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Patrice Dutil: Parks Canada chooses identity politics over giving Sir John A. Macdonald his due – The Hub

May 22, 2024

The reopened site of Sir John A. Macdonald’s Bellevue House elides his achievements and derides his legacy

Parks Canada launched its new characterization of Sir John A. Macdonald over the Victoria Day long weekend when it reopened Bellevue House in Kingston, Ontario after six long years of restoration. The spectacle, steeped in identity politics, has rightly been criticized for portraying our founding prime minister as among Canada’s worst-ever villains.

For fans of Canadian architecture and home design and for friends of history, this was an important event. Bellevue House is a gem in the Canadian urban landscape. It was built in 1840 for a prosperous Kingston merchant in an improbable Italian Villa style that features a square central tower and two wings deployed on either side. Think of it as a proud Canada goose standing and opening its wings, inviting visitors inside. It is as welcoming today as it was when I first visited it as part of a school field trip in grade 7, well over 50 years ago.

Macdonald rented the place for about a year in 1848-1849. Back in those days, it was located in the suburbs of Kingston and he had picked it as a place of rest for his wife Isabella who had given birth to their first child John Jr. It was a big house—far too big for a small family—and it was expensive. Sadly, it turned out to be the place of terrible tragedy for the young couple, as their son died there before he was barely a year old.

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