Queen’s University to drop Sir John A. Macdonald’s name from law school building

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KINGSTON, ONT. —
Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. says it will be removing the name of Canada’s first prime minister from its law school building.

The law school building on the campus of Queen’s University is named the Sir John A. Macdonald Hall. Macdonald lived and worked in Kingston and represented the area in Parliament. He also played a key role in creating the residential school system.

A press release from the university says its board of trustees approved the decision Monday to remove Macdonald’s name, based on recommendations made by the Dean of the university’s faculty of law and a report from a special committee set up to consider the situation.

For the past two months, the university has heard from more than 3,000 people in a public consultation process about whether or not to rename the building.

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“This decision is grounded in the university’s present-day academic mission and commitment to honour the values of equity, diversity, and inclusivity and to ensure all students, faculty, and staff feel welcome within the Queen’s community,” said Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane. “It also supports our commitment to take action to address systemic racism and ensure every member of our community may enjoy the benefits of our institution equally.”

Mark Walters, Dean of the Faculty of Law, said that while Macdonald should be honoured for his role in founding what is now Canada, his actions toward Indigenous peoples and other racial minorities cannot be ignored.

“Sir John A. Macdonald is rightly celebrated for his central role in the founding of modern Canada and the creation of our country’s constitution. However, a more complete understanding of his legacies has emerged in recent years. In particular, we now have a richer and better understanding of the hurtful views and policies he and his government advanced in relation to Indigenous peoples and racial minorities,” said Walters. “What was made clear through our consultations is that the Macdonald name sends a conflicting message that interferes with the values and aspirations of the current law school and Queen’s community where Indigenous and racialized students must feel welcome and included.”

The university will be following a separate process to rename the faculty of law building in the coming months.

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