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Thoughts on the Sept 17 Panel Discussion

I attended the September 17, 2019 panel discussion. Here are some of my take-aways.

First, this was not a real 360 degree examination of Sir john A's legacy. Most of his "roles and actions as a political figure" were barely mentioned. For example, his leading role in creating Confederation and his subsequent nation-building of a country that stretches from sea to sea to sea was largely ignored. There was nil discussion of "his historic connections to Kingston". For the most part Sir john A's relationship with indigenous peoples was the only aspect of his career that was discussed.

Since the object of the exercise is to attempt to present a balanced view of Sir John A, both good and bad, this focus on one part of his legacy struck me as quite unfortunate and excessively one-sided.

From my own point of view, it is bad enough that Kingston is spending tax dollars to wade into a historical controversy, because I believe that organs of the state, including municipalities ought not to involve themselves in indicating how citizens ought to think. This panel got a little too close to "he who controls the past controls the future" for my comfort. A municipality shouldn't be taking sides in intellectual and cultural controversies and this panel did by mostly discussing one aspect of Sir John A's legacy.

Second, the panel discussions and the Q and A session frequently veered off into the much larger questions of Canada's historical and current relationship with its Indigenous peoples, including for example, the lamentable story of residential schools and topics relating to the recent Truth and Reconcilition Commission. Sir John A was hardly even mentioned in these particular discussions which, while interesting, had almost nothing to do with the topic of the panel.

Third, none of the panelists or audience mentioned the elephant in the room, namely the intimidation and violence associated with this topic. It is more or less an open secret in Kingston that "supporters" of Sir John A (if I can call them that) have reported being intimidated and threatened by a person or persons unknown. Sir john A's statue has been defaced, peoples' property has been vandalized, in at least one instance in a manner that could have killed someone and some people even received explicit death threats.

I am not saying that indigenous people are responsible for any of this. So far as I am aware, the perpetrators of these alleged acts have never been identified and it wouldn't shock me at all, if and when we find out who they are, to learn that they are ideologically possessed non-indigenous persons.

But I would have been very happy to hear the panelists denounce such violence, particularly Ms Maracle, one of the three panelists.

I single out Ms Maracle because she made a point of telling us that she knew how to wield a spiked club to defend herself and that she "knew how to kill but chose not to do so" (I am paraphrasing). The implications of personal violence in part of her presentation were a little creepy and I hoped she would come down firmly on "the side of the angels" by denouncing the violence and intimidation associated with this topic.

But she didn't.

Finally, all the panelists seemed to agree that the correct course of action re Sir John A's legacy was to "change the plaque on his statue" (as they put it).

By which I assume they mean that all municipal depictions of Sir John A, including statues, should present the the bad side of his legacy, rather than (say) simply removing his statue, for the modern crime of acting like a nineteenth century person. Whether or not Kingston will fairly present all sides of his legacy, including the good, remains to be seen.

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