Sir John Alexander Macdonald was the dominant creative mind which produced the British North America Act and the union of provinces which became Canada. As the first prime minister of Canada, he oversaw the expansion of the Dominion from sea to sea. His government dominated politics for a half century and set policy goals for future generations of political leaders.
Amid the widening debate about the removal of the names and statues of controversial, colonial-era figures from public places, The Canadian Encyclopedia asked three writers to offer their opinions on the subject. Here, Anthony Wilson-Smith, the Encyclopedia's publisher, introduces the debate.
Scott Moe, 15th premier of Saskatchewan 2018-present, Cabinet minister, businessman (born circa 1973 near Shellbrook, SK). In January 2018, Moe won the leadership of the Saskatchewan Party and was sworn in as premier on 2 February 2018. After completing a university degree in agriculture, he worked in the agricultural equipment industry for several years. Moe entered politics in 2011 as an MLA representing the Saskatchewan Party and served several posts in government, including as environment minister. In January 2018, Moe won the leadership of the Saskatchewan Party and replaced Brad Wall as premier.
Adrienne Louise Clarkson, PC, CC, CMM, COM, CD, 26th governor general of Canada 1999–2005, television personality, journalist, novelist, public servant, publisher (born 10 February 1939 in Hong Kong). In 1999, Clarkson was appointed as Canada’s 26th governor general by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. She was the first racialized person, the first person of Asian heritage and the first without a political or military background appointed to the vice-regal position. Her appointment came after an award-winning career in broadcast and print journalism, where she was best known as host and reporter of CBC’s the fifth estate. After her tenure as governor general, Clarkson and her husband, John Ralston Saul, launched the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, an organization that aims to accelerate the cultural integration of new citizens into Canadian society. She is the author of two novels and five works of nonfiction.
Kathleen O’Day Wynne, 25th premier of Ontario 2013–18, member of provincial parliament 2003–18, school trustee, community activist, mediator, teacher (born 21 May 1953 in Toronto, ON). The skills of a mediator, coupled with a strong sense of will, propelled Kathleen Wynne’s political career, making her Ontario’s first woman premier and Canada’s first openly gay head of government.
Douglas Robert Ford Jr., 26th premier of Ontario 2018–present, city councillor, businessman (born 20 November 1964 in Etobicoke, ON). Ford spent much of his working life at Deco Labels and Tags, a company his father co-founded. He rose through the ranks at Deco to eventually replace his father as company president. When his brother Rob Ford ran for mayor of Toronto in 2010 and won, Doug was elected city councillor of the ward his brother had vacated to run for mayor. In March 2018, Ford won the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. Months later, the Ontario PCs won a majority government and Ford became premier.
Paul Gérin-Lajoie, CC, GOQ, lawyer and politician (born 23 February 1920 in Montréal, QC; died 25 June 2018 in Montréal), is one of the great figures of Québec’s Quiet Revolution. He served as minister of Youth (1960–64) and Education (1964–66) in the Québec Liberal government of Jean Lesage. Gérin-Lajoie was responsible for reforming Québec’s education system and formulating Québec’s first international-relations policy, two milestone achievements of this period that helped to define modern Québec. He has also played a leading role in the field of international development, as president first of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and then of the Paul Gérin-Lajoie Foundation.
Philip Siu Lun Lee, CM, OM, 24th lieutenant-governor of Manitoba 2009–15, research chemist (born 5 May 1944 in Hong Kong). Lee was installed as 24th lieutenant-governor of Manitoba following 38 years in municipal civil service. Lee was the first person of Asian heritage to be appointed to the vice-regal position in Manitoba and the third Chinese Canadian appointed lieutenant-governor in Canada.
Duncan Campbell Scott, poet, writer, civil servant (born 2 August 1862 in Ottawa, ON; died 19 December 1947 in Ottawa, ON). Scott’s complicated legacy encompasses both his work as an acclaimed poet and his role as a controversial public servant. Considered one of the “poets of the Confederation” — a group of English-language poets whose work laid the foundations for a tradition of Canadian poetry — his intense works made use of precise imagery and transitioned smoothly between traditional and modern styles. However, his literary work has arguably been overshadowed by his role as the deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs. He enforced and expanded residential schools, failed to respond to a tuberculosis epidemic and oversaw a treaty process that many claim robbed Indigenous peoples of land and rights. His oft-quoted goal to “get rid of the Indian problem” became, for many, characteristic of the federal government’s treatment of Indigenous peoples.3
François-Eugène-Alfred Évanturel, lawyer, civil servant, legislator, minister, journalist and Clerk of the Senate of Canada (born 31 August 1846 in Quebec City, Quebec; died 15 November 1908 in Alfred, Ontario). A Liberal member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1886 to 1905, he was the first French Canadian to serve as a minister in a provincial cabinet and is the only French Canadian to have served as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario (1897-1902).
David Barrett, OC, OBC, 26th premier of British Columbia 1972–75, member of parliament 1988–93, MLA 1960–83, social worker (born 2 October 1930 in Vancouver, BC; died 2 February 2018 in Victoria, BC). Barrett led the first New Democratic Party government in British Columbia, a short-lived but prolific administration that passed more than 400 bills in three years. The Barrett government created the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, the Agricultural Land Reserve and the province’s PharmaCare program. He was the first premier of Jewish heritage in Canada.
David See-Chai Lam, OC, CVO, OBC, 25th lieutenant-governor of BC 1988–95, banker, land developer, philanthropist (born 25 July 1923 in Hong Kong; died 22 November 2010 in Vancouver, BC). After establishing himself as a successful banker in Hong Kong, David Lam moved to Vancouver in 1967 and became a central figure in the city’s real estate development. As a philanthropist, he made major contributions to the cultural life, community spaces and educational institutions of British Columbia. A vocal advocate of immigration and of Canada’s role within the Pacific Rim, Lam served as lieutenant-governor of British Columbia from 1988 to 1995. He was the first person of Asian ancestry to hold a vice-regal post in Canada.
Elijah Harper, Oji-Cree politician, consultant, policy analyst (born 3 March 1949 at Red Sucker Lake, MB; died 17 May 2013 in Ottawa, ON). Harper is best known for the role he played in scuttling the Meech Lake Accord, for which he was named the Canadian Press newsmaker of the year for 1990.
Sir James Douglas, governor of Vancouver Island (1851–63) and of British Columbia (1858–64), fur trader (born 15 August 1803 in Demerara [Guyana]; died 2 August 1877 in Victoria, BC). A resourceful, energetic and intelligent man, Douglas helped the Hudson’s Bay Company become a trading monopoly in the Pacific Northwest. As colonial governor, he initiated British rule west of the Rocky Mountains, and as the founder of settlement, trade and industry, he is remembered as “the Father of British Columbia.”