‘Even by the standards of his day, Macdonald was unenlightened on racial matters’


Stephen Azzi counters Richard Gwyn’s defence of our first prime minister.

Macdonald’s actions can be judged by comparing his words and deeds to those of his contemporaries. While Liberal leader Wilfrid Laurier urged understanding in dealing with the so-called rebels, Macdonald showed no compassion. He wanted them to hang, “to convince the Red Man that the White Man governs.” And hang they did. Métis leader Louis Riel and eight aboriginal men went to the gallows…

Gwyn tells us that Macdonald’s head tax of $50 on each Chinese immigrant was “an act of comparative moderation” when judged beside the actions of the U.S. government, which had prohibited all immigration from China. Gwyn neglects to say that the number of Chinese immigrants dropped from 2,762 in 1884, the year before the head tax was imposed, to 212 in 1886, and to 124 in 1887. So, yes, Canada admitted more Chinese than the United States, but the difference was negligible and does not demonstrate Macdonald’s moderation.


‘Even by the standards of his day, Macdonald was unenlightened on racial matters’

  1. This isn’t a game Liberals want to play. Mackenzie King was the only WWII Allied leader to meet Hitler 1 on 1 and he was effusive in his praise of Hitler.

    • If you don’t count Neville Chamberlin, who was, after all, Britain’s PM when war the started, and who trusted Hitler completely.

      • There is nothing in the historical record to suggest that Chamberlain “trusted Hitler completely”; he very much disliked Hitler and Naziism, but was so affected by the first World War that he believed achieving peace was of the utmost importance. He turned out to be wrong about the possibility of maintaining peace, but it is overly simplistic to portray him as a fool who was duped by Hitler.

    • Half the political and royal elite of Europe and a few very prominent Americans shared that view, including the English king to be. What’s your point?

      • King fought Hitler mercilessly while Bennet was generous with Adrien Arcand, a notorious antisemite and fascist from Quebec.

  2. Hasn’t hurt Jason Kenney none.

  3. LaFontaine and Baldwin

  4. While this whole debate has likely been a partisan proxy skirmish, it’s nevertheless nice to see some historical debate taking place in public. If only we’d get a more substantial topic, we’d be set.

Sign in to comment.