Despite alumni pushback, Queen’s remains firm in de-naming Sir John A. Macdonald law building

University reaffirms support for decision to strip former prime minister’s name

Queen’s decided to de-name the law building on Oct. 19. 
Journal File Photo

In the face of some alumni resistance to removing Sir John A. Macdonald’s name from the law building, Queen’s is standing by its decision to strip the building’s name.

Following the Oct. 19 decision, which came on the heels of a two-month consultation process and a 65-page report by an appointed special committee—which was ultimately signed by Principal Patrick Deane—the University has faced public pressure from objectors. Some have labelled the decision a product of “cancel culture.”

“Sir John A. Macdonald is rightly celebrated for his central role in the founding of modern Canada and the creation of our country’s constitution,” the University wrote in a statement to The Journal. “However, a more complete understanding of his legacies has emerged in recent years.”

“In particular, we now have a richer and better understanding of the hurtful views and policies he and his government advanced in relation to Indigenous peoples and racial minorities.”

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A website campaign called ‘The HonourSirJohn Project’ was launched earlier this winter, asking alumni to sign a petition—which had garnered only 23 signatures at time of publication—and suspend individual donations to Queen’s. The campaign claims Macdonald acted “in the context of the times.”

The University did not address the campaign specifically in its statement to The Journal.

As prime minister, Macdonald was responsible for implementing the Indian Act of 1871, creating residential schools, and pushing a starvation policy that forced Indigenous peoples out of the Prairies to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. He also enforced the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 and restricted BIPOC individuals’ ability to vote.

“The decision to remove the Macdonald name from the Law School building was a complex and difficult decision, and one grounded in the university’s present-day academic mission and commitment to honour the values of equity, diversity, and inclusivity,” the University wrote. 

“Queen’s is committed to addressing systemic racism and to uniting our community and improving the experience of every member so that all may enjoy the benefits of our institution equally.” 

Deane is expected to bring recommendations to the Board of Trustees regarding the renaming process in the coming months.

“The final report made clear that the name of Macdonald does not reflect the character, values, aspirations, and wellbeing of the people working and learning in the law school building and that the majority of current students, faculty, and staff do not support keeping the name,” the University wrote.

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