25 June 2017

Langevin and Residential Schools

When Guy Berthiaume mentioned that architect is not a good term to use in Ottawa these days during his speech at the opening session of the OGS Conference the reference eluded me.

A week later and the title of a blog post on Active History makes it clear --  "Sir Hector-Louis Langevin, “Architect” of Residential Schools?"

In it Matthew Hayday, points out that if anyone was the architect it was Sir John A. who reserved Indian Affairs as a post he held in addition to Prime Minister. He has historical precedence having given a speech two weeks before Langevin's using very much the same words.

Should everything named after Macdonald be renamed, just as the former Langevin block?

In a comment to that blog post Jason Ellis points out that people engaged in naming debates don’t care about good history; they care about the present. We've certainly seen that in Ottawa where political (and Political) have outweighed historical considerations in naming.

Worth reading at http://activehistory.ca/2017/06/langevin/


Anonymous said...

The history of mankind is a story of conquest and invasion. Of the conquerors and the dispossessed. Canada is no different then the rest of the world. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat the errors of the past. I believe it is important to learn from The past and not perpetuate wrongdoing. However, blotting out our history doesn’t help us to change, neither does dwelling on past mistakes and injustices. We have a colonial past and we need to acknowledge that and build for the future based on that understanding.

We need to honour agreements made with our indigenous people. Clean water, equality of education, good housing, health care and equal treatment before the law are rights that should be the birthright of all Canadians. However, we would be unrealistic to think that we can turn back time and right all the wrongs of the past.

I am proud to be Canadian and at the same time am sorry that some of my fellow Canadians have been less fortunate. I hope we can continue to strive to make a difference that betters the lives of our fellow citizens and recognize the contributions of all of us as we approach our 150th anniversary.

In searching for a better life in the British Empire of their time, my Potato Famine ancestors inadvertently exploited the indigenous population when they settled along the colonial roads of Upper Canada. However my father, worked hard to contribute to the lives of indigenous Canadians in the 1960s and 1970s. He took great pride in his job in Indian Affairs and felt he was able to make a difference to many of the families he worked with. He was one among many and stories like his are rarely told. Hopefully the difference he made in lives he touched was a lasting one and helped in part to change the dialogue..

Changing the name of a building recognizes a situation from the past, but only treating one another with respect and understanding will result in lasting change.

J said...

Thanks for this post and the great comment by Anonymous. It cheers me up to hear good stories too. My immigrant father also taught me to respect the indigenous people with whom he had empathy.