I was dismayed by Stephen Marche’s skewering of John A. Macdonald (“Old Macdonald,” January/February). It’s easy with a 2015 perspective to rip apart deeply flawed but inspired historical figures. Referencing neo-Nazis crossed the line of good taste.
I do not dispute the facts of Macdonald’s drinking, racism, and colonial outlook. But Canada is a work-in-progress; it requires us to reflect on our past in order to improve our future. To expect the fathers of Confederation to have created a perfect nation is absurd. Just look south of the border at the mess George Washington and his gang left for future presidents to clean up.
On January 11, I raised a glass of Scotch to Sir John A.—not to the man himself, but to his belief that Canada could be a great nation, from sea to sea to sea.
This vindictive diatribe lacks historical perspective. Yes, Macdonald was a racist, but so were most Europeans in the nineteenth century. Their conviction that they were a superior race justified their taking lands from Indigenous peoples. But Macdonald wasn’t a religious bigot; he worked with French Canadians, including George-Étienne Cartier and Hector-Louis Langevin, without whom Canada would never have come into existence.
Yes, Macdonald was a colonialist, but what were his options? Either we grew within the British Empire, or we were absorbed into the United States.
Yes, he was a drunk. Yet in spite of his alcoholism, he had an impressive track record that included the creation of the North West Mounted Police, which minimized violence on the prairies during the 1870s and ’80s and in Yukon during the 1898 gold rush. Few consistently sober politicians have accomplished as much. Churchill drank and smoked, whereas Hitler was a non-smoking, teetotalling vegetarian. Whom do we admire more?
Graeme S. Mount
Marche presents a cynical, mean-spirited view both of our first prime minister and of Canada today. He concentrates on Macdonald’s flaws but fails to recognize that without him we would all be reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Macdonald was a man of vision who, after 1867, spearheaded the union of the Western provinces and pushed for women’s suffrage years before it was realized in 1918.
Our rocky path to Confederation provided us with the resolve to be a tolerant nation that reveres its founding principles of “Peace, Order, and good Government.” Although Canada still has work to do on Aboriginal rights, it remains one of the best countries in the world to call home—thanks in large part to Sir John A.
Right on, Stephen Marche. Macdonald’s grand tradition lives on today with continued efforts to assimilate Indigenous peoples. It wasn’t just Treaty Number Six but also Treaty Numbers Seven and Four that caused starvation and disease. People should read a real history book (I suggest Clearing the Plains by James Daschuk) rather than sophomoric cheerleading by some white high school teacher.
Gold River, BC
This piece reminds me of adults who blame their parents for ills ranging from appearance to success. While I enjoyed Marche’s acerbic comments on Macdonald’s character, much of the world envies Canada—despite our bad leaders, then and now.
Walrus is risking sacrilege with this piece but Marche is totally correct http://t.co/b7uZdYLRYg
— adam? (@saccadst) December 15, 2014
Richard Gwyn rebuts my John A MacDonald piece in the Walrus by agreeing with every point. Best kind of rebuttal. http://t.co/hKVe2gqzZk
— Stephen Marche (@StephenMarche) December 16, 2014
Lorne Sossin’s article provides interesting details and perspectives on Canada’s judicial system (“Court Dismissed,” January/February). Sadly, it falls well short of a critical analysis of current challenges to the democratic process. It is naive to suggest that Conservatives are more interested in gaining partisan advantage at the expense of the courts than in creating a partisan judiciary. Harper is showing himself to be adept at doing both.
The real challenge for the judiciary is how to deal with authoritarian leadership in a constitutional democracy that is based in large part on traditions and respect. The solution lies in the forceful defence of our traditional democratic values and procedures by judges and by all Canadians.
The Supreme Court is one of the few institutions left in Canada’s constitutional apparatus that hasn’t been undermined by and dragged toward the Prime Minister’s Office. As the parliamentary budget officer’s criticism shows, this government’s modus operandi has always been to brook little dissent and to quash criticism, no matter the source.
The illustration that accompanies Sossin’s article implies there was a spat between Beverley McLachlin and Stephen Harper, but that’s not the case. The chief justice was correct and the prime minister was wrong; the subsequent temper tantrum was entirely the government’s.
I commend The Walrus for profiling Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq (“Howl,” January/February). However, the piece contradicts itself. We are told that Tagaq should be appreciated on her own artistic merits, not merely as a symbol of post-colonial emancipation. Then the article casts her work as decidedly anti-colonial. Ironically, it asks us, in Tagaq’s own words, “to Pocahontas” her as a rhetorical device.
I thoroughly enjoyed Drew Nelles’s profile of Tanya Tagaq. I laughed, I cried, and I wanted to find her music and listen to it.
Proving that strong Indigenous culture isn't just a thing of the past: @tagaq on why she sings http://t.co/mMXAow5KPz pic.twitter.com/fYoOPGyo5d
— BearPaw Legal (@BearPawLegal) December 20, 2014
why didn't the walrus call this "tanya tagaq has a cold"? http://t.co/d1eh0yl7iw
— Canice Leung (@canice) December 15, 2014
This appeared in the April 2015 issue.