BONOKOSKI: Era-washing history never the answer

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The head off the toppled statue of Egerton Ryerson — the educator whose name was chosen decades after his 1882 death for the fledgling school that would become Ryerson University — is purportedly on a spike on the Indigenous squatting grounds in embattled Caledonia.

It was originally thought to have been tossed into Lake Ontario but why rid oneself of a good head?

A few blocks from Ryerson, in the heart of Toronto’s gay village, the dashing statue of Alexander Wood is now on death row for his involvement with a residential school organization.

No rowdy left-wing thugs have yet shown up to do the dirty business that was used at Ryerson.

The statue of Alexander Wood on Wednesday June 9, 2021.
The statue of Alexander Wood on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Photo by Veronica Henri /Toronto Sun

However, Wood St. and Alexander St. will have to go too.

But what of James McGill?

Despite his vast wealth and philanthropy, the founder of McGill University was also a known slave owner, using these human “chattels” as servants at his palatial home in Montreal as well as his vast country estate that he also had farmed.

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Is slavery less vile in the 21st century than residential schools, or is McGill U just too posh?

It is not as if McGill’s administration is unaware of McGill seeking added comfort and profit through slavery.

It’s very aware since both students and faculties over the years have demanded that McGill at least acknowledge James McGill’s use of slaves in his daily life in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

But the university’s website remain squeaky clean.

  1. The Egerton Ryerson statue was toppled Sunday night.

    Egerton Ryerson statue brought down by protesters

  2. The Egerton Ryerson statue was toppled Sunday night.

    BONOKOSKI: If Ryerson changes its name, there shall be fire

  3. A person stands on a plinth after the defaced statue of Egerton Ryerson, considered an architect of Canada's residential indigenous school system, lies on the pavement after being toppled following a protest at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada June 6, 2021.

    BRAUN: Fixing T.O’s lousy history would mean tearing down half the city

It boasts, however, of three graduates — Julie Payette, BEng’86 (unmentioned as the disgruntled former governor-general), Robert Thirsk, MDCM’82, and Dave Williams, DSc’07 — who have explored the final frontier of space.

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Actually, it’s four, if you count William Shatner, BCom’52.

But it makes no mention of James McGill as a slaver.

In an opinion piece in the McGill Tribune last year, writer Sepideh Afshar said “the lack of acknowledgment on the university’s part about their founder as a slave owner leaves students and staff with nothing to grasp onto concerning the matter. As an institution that prides itself on being ‘diverse,’ McGill has a duty to students of colour to be open, transparent, and honest.”

Well, on another day perhaps; just not today.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, however, is going to rue the day he ordered that all statues and streets be vetted for bad vibes.

As Sun colleague Liz Braun recently wrote, the names behind at least two major streets — Dundas and Jarvis — were named after men who profited from the slave trade, as well as slaver James Baby after whom the west-end Toronto enclave of Baby Point is named.

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We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

This is proof positive that it is sometimes better not to know what you don’t know — if you know what I mean.

Like the fact that Peter Russell, described as “vain, cruel, and dishonest,” was also a slaver. Toronto’s Peter St. and Russell Hill Rd. are named in his honour.

History, however, is history. Era-wash all you want but the left-wing cancel culture has its work cut out for it.

It will miss thousands that could be on in its hit list, including James McGill who gave us McGill University on the backs of slaves.

Pull up a picture of him, and he looks like none of us except for those who like wearing wigs and puffy shirts.

But he lived more than 200 years ago.

Era-wash all you want but you will never unsee the portraits of the purportedly bad men who were doing nothing more than living under the rules of their era.

Spare them no mercy.

markbonokoski@gmail.com

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