO’s position.”
Over the years a number of protests have been held in Kingston during Sir John A. Macdonald celebrations. The group, Idle No More, has participated. Member, Natasha Stirrett, said the peaceful demonstrations are meant to highlight the prime minister’s role in establishing residential schools.
“We wanted a peaceful demonstration that raised awareness and builds communities in terms of having conversations of why it is not OK to celebrate genocidal historical figures,” said Stirrett.
Schools aren’t the only facilities to bear Sir John A. Macdonald’s name. Buildings and highways are also named after him and he’s featured on the $10 bill.
It’s unclear whether the call by the elementary teachers union will influence school boards to consider stripping his name from schools.