Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Bennett in Bronze

Sep 30, 2015

There seems to be a bit of a bun fight going on about whether or not to raise a statue on Parliament Hill of Canada's 11th prime minister, the odious R.B. Bennett (I might as well lay my cards on the table). 

Apparently the statue is already in storage, waiting to be installed. Voices have been raised in support of Bennett and predictably there has been pushback from some historians who believe that his record is discreditable (here and especially here). No question on whose side I come down on.

And yet.

Does installing a bronze likeness always imply public endorsement? It does not seem unreasonable that memorials to all our prime ministers -- the good, the bad, the indifferent -- should be displayed on Parliament Hill. Is anything meant by this other than that yes, he served as PM? Do we really want to get into saying that some PMs are acceptable and some are not? And who would make that decision?

Bennett was a small-minded racist and an anti-labour zealot but I don't see that putting his likeness on the Hill means that we agree with his policies.