John A. Macdonald never deserved to be put on a pedestal. In his day, Canadians knew that he was deeply flawed. In fact, none of our leaders have worn halos. Andrew Coyne writes:
If Macdonald is to be banished from the public square for policies we now regard as abhorrent, he asked, what of others: Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who brought in steep hikes in the “head tax” and other restrictions on immigration from China and South Asia, or Mackenzie King, who barred European Jews from seeking refuge in Canada during the Holocaust, or Pierre Trudeau, who imposed martial law in Quebec?
Or what about Tommy Douglas, father of medicare, winner of the CBC’s “Greatest Canadian” competition, but also an enthusiastic proponent of eugenics, that is to say, sterilization of “mental defectives”? Should his name, too, be stricken from the honour rolls?
We make a mistake if we try to turn politicians into saints. In their own time, they are seen as far from paradigms of virtue. The wonder is that most of them have a pretty fair record of accomplishment. And some of them are downright despicable.
It's time that we recognize our leaders for the complicated -- and far from noble -- creatures we would like them to be.