Don Martin: Political correctness behind Sir John A. pub name change
Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, is shown in an undated file photo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/National Archive of Canada)
The Maple Leaf flapped over Highclere Castle today, home of the famous Downton Abbey television series.
It was to celebrate Sir John A. Macdonald's 203rd birthday and to acknowledge he worked there while drafting the British North America Act.
But there's another flap very close to home for Canada’s first prime minister, which foreshadows his current celebration becoming future ostracization.
The Sir John Public House in the Kingston law offices where Macdonald began mapping out a country called Canada, stripped the pub of his name on Tuesday.
It's allegedly in response to customer concerns for their safety following Indigenous protests, even though the owner credits the history of his establishment as an attraction to pub goers.
Surely this is a sign of hyper-reactive cleansing for the sake of political correctness, a small step toward the sort of Stalinist purging of people from Soviet history.
True, Macdonald's record has a big black mark for being the presiding prime minister when Indigenous residential schools began their aggressive and abusive assimilation of children into the white man’s culture.
But these schools flourished in the 1930s and persisted right up until 20 years ago without any subsequent prime ministerial intervention to stop them.
If this movement toward name-shaming gets traction, all prime ministers who tolerated or encouraged residential schools will eventually suffer monumental banishment.
The difficult question is at what point bestowed historic honors should be rescinded as punishment for actions of the past which become unacceptable in the present.
George Washington owned slaves for his entire life, yet there's no sign Americans are about to lower their first president’s stature or statues for being a practicing racist.
Whatever his role was in starting residential schools, Sir John A. Macdonald was a father of Confederation who connected this country politically and, through the railroad, geographically. It was not an inconsequential achievement.
If private enterprise in the building he once occupied is reacting with such extreme sensitivity to promoting his name, it’s only a matter of time before governments scrub Macdonald’s name off all buildings, parks, schools and streets.
So happy birthday Sir John A.
The past credits you for creating a country. The present blasts you as such a political pariah, you can no longer safely raise a birthday drink in a pub bearing your name.
That’s the Last Word