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Museums and Archives (67-70)

New Prime minister Biography is difficult to find

December 12, 2021

Toronto Star – The effort required to find the new bio on the library’s website has advocates asking why the federal government made it difficult to locate the updated text that outlines the racist policies of Canada’s first prime minister…But unlike the previous biography, the new text can’t be easily found directly through Google. The old biography was among the first Google hits when searching Macdonald’s name, included in a now-defunct section of biographies about Canada’s prime ministers on the library website.

Finding the updated version requires a series of steps. First you have to look up the John A. Macdonald fonds in collection search on the LAC website, then click to expand “record information — details,” and then scroll down to “biographical/administrative history” and click “show details.” This opens a block of text containing the new Macdonald biography.

“It is quite likely few people can find it easily and I don’t understand why this would not be more prominent and visible,” said Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, academic director of Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia.

“To advance truth and justice, it is necessary that the biographies be in a place of equal prominence and easy to find.” The updated Macdonald biography was posted July 30, LAC said. The new Macdonald text says the colonial policies of Canada’s first prime minister “gave the government sweeping, unilateral powers to erase and assimilate Indigenous peoples, causing tremendous trauma, displacement, disenfranchisement and exclusion that remains ongoing.”

It lists a number of racist actions, including the creation of residential schools, a form of cultural genocide that saw thousands of Indigenous children taken from their families and brought to the institutions to be assimilated, and where many died. The previous Macdonald profile omitted any mention of residential schools.