Should the City of Kingston distance itself from the ‘Sir John A’ brand?

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After the pub housed inside Sir John A. Macdonald's former Kingston law office removed his name from its branding, some are wondering if the City of Kingston should do the same – Jan 9, 2018

In Kingston, the country’s first prime minister seems to be everywhere. Whether it’s Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard, his portrait within Kingston City Hall, or the statue at City Park which has been a repeated target of vandalism.

“Sir John A” is heavily branded in the Limestone City, and for many, the removal of his name from the downtown pub housed in his former Kingston law offices came as a surprise.

READ MORE: Sir John’s Public House to be renamed

But will the City of Kingston also distance itself from the controversial political figure? The short answer is “no.”

“It’s not a matter of removing things. That can be counterproductive,” Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson said. “It’s a matter of what do we need to do to reach out, build bridges and improve the lives of Indigenous peoples in our community and across the nation.”

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Local Indigenous leaders are of the same mindset.

“We have to make sure we’re helping people learn and understand the accurate history of our people,” Peter Hodgson of Three Things Consulting, a Kingston-based Indigenous consulting firm, said.

Hodgson believes that instead of erasing history, they’d rather educate the public on the root of the anger towards Sir John A. Macdonald.

READ MORE: The controversy over Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, explained

Georgina Riel, another prominent member of the Kingston Indigenous community, thinks removing Macdonald’s likeness throughout Kingston would cause people to “forget the amount of hurt that has happened over generations.”

“I know some people have said, ‘Well, this is something that’s happened long ago,’ Riel said. “It really hasn’t. The ’90s were when the last residential school closed in Ontario.”

After last month’s vandalism of the Sir John A. Macdonald statue at City Park, the city’s curator admitted it may be time for the city to tell stories about “Sir John A” that have not previously been told.

The renaming of “Sir John’s Public House” may be the beginning of that trend.

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