By: Rowan Dunne
The name of ‘Canada’s first prime minister could come down from a University of Windsor student residence. Advocates of the renaming of Sir John A. Macdonald Hall view Macdonald’s character as questionable and his decisions during his term of leadership to be deplorable.
A UWindsor alumnus launched a petition who believes that the name of the hall should be changed because he does not feel that Macdonald was a respectable man, primarily due to his involvement with the creation of the residential school system and the oppression and abuse of Indigenous people. The petition’s success and the attention it gained prompted the University of Windsor to form a committee consisting of university representatives and members of the on-campus Indigenous community to assess whether Macdonald Hall should be renamed.
Bruce Tucker, the head of the committee, says, “the President received a complaint about the name of Macdonald Hall given Sir John A. Macdonald, our first Prime Minister, and his involvement in creating policies towards indigenous people that resulted in a number of conditions. Life on reserves, starvation, residential schools and so on; and the President then established a committee to look into the renaming of Macdonald Hall. So, the charge is essentially to review people’s considerations and their opinions and try to make a recommendation to the Board of Governors.”
David Pitawanakwat is an Indigenous law student in the Dual JD Program at the University of Windsor and University of Detroit Mercy, and President of the Shkawbewiseg Law Society, who strongly supports taking Macdonald’s name off the residence located on Wyandotte St. near Huron Church Road. “There’s a lot of these historical figures that have done a lot of harm, and they continue to do harm by being honoured in a fashion that they don’t deserve.”
The University of Windsor is not alone in considering renaming a building with Macdonald’s name on it. In Kingston, Queens University is in the process of renaming its law school building, formerly known as Sir John A. Macdonald Hall.
An online survey closed October 28 and the committee is working on recommendations to be submitted to the University’s Board of Governors.
Watch the interviews with Dr. Tucker & David Pitawanakwat here.