Kenney: removing names, statues of historical figures a slippery slope, calls it ‘cancel’ culture

CALGARY – Premier Jason Kenney believes it’s a slippery slope to remove the names of historical Canadians who orchestrated racist policies in the country, including establishing residential schools.

Tuesday, the Calgary Board of Education announced it would be removing the name of a prominent contributor to residential schools — Sir Hector-Louis Langevin — from one of its schools and reverting it back to its former name of Riverside School.

RELATED: CBE changing Langevin school name back to Riverside

The Catholic school board said it would be consulting with stakeholders to decide if the name of Bishop Grandin High School would also be changed. Vital-Justin Grandin was a prominent figure in the creation of residential schools.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi had called on the school boards to change the names of schools that were named after people connected to residential schools.

While Kenney says he wasn’t aware of the change regarding CBE’s Langevin school, he added that Canada is an imperfect but still a great country.

RELATED: Sir John A. Macdonald statue removed in Charlottetown after city council vote

“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 standard — then I think our entire founding leadership of our country gets cancelled,” he said.

Some people across the country have been calling for statues of controversial leaders, like Macdonald, to be removed and for names of schools and other venues to be changed.

RELATED: Students, profs at Ryerson using ‘X University’ as they demand name change

They say it is important not to glorify people who were connected to what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission ruled was a cultural genocide of Indigenous people.

Kenney says we should learn from history rather than rushing to remove names or statues, and that it is a complex issue.

He also says some accomplishments of people, like Sir John A. Macdonald, need to be celebrated as well.

The comments come days after the bodies of 215 kids were found in a mass unmarked grave at the site of a former Kamloops, B.C., residential school.

The Grand Chief Vernon Watchmaker of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations responded to Kenney’s comments on Wednesday, issuing a statement that called Kenney’s comments insensitive toward the history of Treaty First Nations.

“We are grieving, I remind the Premier that on May 31st there was a vigil at the legislature to show honour, respect and unity to the loss of innocent lives of First Nations children.

This country and the province was established at the cost of our lives and well being. The concept of culture cancelling is not new to us, we have the longest history of our culture being cancelled and denied. The TRC reference this as genocide. This is our lived experience.

Just when we think we are experiencing acts of reconciliation, the Premier contradicts all the efforts toward an understanding.

The notion of Doctrine of Discovery is evident here, which colonial powers laid claim to newly discovered lands.

The real Canadian story, is that we entered into Peace and Friendship Treaty with the Crown. Sir John A McDonald acted inhumanly toward First Nations, he implemented aggressive policies and legislation to kill the Indian in the child.”

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