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John A. Macdonald's Victoria connection

01/11/2015 08:00 EST | Updated 03/13/2015 05:59 EDT
January 11, 2015 marks the 200th birthday of Canada's first prime minister, John A. Macdonald.

The host of All Points West, Khalil Akhtar, spoke with professor John Lutz from the University of Victoria's history department about Macdonald's connection to Victoria and about his controversial legacy.

Luring B.C. into Confederation

Macdonald promised a national railway in 1871 in part to lure B.C. into Confederation. If it hadn't been for that election promise, B.C. might never have become part of Canada.

In 1873 he offered his resignation because of a financial scandal concerning the railway.

Macdonald also built the railway from Esquimalt to Nanaimo.

Victoria's absent MP

The Conservatives won the 1878 federal election but Macdonald, still the Conservative leader, lost his seat. He became the Member of Parliament for Victoria, which he had never been to.

He didn't visit once during his term, from 1878 to 1882. His first visit was in 1886, after the railway was built.

Controversial legacy

Macdonald was also the Minister of Indian Affairs during much of his term in office. During that time he established Canada's residential schools, which took hundreds of thousands of aboriginal children away from their families. He also presided over the signing of many treaties, sometimes using starvation to force aboriginal people to sign them so he could clear the land for the railway.

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