Happy Birthday Sir John A.on Jan 10 in Latest Publications by admin
A toast to Sir John A. Macdonald, our first prime minister
The celebration of history is often the greatest way to bind generations together. For the most Canadians, caring for our own history is a passion but compared to our Southern neighbours, we lack the same level of enthusiasm in celebrating our national heroes.
Today, we celebrate the true birth-date of Sir John A. Macdonald. Truthfully and contrary to popular myth, Sir John A. was not born on January 11th, but on January 10th 1815, as confirmed by his parish birth certificate. He was born during the evening and so his birth was registered the next day which led to the confusion.
On this day when Canada’s first post-Confederation prime minister would celebrate his 196th birthday, we are reminded that there are only four years left before his bicentennial. However the challenge lies not in suggesting the creation of a Macdonald Bicentennial Commission as it has been suggested about dozen times in the last two years. This idea has many merits but it is not ambitious enough to celebrate our greatest prime minister. A much more challenging suggestion would be to celebrate Macdonald and his greatest ally, Sir George-Étienne Cartier, together in a four-month long celebration that would also coincide with the 150th anniversary of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference. Indeed, Cartier was born on September 6th 1814 just eighteen weeks before Macdonald. Almost a century ago, in 1914, Cartier and Macdonald’s bicentennials were celebrated together with stamps being designed. Similar to the Bicentennial Commission that celebrated Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday in 2009, the mandate of the Macdonald-Cartier Bicentennial Commission (MCBC) would be to remind Canadians of the legacy of these two influential Fathers of Confederation and their contributions to our national institutions. The Americans gave themselves a decade to prepare their bicentennial – we are running out of time. It should be amongst the priorities of the Government of Canada to support the creation of the bicentennial commission in partnership with the private and not-for-profit sectors. The celebration that would last over a hundred days would include highlights such as cross-country exhibition and would allow students and Canadians alike to familiarize themselves with Canada’s most important historical political duo.
The momentum for Sir John A.’s bicentennial is certainly building. Consider that now the City of Kingston has put up signs on the Macdonald-Cartier Highway (Highway 401) to show the exit towards the Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard, and there’s also a tour of Kingston dedicated to Macdonald’s memory. There is now even a Macdonald Project committee in Picton, Ontario that is aiming to erect a street-level bronze sculpture of Macdonald.
Now imagine the efforts of the city of Kingston that commemorate Macdonald compounded with the incredible endeavor taken in the 1910s to celebrate Cartier’s centennial. The City of Montreal had its own committee that was successful in erecting the most beautiful monument of Cartier at the base of Mount-Royal Park, and the location has become a well-known gathering place for locals. The centenary committee was composed of local leaders and had as its patron of the only surviving Father of Confederation, Hon. Charles Tupper. Nonetheless, Montreal also has its own statue of Macdonald in the downtown core (it is the only city other than Ottawa with statues of both statesmen).
For their lifetime dedication to Canada, their innumerable contributions, Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Étienne Cartier must be commemorated and their common legacy remembered together. During their shared political career they acted as one, and defended the interest of their respective communities. In a national celebration, these two prominent statesmen cannot and should not be celebrated without each other. They were like Siamese twins, and must be remembered as such.