Kenney speaks out against 'cancel culture' in Canada, Treaty 6 grand chief responds
CALGARY -- Alberta Premier Jason Kenney spoke out Tuesday afternoon about what he calls an ongoing "cancel culture" in Canada and warned if it continues, most of the country’s founding fathers could one-day be removed from the history books.
Kenney was asked for his thoughts on the Calgary Board of Education changing the name of Langevin School to Riverside School — a move done to remove the name of Hector-Louis Langevin, who is considered one of the Fathers of Confederation and also an architect of Canada’s residential schools — and whether the same should be done for Bishop Grandin School and Sir John A. Macdonald School because of their namesakes’ ties to the program.
The renewed calls come after the discovery of 215 buried bodies of children who went to a residential school in Kamloops.
"I'm not aware of the decisions they've made let me look into that," Kenney said of the name change, which was announced about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Kenney then spoke favourably about Macdonald, noting that he co-sponsored a bill as a sitting MP to recognize Canada's first prime minister "without whom Canada would not exist."
"And as his authoritative contemporary biographer Richard Gwyn said, ‘No Macdonald, no Canada.’ I think Canada is worth celebrating. I think Canada is a great historical achievement. It is a country that people all around the world seek to join as new Canadians."
Kenney said Canada "is an imperfect country, but it is still a great country."
"Just as John A. Macdonald was an imperfect man, but was still a great leader," he said.
"If we want to get into cancelling every figure in our history who took positions on issues at the time that we now judge harshly, and rightly in historical retrospective, but if that's the new standard, then I think almost the entire founding leadership of our country gets cancelled.
"Tommy Douglas, who recommended the use of eugenics to sterilize the weak as he said, to … the Famous Five heroes of Canadian feminism, and the fight for equality for women.
"Some of them were advocates of eugenics that we would now regard as deplorable. So if we go full force into cancelled culture, then we're canceling most, if not all of our history."
Instead, Kenney said Canadians we should learn from our history, but also our failures.
Grand Chief Vernon Watchmaker of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations issued a statement, saying they are "appalled" by Kenney's statements, which he called "insensitive" toward the history of Treaty First Nations.
"We are grieving, I remind the Premier that (Monday) there was a vigil at the legislature to show honour, respect and unity to the loss of innocent lives of First Nations children," he said.
"This country and the province was established at the cost of our lives and well being."
Watchmaker added that "Just when we think we are experiencing acts of reconciliation, the premier contradicts all the efforts toward an understanding."
"The notion of the Doctrine of Discovery is evident here, which colonial powers laid claim to newly discovered lands," he said.
"The real Canadian story, is that we entered into Peace and Friendship Treaty with the Crown. Sir John A. Macdonald acted inhumanly toward First Nations, he aggressively implemented policy and legislation to assimilate and displace our people at all costs.
"This is very concerning."
Kenney's comments came days after the horrific discovery in Kamloops, despite years of calls to ditch the Langevin name from the Calgary school.
More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were forced into the residential school system between the mid 1800s and 1990s.
In Alberta alone, at least 821 children died while attending 25 schools operated throughout the province, but experts say that number is likely much higher.
St. Mary's (Blood) Residential School, located near Cardston, Alta. — about 78 kilometres south of Lethbridge — was the last residential school in Alberta. Opened in 1898, it was closed in 1988.