Two days ago, David Warrick (The Macdonald Project) invited friends and acquaintances by email to sign his petition to “support the continued presence of the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald and plaque in front of the Picton Library.”
I’m neither Warrick’s friend nor acquaintaince yet, so I didn’t learn of his invitation until someone shared it with someone, who shared it with someone, who shared it with someone, who shared it with me. Warrick’s email included the following screed:
“For your reading pleasure (or pain)…if you’re interested in the controversy about Macdonald.
“As you know there are protests across the country denouncing Canada’s first prime minister. The protestors have arrived in Picton and the defacement has begun.
“Protestors claim that Macdonald was racist for his treatment of Canada’s Indigenous peoples during his term in office.
“A little background….
“I was Chair of the Macdonald Project for 7 years and with many volunteers managed to commission one of Canada’s leading bronze portrait artists to create the work known as Holding Court for the County and Quinte region to remind everyone that our prime minister became a lawyer while he was articling and working as a pro tem lawyer at the top of the town hill. It shows him winning his first court case in the old court house. He won his case and moved to Kingston at the age of 20 and became a barrister the following year.
“You have no doubt heard about Macdonald’s alleged racism.
“I’ve been given the unenviable task of trying to explain how the study of history must include context. History is not a series of polemics in which sides are taken in a war of words. History requires the documentation of issues in an objective and professional manner.
“A court of law is a good example of how evidence should be presented before judges and juries and following court protocols including rules of evidence.
“Ask the important question: why were Indigenous peoples starving during the latter half of the 19th C especially on the plains of North America? Before you answer the question, consider the Atlantic article below. Or Google Indian Wars U.S. Manifest Destiny Trail of Tears Bosque Redondo U.S. Residential Schools Mohawk Institute.
“Below is a draft copy of something I wrote on this subject this week with a Metis colleague and a consultant on the reservations of Saskatchewan. It needs some work but it raises important questions about values, means and consequences. It’s only a draft so please read it with that in mind. …”
Warrick has posted his draft of “Macdonald and Canada’s Native People”; he’s intending to present the final version (or some other “7 page historical background paper”) to the Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee (PEHAC) and to County Council.
Council is scheduled to receive recommendations on the future of Macdonald Holding Court when it meets on September 1, 2020. Mayor Steve Ferguson has said publicly that the County’s review of the statue’s future will include input from scholars.
Let it also be said: Warrick is unqualified to speak as a professional historian and his draft is shamefully at odds with current scholarly thinking about Macdonald’s designs and impact on Indigenous People, Metis, and Inuit.
If Council’s review of Holding Court‘s future in the County is to have any credibility, the qualified opinions of professional historians should be sought out and shared publicly.