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(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 29, 2020 a statue of the first Canadian Prime Minister John A. Macdonald lies on the ground, with the statue's head a few meters away, at Canada Park in central Montreal after it was pulled down by anti-racism protesters during a demonstration calling for the defunding of the police. - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on August 31, 2020 condemned the weekend toppling of a statue of Canada's first prime minister in Montreal by anti-racism activists, saying a focus on improving society today, and not historical wrongs, will best advance the fight for equality. John A. Macdonald was prime minister of Canada for 19 years between 1867 and 1890, and has been applauded by historians for nation building but also criticized for the forced assimilation of indigenous peoples, described in a 2015 commission's report as "cultural genocide." (Photo by Eric THOMAS / AFP) (Photo by ERIC THOMAS/AFP via Getty Images)ERIC THOMAS/AFP/Getty Images

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Up and down

Re Residential School System To Be Declared Of Historic Significance (Sept. 1): If residential schools are to be designated as historically significant, how will the churches that ran them be recognized?

While we can second-guess the government of the time for the soundness of this initiative, it was the churches that served as its agents and were responsible for the most grievous aspects and the most suffering.

Sir John A. Macdonald can be criticized with hindsight, but he didn’t contemplate what the clergy would do. Let’s at least be honest about our history.

John Martin Victoria

Ottawa is now recognizing both positive and negative aspects of our country’s history. But also of historic significance are names of streets, buildings and some statues, which should remain as important reminders of our past.

History cannot be changed, but how we deal with past issues is significant. We are working toward positive change, but change comes slowly. Everyone should be patient and continue working together for unity.

Lynda Rickards Oakville, Ont.

Re When We Debate Complex Legacies Such As Sir John A.’s, We Must Not Be Ahistorical (Sept. 1): Has anyone given thought to the fact that without Sir John A. Macdonald, we would not have our wonderful country called Canada?

David Lewis Toronto

Contributor J.D.M. Stewart makes the case that without the actions of the first prime minister – which include the creation of the residential school system and imposition of the Chinese head tax – there may not have been a Canada at all. If these things were necessary to the creation of Canada as we know it, shouldn’t we question the value of the enterprise itself? Shouldn’t we wonder if a different “Canada” was possible?

Could we create that different, more humane and tolerant country today, beginning with the disavowal of the origins of the current Canada? Would leaving up monuments to some of these originating stories and figures advance such a new national project?

Steve Boyd Kingston

Are we to ignore all of Sir John A. Macdonald’s actions toward Indigenous peoples due to “his undeniable contribution to creating the Dominion of Canada?” This ignores the fact that Canada could not have come into existence without the subjugation of Indigenous peoples, theft of their land and resources and, yes, their starvation and murder.

Macdonald was an integral part of these evils and a leader in them. To ignore how central these actions were to the creation of Canada in support of a presentist argument is shameful to me, and reads like a bad rewriting of history the author so wants to protect.

Craig Proulx Fredericton

While debate on any aspect of history is important, statues and memorials are representative of heritage and not history. The distinction is that history is the study of what happened, while heritage is what we wish happened or choose to recall. While contributor J.D.M. Stewart rightly calls for “dialogue and tolerance,” to what extent should we, or can we, memorialize historical figures who were intolerant?

For example, is the presence of a memorial in Ontario to a Second World War SS division appropriate? Sir John A. Macdonald was intolerant; even if that was the norm for his time, should we accept that? Statues are not history; they represent the recollection, often romantic, of a segment of society toward a person or event.

If the loss of a statue is equated to losing our historical memory, then we better begin dedicating tens of thousands of statues so we have the entire historical record covered.

Tanya Grodzinski, PhD Kingston

Instead of putting Sir John A. Macdonald’s statue back on a raised plinth, could we not dig a medium-sized hole for it, so that only the upper half of the torso is visible? While there is much about the man’s story that should be celebrated, there are also elements that deserve to be buried.

Wyndham Thiessen Saskatoon

Bring it on

Re Public-Health Experts Decry Health Canada’s Decision Not To Approve At-Home Testing (Aug. 31): I am dismayed that Health Canada has decided not to approve the new COVID-19 test.

I appreciate that these tests are not as accurate as the nose-swab test, but it should not mean that they go unused in helping to control the pandemic. Families would be able to do routine tests before children go to school and adults head off to work. The ability to test at home, and frequently, would increase the chances of catching cases before further spread.

I urge Health Canada to approve this form of testing as an inexpensive option that would help schools, workplaces and the community.

Margaret Sims Toronto

I am a family physician. I would trust my patients to appropriately use this test as a screening tool.

The pandemic is creating family and economic havoc. For people to be able to carry on with their lives on a daily basis, an easily available test could make such a difference.

Honestly, on closer examination, is there such a downside to this?

Lorna Hruby Vancouver

If used as a screening tool, rapid tests could identify infectious individuals quickly, so that they could self-isolate and later take the more accurate PCR test. Without this test, these people would continue circulating and amplifying the pandemic.

Health Canada should give the public the benefit of the doubt. We are expected to perform pregnancy tests, for example, without assistance and not misinterpret the results. If necessary, public education about these tests should be provided.

There are still too few tools against this pandemic. It makes no sense to me that Health Canada would prohibit a test that might work best, on the grounds that people are not clever enough to get it right.

Lisa Jeffrey Toronto

More life

Re ’Mystery Woman’ Gave Fatal Overdose To John Belushi (Obituary, Aug. 29): The most astonishing thing about Cathy Smith’s life was not the many famous people around her, nor her cheque from Keith Richards, nor her song with Hoyt Axton, nor her role in John Belushi’s overdose, nor her relationship with Gordon Lightfoot.

The most astonishing thing, I find, is that Ms. Smith ended up without a lot to show for her life, in a seniors home in Maple Ridge, B.C. Where were all those people whose names were eagerly dropped at the end of her life? A very sobering article about a woman who lost everything.

Michael Hart New Westminster, B.C.

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