‘Rewrite our present and future’
Compassionate living is an ideal we should all aspire to, as individuals and as a society. Author Karen Armstrong ’s “Charter for Compassion” states that “compassion impels us to ... dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there.”
Our historical treatment of Indigenous people has not only lacked compassion, it has been disgraceful. While we cannot change our past, we must focus on doing better in the present and the future. In the spirit of compassion, that will involve dethroning ourselves and elevating them.
I have read letters and articles lately that bemoan the trend to “rewrite history” or “erase history” by removing monuments of controversial historical figures. But monuments are not history — they are heritage. They represent not the historical record, but what we value. Removing them does not change or erase history, and is not intended to. It is a way of acknowledging that our values have changed since they were built.
When statues of John A. Macdonald were erected, his impact on Indigenous people was not adequately acknowledged. Now, however, if we are to be serious about reconciling with them, we must be more willing to acknowledge those realities.
Much of what I have read has emphasized Macdonald’s colonial achievements (Confederation, the railway, etc.) over the effect that these achievements had on the Indigenous population (genocide, starvation, reservations, residential schools, etc.).
Compassion calls us to reverse that emphasis, and to remove stumbling blocks to reconciliation with our Indigenous neighbours. In this case, that may include letting go of a statue — not to rewrite history, but to rewrite our present and future. Michael Capon Kingston