Sir John A. Macdonald is one of four historical figures at the centre of a four-part speaking series hosted by the UVic History Department. (National Archives of Canada/CP)

Their names are on our street signs, and some of them are even on our money. But in 2018, should we continue to honour controversial figures in Canadian history?

John A. Macdonald, Joseph W. Trutch, Matthew Baillie Begbie, and James Douglas are the focus of “Controversial Characters in Context – A Four Part Series.”

The UVic Department of History will be hosting the series of talks at Victoria City Hall throughout the year.

“To move forward in the spirit of ‘truth and reconciliation’ we need to know the truths of our past,” reads a UVic news release on the event.

Four historians will present brief “warts and all” biographies of each figure. Each talk will be followed by a public discussion.

The first talk takes place Wednesday, May 9th, at 7–8:30 p.m. and will focus specifically on MacDonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada.

Macdonald and Trutch at centre of long-running debate

This is not the first time that controversy around commemorating Macdonald or Trutch has come up in Victoria.

Last January, the Indigenous Solidarity Working Group hosted a debate on the renaming of Fairfield’s Trutch Street.

That came six months after the University of Victoria renamed one of its residence buildings after students petitioned for it to do so.

And last August, City Council heard debate regarding the possible removal of Macdonald’s statue outside City Hall.

There has been no major developments on either issue since then. However, city councillor Ben Isitt told Victoria Buzz that the Indigenous  Solidarity Working Group is currently reaching out to First Nations and other stakeholders with plans to submit a formal proposal to City Council regarding Trutch Street.

The full list of “Controversial Figures in Context” events is as follows:

John A. Macdonald, May 9th: Presented by Dr. Penny Bryden, author of Canada: A Political Biography.
Joseph W. Trutch, June 19th: Presented by Dr. John Lutz, author of Makuk: A New History of Aboriginal-Settler Relations.
Matthew Baillie Begbie, September 5th: Presented by Hamar Foster, QC, co-editor of The Grand Experiment: Law and Legal Culture in British Settler Societies.
James Douglas, October 22nd: Presented by John Adams, author of Old Square Toes and His Lady: The Lives of James and Amelia Douglas.

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