Canada’s first Prime Minister shouldn’t be on the $10 bill

Photo Credit: Jerry Guo

Have you ever held a crisp new bill straight from the ATM and asked yourself, what would I have to do to get myself on one of these?

The answer is really quite simple: if you come from a background of privilege and have influence or power, chances are you will be labeled a grade ‘A’ Canadian hero no matter what your moral compass and accomplishments may be.

John A. MacDonald, long regarded as a hero, brought the leaders of the colonies together in Charlottetown to rally support for a unified Canadian confederation. But that is not a holistic overview of who this man was.

What is often left out from our history books is that this Canadian ‘hero’ — whom we recognize through an established national day of celebration and whom we showcase on our 10 dollar bills — wasn’t actually an honourable man by modern Canadian standards.

While he may have played an integral role in establishing unity amongst Canada’s colonies, that doesn’t change the fact that he was a racist who consistently expressed prejudice against Aboriginal people, spoke in front of the House of Commons suggesting measures needed to be taken to control the “mongrel” Chinese race moving into British Columbia, and openly sympathized with the pro-slavery confederate South in the USA.

If you come from a privileged background and have influence or power, chances are you will be labeled a grade ‘A’ Canadian hero.

With a track record like that, why do we continue to praise and honour this man? Because as long as you have clout, like MacDonald did as a high profile politician, then you’re guaranteed to be recognized as a hero.

Because of this, Canadians must ask themselves: who deserves to be recognized as an outstanding individual? Rather than idealising power and status, we should choose to remember those who have truly helped shaped our country for the better, such as historical BC governor James Douglas, who was culturally and linguistically diverse, had public respect for Aboriginals, and established provincial order during the gold rush. He is a figure who would better fit the ‘hero’ label, yet he goes unsung.

When deciding who is worthy of national praise, we must take into account the moral background of said hero. No Canadian is perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but that doesn’t mean we should include historical leaders like MacDonald who were openly prejudiced. There have been many men and women who have fought to make the great North a better place to call home and who never engaged in hate speech.

Simply put, it is not hard to find Canadians who have stood up for our great nation, and who have preached equality and acceptance. In recognizing people like MacDonald, we are letting down those who lived by the Canadian virtues we wish to be upheld today. Without a doubt, the next time we create a national day of celebration or redesign our currency, we should strive to include only those who, on a moral level, Canadians can be proud of.