Public Symbols And Changing Values

Rewriting History Or Evolving Morality?  Public Symbols And Changing Values

Presenter: John Pope

September, 2017

The iconic Canadian name of John A. MacDonald is on many public schools and buildings, and there are lots of monuments to John A. across Canada.  But now there are those who now want to remove his name from public view because of his oppression of indigenous people.

A related issue in the southern US, many Confederate statues have already been removed, and the debate about others is raging.  Robert E. Lee, a hero to some, and a racist to others.

Cafe participants will be discussing two questions:

Question 1. Should John A. MacDonald’s name be removed from schools?Pro and Con:


“Indigenous children in Canada shouldn’t have to walk into schools bearing the name of the man who created the policies of genocide meant to clear the land of their ancestors for the newly arriving settlers.” Read more:


“Macdonald’s name should endure on all sorts of public places because he was Canada, in his day and age. To remove his name and instead focus exclusively on his flaws is to minimize his importance.” Read more:

Question 2. Should public monuments be removed because they are offensive to some?  Pro and Con:


“This statue [of Robert E. Lee] was erected by a pro-Confederacy enthusiast 141 years after the battle ended and is universally understood to be inaccurate,” Delaney’s statement said. “Congressman Delaney believes that artifacts, materials and information from the period should be preserved in museums that are curated by historians and that taxpayers deserve national parks that accurately present history.” Read more:


“The recent battles over Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia, and elsewhere have elicited cries of “slippery slope,” “rewriting American history” and, following the removal of statues of Robert E. Lee, who’s next, Thomas Jefferson?”  Read more:

Additional Questions:

Will the removal of these egregious historical names or monuments make a difference?  Does it erase history?

Should we condemn the morality of past generations?

How will future generations judge our morality today?

What are the limits to what names and monuments should be removed? 

How many people does it have to offend before it is removed?