Alberta Premier Jason Kenney took a tough stance this week on potentially re-writing the history of several great Canadians.
In a COVID-19 press conference Tuesday, Kenney was asked about a Calgary high school potentially removing Sir John A. MacDonald from its name.
The premier delivered an impassioned answer, indicating that if Canadians “cancel” one of their founding fathers, there are also other historical figures in the country’s past that had similar contradictions.
“I think Canada is worth celebrating – I think Canada is a great historical achievement. It is a country that people all around the world seek to join as new Canadians. It is an imperfect country, but it is still a great country. Just as John MacDonald was an imperfect man but was still a great leader,” Kenney said.
“If we want to get into cancelling every figure in our history who took position on issues at the time, that we now judge harshly and rightly, in historical retrospect. If that’s the new standard, I think almost the entire founding leadership of our country gets cancelled.
“If we go full force into cancel culture, then we’re cancelling most, if not all of our history. Instead, I think we should learn from our history. We should learn from our achievements, but also our failures.”
MacDonald was the first prime minister of Canada and the father of confederation. He also played a critical role in the creation of residential schools. Recently, the remains of 215 children were discovered in an unmarked grave near the site of a former residential school in Kamloops.
In his answer, Kenney referenced Tommy Douglas, as well as members of the Famous Five and Sir Wilfred Laurier as figures that would be “cancelled” if we looked at their lives through today’s lens.
“Why is this question only ever asked about John Macdonald and not Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who for example increased the Chinese head tax by tenfold, effectively to bar immigrants from east Asia, the Wilfrid Laurier who brought in the Continuous Journey policy which led to the tragedy of the Komagata Maru and which was a racist policy designed to prevent people of South Asian origin from immigrating,” Kenney said.
“Sir Wilfrid Laurier who signed an order in council barring Black people from entering the country and who maintained the same residential school policy that began under the Macdonald administration, in fact expanded it to its peak in I believe the 1920s. … If the new standard is to cancel any figure in our history associated with what we now rightly regard as historical injustices, then essentially that is the vast majority of our history.”