A group of Indigenous protesters in Ontario is taking credit for chasing the name of Canada’s first prime minister off the name of a local pub.
“It’s a huge victory for us,” said Theresa Eagles, a member of Idle No More Kingston/Katarokwi.
“There’s been a lot of people who agree Sir John A. needs to be in a museum. Not in public for everyone to celebrate.”
This week the name of Sir John’s Public House in Kingston was shortened to The Public House.
The owners said it was because of the group’s protests and their desire to honour the spirit of reconciliation as the country grapples with the negative legacy of the Indian residential school system.
A system Sir John A. Macdonald is credited with supporting and enforcing.
“One of the reasons that we choose to attack symbols like John A. in Canada, as well as many other approaches to the activist work we do here, is because there’s these symbols of Canada (that) are symbols of racism and symbols of our genocide and our oppression,” said Krista Flute, another member of Idle No More.
“He’s hugely celebrated here.”
The name change, which is getting cheers and jeers on social media, is one of many ways Indigenous people want to build a more inclusive community, Flute added.
“In Kingston it’s a long fight. We’ve been protesting the celebration of John A. for five years.”
Fans of Macdonald usually raise a glass publicly by his statue in town as his birthday is celebrated this week. Flute said that event was cancelled last year after her group set up a demonstration.
The way such monuments are being viewed is under debate following protests and violence in the United States. Macdonald, as a founder of the Dominion of Canada, has a legacy associated with treaties, residential schools and the Indian Act.
“Sir John A., in my opinion, is the godfather of genocide,” added Eagles.
“The fact that Sir John A.’s pub has changed their name, I believe, is a huge step in the right direction for us.”
The activists now have their sights set on getting rid of the Macdonald statue and a train marked in his honour across from City Hall.
However, they are expecting opposition like they saw in September.
Flute said the pub called the police when they protested a drinking promotion in Macdonald’s name.
“As long as symbols of our oppression are celebrated as a source of pride we’re going to continue to have a lot of work to do to fight racism,” she said.
Macdonald is considered one of Kingston’s heroes and the pub reflects that. The building served as his law office from 1849-60.
Memorabilia and menu items in his names will remain, the owners said.