John Ivison: Langevin was a man of his time, not a monster, so don’t take his name off an Ottawa building

While I understand the pressures for renaming, I much prefer keeping the original names but with historical plaques that capture both sides of the legacies of historical figures. There are risks in erasing or forgetting history:

To damn Langevin is not only to judge him with the benefit of 135 years of hindsight but also to ignore the political leadership he showed during his nearly 30 years as a cabinet minister. He was not a monster — he was a man of his time.

Brian Lee Crowley, managing director of the Macdonald Laurier Institute think-tank, was not referring to Langevin in his remarks at a “Canada at 150” dinner Thursday, but he may as well have been.

“It is easy to criticize the past and the decisions made there. But it is a conceit of each and every generation that they alone are free from poor judgments and intellectual shortcomings. Looking solely at our past efforts is not the right standards by which to measure Canada and its great achievements,” he said.

Crowley referred to a recent Angus Reid poll that suggested less than half of 18-24 year olds feel a sense of pride and achievement in this country.

Since Canada’s prominent historical figures are increasingly portrayed as a parcel of racists, homophobes and militarists, is it any wonder?

This country is addressing many of the wrongs that have been wrought and has committed not to repeat them. But that does not require we repudiate our past by renaming every bridge, road and building that bears the name of someone whose actions we now deem ill-advised and unacceptable.

As the American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, said: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived. But, if faced with courage, it need not be lived again.”

Source: John Ivison: Langevin was a man of his time, not a monster, so don’t take his name off an Ottawa building | National Post

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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