Renaming schools won’t erase bitter legacy

I hear a question from the back of the room, “What’s wrong with the campaign to re-name schools that are called Sir John A. MacDonald?” I can think of lots of reasons, but our time is short.

Canada’s first Prime Minister was a legendary character in many ways. He was a prolific drinker, as were many men in those ancient days before the internet and Twitter. Yes, he was probably in his cups when he had occasion to describe indigenous people as ‘savages’, as he put together thoughts that led to the now dreaded system of residential schools.

Many in the west never forgave John A. for allowing Louis Riel to be strung up. He had lots of warts to be sure, but if the written history is to be believed, without him, we might well have ended up being Americans.

It was MacDonald and Brown and Cartier and the rest of them who got it done. They made the impossible dream become the National Dream with the building of the CPR.

One can’t help but think of the agonizing divisions that we see south of the border in the interests of ‘political correctness’ and ‘historical revisionism’. Rather than tearing down all the grim reminders of our not so enlightened past, why not revisit all of them in a meaningful way, with a new and ‘inclusive’ approach to the study of history.

While we’re at it, why is it even necessary to name schools after prominent folks from history? In the Pas Manitoba, can anyone tell us who Mary Duncan was? If it matters, she was the first principal of the school that now bears her name, and she held that job just over a century ago.

Until 1974 it was simply known as Red Brick School don’t you know.

My first school was Sir John Franklin in Winnipeg, named after the Englishman who disappeared while trying to find the Northwest Passage. The building was demolished in 1991, and they’re finally building houses there. For a long time it was a dog park, and I’m sure all the men who were named Sir John could relate to that.

I’m Roger Currie

Roger Currie


Veteran radio journalist, now working primarily as a writer, commentator and freelance voice. My regular commentary "Currie's Corner" is heard on CJNU ( Nostalgia Radio ) at 93.7 FM. Text and audio can be found at I also do a daily newscast on CJNU, at about 7.15 & 8.15, every weekday morning. It's also posted on the CNC homepage.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.