Refreshing the presentation of Sir John A. Macdonald

Parks Canada is undertaking a complete renewal of the interior spaces and exhibits of the historic Bellevue House. The renewed spaces in the home will present and promote a diverse story about the early history of Canada and examine how Macdonald’s complex legacy continues to influence and impact Canadians and Indigenous, and other marginalized people today.

The traditional headlines and achievements of Sir John A. Macdonald that many were taught in school were absent of many aspects of history, including the impacts of those same legacies. Amongst these were the voices of Indigenous people, visible minorities and women. That version of Canada’s story overlooked not only those voices, but some of the lasting harms that colonization, policies and institutions from that time had wrought. Parks Canada is taking an inclusive and collaborative approach with many organizations and groups, to ‘know better’, so that we can ‘do better’ in developing the new visitor experiences for Bellevue House.

Some people want to label Macdonald: a young man with a drinking problem; an evil person; a flawed visionary that was just a product of the times and of a colonizing world. Others call him a hometown hero without whom Canada would not exist. History and people are more complex than any one view or characterization. This collaborative project attempts to present a broad range of facts, including previously unpresented facts and vastly different perspectives. The approach will be unflinching and real in addressing these, while not taking on a role of arbiter.

The new exhibits and experiences in development for the historic Bellevue House will speak about Macdonald and themes of colonial power and privilege from the 1840s through Confederation, and on to the present day.