‘Rewrite our present and fu­ture’

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - OPINION -

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

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