It’s all about addition, not subtraction.
That’s the latest as the city of Kingston, Sir John A. Macdonald‘s home town, tries to figure out how to move forward when it comes to reflecting the entire legacy of Canada’s first prime minister.
Jennifer Campbell, cultural heritage manager with the city, says one of Kingston’s most compelling cultural assets is its powerful historic narrative, and a central figure in that narrative is Sir John A. Macdonald.
Campbell says the city wants to shine an updated spotlight on Macdonald — the good as well as the bad, a process that must be viewed through the lens of reconciliation.
“The purpose of this engagement is not, as you know, to erase history or to remove historic elements, but to foster conversations that explore really hard questions,” Campbell said.
“They can identify gaps and help us to better build our history.”
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The city has been asking for public input with its “Your Stories, Our Histories” project, and from that, Campbell says, a number of different themes have emerged, like adding to our history and thinking about how to include new viewpoints and voices.
There are a lot of calls for inclusion, education and a lot of calls for understanding the past, but also the impacts of the past on the present. Guy Freedman is president and senior partner with First Peoples Group, whose website bills it as the most trusted Indigenous advisory firm in Canada.
“What we talk about in the company that I head up is re-confederation or real confederation,” Freedman said. “How do we be inclusive to all of the people that are here now that really didn’t have a part in the thinking way back then?”
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As for the immediate future, the city would like more public engagement. A panel discussion with take place September 17, while October 16 and 17 will bring community workshops.
Meanwhile, a report will be sent to city council in the winter of 2020 with recommendations on how the city can better reflect the complete legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald.