Bernie Farber had a piece in the Ottawa Citizen yesterday re our nation's first Prime Minister:
...Sir John A. Macdonald was also a racist who disdained Chinese rail workers, the very same men who helped build his national dream, by imposing a discriminatory head tax on each of them. And it was Macdonald whose policies of forced starvation helped clear First Nations from the prairies in order to build that railway. Indeed, James Daschuk from the University of Regina argues quite cogently in his book, “Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation and the Loss of Aboriginal Life,” that Macdonald’s starvation policies led to the deaths of thousands. As Daschuk explains: “For years, government officials withheld food from aboriginal people until they moved to their appointed reserves, forcing them to trade freedom for rations. Once on reserves, food placed in ration houses was withheld for so long that much of it rotted while the people it was intended to feed fell into a decades-long cycle of malnutrition, suppressed immunity and sickness from tuberculosis and other diseases. Thousands died.”
What are we to do once we know this? Make sure its taught in our history classes is one thing, I suppose. When I was in high-school it certainly was not. Sir John A. was simply known as a charming drunk who launched the nation from the bottom of an alcoholic stupor. Class conversations would have been much more useful if this stuff had been part of the lesson.