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City to lead further conversation on Sir John A. Macdonald’s impact

On Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, Jennifer Campbell, manager of cultural heritage, for the City of Kingston, and Guy Freedman, president and senior partner of First Peoples Group, shared how they plan to continue the conversation about Sir John A Macdonald’s connections to Kingston, and his impact and legacy across Canada.

Guy Freedman, president and senior partner, First Peoples Group, and Jennifer Campbell, manager, cultural heritage, City of Kingston share details of the City’s Sir John A. Macdonald 360° initiative on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019. Photo by Tommy Vallier.

Dubbed Sir John A 360°, the project hopes to explore more about his actions as a political figure and the legacy of those choices as viewed through a lens of reconciliation.

“The question is ‘How do we tell a complete story and a complete history?'” Campbell said at a press briefing.

The city will be hosting three events this fall to help with this conversation. First, a panel discussion featuring authors Lee Maracle, Charlotte Gray, and Christopher Moore, and moderated by Bob Watts will be held at The Grand Theatre on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. Each of the authors were included as part of ‘The Trials of John A,’ an essay project published Canada’s History Society in February 2019. The city will also be hosing engagement workshops on October 16 and 17, 2019, where members of the public and local community groups can further provide input.

“The words that come to mind are to educate and have a moderate discussion on the issue that brings things to the contemporary side” said Freedman, who has been working with the city since late 2018. “The city is taking a bold step that will lead to conversations outside of Kingston, which are essential,” he added.

“The words that come to mind are to educate and have a moderate discussion on the issue that brings things to the contemporary side” said Freedman, who has been working with the city since late 2018. “The city is taking a bold step that will lead to conversations outside of Kingston, which are essential,” he added.

A comment board, book of articles and statue of Sir John A. Macdonald are located in City Hall for members of the public to provide feedback. Photos By Tommy Vallier.

Since the fall of 2018, residents have been able to provide feedback through the city’s ‘Your Stories, Our History’ platform, and through comment cards in the Sir John A. Macdonald room at City Hall. More than 250 comments and stories have been received to date.

The City shared that, among the emerging themes from existing comments, have been those that Sir John A. Macdonald is a product of his time, that the past needs to be understood more in the context of the present, that there needs to be a balance of history, additional viewpoints, perspectives and authority, and that reconciliation requires more education about Indigenous culture and its history. There has been no requirement, Campbell said, for people providing comments to self-identify as members of the Indigenous community.

They city’s cultural services department has been working with First Peoples Group, following direction from council in late 2018 and as part of the Kingston Cultural Plan. A final report from this engagement project is expected by March 2020.

A look at the city’s new Sir John A. 360° initiative. Photo by Tommy Vallier.
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