01/11/2014 08:40 EST | Updated 03/13/2014 05:59 EDT

Sir John A. Macdonald Birthday Celebrations Set Off Twitter Storm

Library Of Canada
Saturday marked the 199th birthday of Canada's founding prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, and the Sir John A. Macdonald Bicentennial Commission has been honouring the event with a series of a celebrations and its own Twitter hashtag, #SirJAM.

​But on Saturday, that hashtag was hijacked by mostly aboriginal Twitter users after a photo appeared on the #SirJAM Twitter feed that showed a couple attending a Sir John A. Macdonald Day event in Ottawa dressed in "red face" (mock aboriginal dress).

Macdonald is known as the Father of Confederation and a nation-builder thanks in part to his drive to build a national railroad stretching from one of the country to the other.

In a statement on his website marking Sir John A. Macdonald Day, Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised Macdonald for his "drive and ambition to unite and expand the country."

However, Macdonald's legacy is a dark one for many aboriginal people and others who have a differing narrative of Canada’s history — one that includes some of the less praise-worthy events of Macdonald's tenure, such as the residential school system, the mistreatment of Chinese railroad workers and the execution of Métis leader Louis Riel for high treason.

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