Sir John A.’s name pulled from pub
Historic Kingston tavern removes name over ‘horrible memory’ of residential schools
A downtown Kingston pub has changed its name to remove reference to Canada’s first prime minister over the role Sir John A. Macdonald played in residential schools.
Sir John’s Public House has been renamed the Public House, owner Paul Fortier said.
“We decided to make the change because we are a hospitality venue,” Fortier told the Star. “And many customers indicated that because of the name, that they were unable to patronize the pub, that they felt unsafe.”
Fortier said patrons were concerned about the association between Macdon- ald and 19th-century policies that were destructive to Indigenous Canadians, like residential schools.
“There was one individual who was a regular here at the pub, and he told me of his personal experience in residential schools and how horrible a memory it was for him,” Fortier said.
“And that the association with John A. Macdonald meant that he could no longer come here.”
From 1849 to 1860, the building was home to Macdonald’s law office. The 150-seat, two-storey pub was named in recognition of the lawyer who would later guide Canada toward Confederation.
“We will continue to represent Sir John A. Macdonald and talk about his use of the structure and to commemorate him,” Fortier said. “But we’ve decided to make a slight change to the name . . . to make the name more inclusive, to be more welcoming, to all Canadians.”
Critics have said the name change is an attempt to “expunge Sir John A. Macdonald’s record from the history books,” Fortier said, “which is not what we’re trying to do at all.” The pub was one of many Canadian buildings named in the first prime minister’s honour, including schools, the Ottawa airport and an office of the federal government. Subsequent debate about whether those names should be changed, in recognition of policies Macdonald held, has been heated.
Fortier said only the pub’s name and sign will be changed, with the exterior sign due to come down Tuesday.
The exterior plaque erected by Parks Canada to commemorate Macdonald’s use of the building will remain, as will interior features such as an original bust of Macdonald from the 1880s.
So will menu items such as the CPR Burger, named in recognition of the Canadian Pacific Railway the Macdonald government championed.
Idle No More Kingston-Katarokwi, which has protested against the pub in the past, didn’t immediately comment when reached by the Star.
But the group had earlier posted on its Facebook page that “Sir John’s Public House has accepted public opinion and is changing its name.”