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Sir John A. Macdonald’s birthday passes without fanfare in Kingston

Sir John A. Macdonald’s birthday passes without fanfare in Kingston
Canada
Canada’s first prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald was born in Scotland on Jan. 11, 1815 but moved to Canada and settled in Kingston when he was young.

Traditionally, his birthday would be spent by some Kingstonians celebrating in his legacy but 2019 marks the third year that Macdonald’s birthday has not been celebrated in his Canadian hometown.

In fact, in more recent years, Jan. 11 has become a day of protest in Kingston with Macdonald’s detractors targeting celebrations in his name and, in some cases, the homes of those who organized the birthday events.

Macdonald’s legacy has been questioned in recent years due to his involvement in establishing residential schools, an institution that ripped Indigenous children away from their families and oftentimes subjected many of the children to emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

Since the protests have erupted in Kingston, a local restaurant has dropped his name and the city has started public consultations to hear how residents would like to remember Macdonald’s history in the city.

For the second year in a row, Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen, also hired security to monitor his constituency office on Princess St., which has been vandalized with red paint in the past.

But Macdonald’s birthday didn’t go completely unnoticed. This year, a very small group of protesters gathered at different spots in the city, including beneath Macdonald’s statue in City Park.

One of the people who took part in the small act of protest on Friday said they were tied to the Idle No More group.

“Over the last several years, Idle No More worked to end the celebrations of John A. Macdonald that happened on his birthday. We succeeded with that last year,” the protester, who would not give her name, said.

The group of maybe six people held a banner that read, “Statues glorify genocide: John A-Trudeau.”

“This is about the glorification of these statues that glorifies genocide,” the protester said. “It makes these invasions like we saw at Wet’suwet’en this week from Trudeau’s Mounties justified. It cements that as normal Canadian history.”

The protester was referring to the arrest of 14 demonstrators on Wet’sutwet’en First Nations Territory on Monday. On an order from the B.C. Supreme Court, RCMP officers stormed a blockade meant to stop access to a pipeline slated to go through Wet’suwet’sen territory.

The Kingston protester said this year Idle No More was focusing its efforts on supporting their compatriots out west, which led to a much smaller protest in Kingston.

Two rolling blockades were also set up early Friday morning, one that began in London and ended in Brampton, while the other travelled from the Akwesasne First Nation territory near Cornwall through Kingston and ended in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.
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