The main association of Canadian history scholars has voted to remove Sir John A. Macdonald’s name from a prestigious prize, joining a movement to stop celebrating the country’s first prime minister as a hero.
The decision to rename the 40-year-old prize the “CHA prize for Best Scholarly Book in Canadian History” came Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association in Regina. Members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the change.
James Daschuk, a University of Regina historian and winner of the Sir John A. Macdonald prize in 2014, said the name change is a small gesture for the country’s professional historians to make at a time of reconciliation with Indigenous people.
“It’s often the argument that Macdonald did a lot of good things,” Daschuk said in an interview. “He built the country. But he built the country on the backs of the Indigenous people.”
Daschuk called Macdonald “a polarizing figure,” and in the months since association president Adele Perry of the University of Manitoba announced the proposed change, there has been animated debate. Writing in the latest issue of the association journal Intersections, Perry quoted some of the responses the association has received from members, whom she did not identify.
“I don’t think it is appropriate to name such an important historical prize after a person who has, at best, a mixed historical legacy, and at worst, was a key player in Indigenous cultural genocide in…