OTTAWA – Leaders Ledger – The 200th anniversary of Sir John A. Macdonald’s birth should not simply be an opportunity for celebration but an opportunity for reflection and education on the history of this country. These occasions clearly have different meanings for different people. Many Canadians know only the conventional history of Macdonald as a ‘father of Confederation,’ yet for many First Nations the legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald is a painful one, linked to discriminatory and oppressive practices, policies and legislation that continue to have impacts today like the Indian Act, residential schools, and discriminatory laws that denied and disenfranchised First Nations people from their rights and their lands.
First Nations are often lectured about ‘not living in the past’, but the decisions, policies and actions that are preventing First Nations from achieving the same quality of life and the full expression of our rights to control our lives and lands have a foundation in the early decisions of the settler governments.
These decisions excluded First Nations people and ran contrary to the Treaty relationship of partnership and respect.
Canadians need to learn their history and, equally important, learn from their history because First Nations are still dealing with the impacts of this legacy today. The commemoration of Sir John A. Macdonald’s birthday should be an opportunity to commit ourselves to understanding our past so we can understand how we can move forward together to create a country where we all thrive and benefit from the beauty and riches of this land.
National Chief Perry Bellegarde
Assembly of First Nations