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The residential schools he favoured resulted in thousands of children dying and many more experiencing trauma.
While this all continued long after Macdonald’s death, his statue is a reminder.
As Martin put it, “Why do you have to go to a park, to have a good time, and then your kids say ‘who’s that?’ And then, ‘well you know, another long sad story of being Canadian.’”
Historian James Pitsula says Macdonald was a product of his time.
“I think it’s sort of misleading … loading it all on him, because it was more everybody, almost everybody,” said Pitsula, a longtime history professor at the U of R, who was a Grade 12 student at Campbell Collegiate at the time the statue was installed.
“The assumption was that basically assimilation and there wasn’t a lot of debate about it, put it that way. … I think Macdonald just was part of those set of assumptions.”
Macdonald himself in 1887 acknowledged the “near universal” prejudice against Chinese immigrants, which “may be right, or it may be wrong.”
Pitsula added, Macdonald was a “founder” and a “builder”: He formed a coalition and enabled Confederation of a new country.
Lest the United States take power of the West, Macdonald — bucking his Liberal detractors — enabled colonial settlement, developing a railway and tariffs to foster new Canadian industry.
“All of his campaign of clearing the West and all the starvation campaigns … the railroad and the Riel Resistance and all of that, Saskatchewan was the result of that,” said Davidson. “So he’s very integral to the creation of your province and also to the colonial violence underpinning the creation of your province.”