John A Macdonald: The Founding Father of Canada, Worthy of the Name
Canada prides itself in holding a strong sense of community, compassion, and diversity. What Canada can’t pride itself in is understanding where our history comes from. Majority of Canadians are unaware of the hardships and battles that we went through at one point in time. Therefore, when an idea that seems out of perspective and from a separate lens, it spreads like wild fire. John A. Macdonald is our founding father. As a leader, he took the highs and lows of the beginning years of this nation. The choices he made at that time, such as residential schools, might seem wrong now but back in that time and era was what the common moral was and “while Macdonald did make mistakes, so did Canadians collectively” (“National Post”). His actions and willpower are what brought this large land mass, stretching from sea to sea to sea together. Albeit Macdonald’s historical beliefs and contributions to Canadian growth he should remain a part of the public sphere.
Arguably one of Macdonald’s greatest accomplishments as a politician and a leader was his work with the Canadian Pacific Railway. Today, many say that this railway caused controversy and oppressed the Chinese at that time but when stripped bare, this railway is what brought Canada together and we can thank Macdonald for this. During his generation, politicians focused mainly on “economic bonds rather than cultural bridges”. (“Open Text BC”) Macdonald proposed this idea to his audience and promised British Columbia this railway so they would join with Canada. British Columbia at the time was part British and part America. This is significant because “Macdonald never deviated from the purpose of his public life, which was to make certain that Canada did not become America” (Gwyn). The railway created a secure way see to it that the Americans didn’t try to conquer them because it created a stronger sense of law and economy in Canada. He ensured the people that this railway would connect the East to the West which created easier trade and allowing for more resources within its own borders. This appealed to the majority of Canadians at the time because it involved intercolonial trading rather than working with other countries. More within Canada, this form of transportation allowed expansion and growth within the Prairies. The railroad opened up settlement by transporting necessities like coal and grain. John A Macdonald’s determination and wit gave Canada the chance to utilise all of its vast resources and help one another within communities.
On the contrary, one might say that John A. MacDonald mistreated people through the process of making this railroad, just like he mistreated the indigenous people with residential schools. Many argue for his monuments and statues getting taken down because they serve as a reminder of all the hardships minority groups went through during the first years of Canada. However, during that ear of time “the average British Columbian saw Asians as a threat to racial purity. And almost everybody was fine with the expectation that the native way of life would soon be extinct”. (Symons) Politicians at this time all had this narrow mindset, but John A. Macdonald was ahead of his time. Although he didn’t see eye to eye with the people today on racism and reconciliation with the First Nations, He is “the first leader in the world to attempt to extend the vote to women” (Gwyn). In 1883, Macdonald tried to pass a bill into parliament that gives the Dominion franchise to unmarried women and widows. Unfortunately, the bill was not passed and Macdonald’s vision of allowing women to vote didn’t follow through during his time as Prime Minister, but it did speed up the process and women were welcomed into the democracy in 1916. Due to him taking a risk and expressing an unpopular opinion, he was deemed a progressive thinker. He was someone who’s best interest was to move Canada forward as a whole. John A. Macdonald knew what the views and perspectives of the people at that time were. He used his clever and quick intuition to shape Canada for the people back then and the people of today even though it doesn’t line up with the morals of our current era.
Overtime, our country has come to respect all that step on the land. The government and the people are trying to reconcile with the people we’ve hurt in the past. However, we must keep in mind that historical beliefs are vastly different from the beliefs we hold today. Taking John A. Macdonald’s name away from history is equivalent to erasing the accomplishments he’s made as well. The work he did with fixing our economy, connecting the east and west and setting up the foundation to advance us as a whole should be recognized and extoled to the public eye. In the end, it’s valuable to take a step back and ask why these people, the people that change the way we live today are seen. As time passes, change comes with it, but we should know who progressed us to where we are now. John A. Macdonald created the bonds between us, created our sense of unity, and created a platform for us to grow on. Because of his actions, we can respectfully question the reasons why we look up to historical figures today. Canada hold a strong sense of unity, all thanks to our founding father worthy of his name, John A. Macdonald.
Belshaw, J. D. (2016, May 17). Canadian History: Post-Confederation. Retrieved from https://opentextbc.ca/postconfederation/chapter/4-2-john-a-macdonalds-canada/
Gwyn, J. (2012, November). Canada’s Father Figure.
Hopper, T. (2015, January 24). Sure, John A. Macdonald was a racist, colonizer and misogynist – but so were most Canadians back then. Retrieved from https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/sure-john-a-macdonald-was-was-a-racist-colonizer-and-misogynist-but-so-were-most-canadians-back-then
Symons, T. (n.d.). John A. Macdonald: A Founder and Builder.
Canadian Pacific Railway. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/canadian-pacific-railway
Facing Sir John A. Macdonald’s Legacy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/facing-sir-john-a-macdonalds-legacy