Tue. Aug 9th, 2022

WARNING: This story contains disturbing details.


It’s hard to miss the geography of Canada’s first prime minister in the country’s capital.

Roads, parks and buildings all bear the name Sir John A. Macdonald, a federal father whose government enforced policies that starved indigenous peoples to force them out of their land and centralized and expanded the housing school system.

Now with the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, BC, the question of what to do with landmarks named after Macdonald has resurfaced.

Here is a collection of some of the more prominent places in Ottawa named after Macdonald.

Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway

On Wednesday, the three Ottawa City Council members, whose departments include Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, or “SJAM,” as the locals refer to it, called for it to be renamed.

Theresa Kavanagh, Jeff Leiper and Catherine McKenney call on the federal government to launch a native-led process that will see the road that stretches west along the Ottawa River from downtown and is overseen by the National Capital Commission, renamed as soon as possible.

It was known as the Ottawa River Parkway until 2012.

Macdonald-Cartier Bridge

The large commuter bridge was built between 1964 and 1966 and spans the Ottawa River, connecting King Edward Avenue in Ottawa with Highway 5 in Gatineau, Que.

It is named after both Macdonald and his fellow Confederate Sir George-Étienne Cartier, and is owned and maintained by Public Works and Government Services Canada.

Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport

The federal government renamed the city’s airport after Macdonald and Cartier in 1993.

These days, the airport is more commonly branded as Ottawa International Airport, with few references to its official name on its website or social media.

However, the Macdonald-Cartier name can still be found on signs around the airport.

Today, Macdonald-Cartier International Airport is more commonly known as Ottawa International Airport and often uses its three-letter geocode ‘YOW’ in its branding. (Jérémie Bergeron / Radio-Canada)

Sir John A. Macdonald Building

Originally built in the early 1930s for the Bank of Montreal, the Wellington Street building now serves as a permanent space for large parliamentary meetings and functions.

It was renamed after Macdonald in 2012.

Macdonald-Laurier Institute

The self-described “rigorously non-partisan” think tank takes its name from Macdonald, a Tory, and Wilfrid Laurier, a liberal who was prime minister from 1896 to 1911.

They “were two excellent and longtime former prime ministers representing the best of Canada’s distinguished political tradition,” the think tank said on its website.

Macdonald Gardens

The picturesque green space just off Rideau Street in Ottawa’s Lowertown neighborhood was designated a Cultural Heritage Park in 2017.

It was built on a former cemetery and designed in 1914 by Frederick G. Todd, whom the Canadian Encyclopedia calls “the first truly settled landscape architect in Canada.”

The ‘cottage’ in Macdonald Gardens has been a landmark in Ottawa’s Lowertown for a century. (City of Ottawa)

Macdonald-Cartier Academy

Macdonald-Cartier Academy, a private French-immersed secondary school in New Edinburgh, was founded in 1990 and considers itself “one of the best rated private schools in Ottawa.”

Sir John A.

A pub on Elgin Street that boasts “the largest selection of draft beers in Centretown.”

Ottawa councilors are pushing to rename Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway

Coun. Jeff Leiper says the name of Canada’s first prime minister, whose government enforced racist policies, should be removed from buildings, roads and parks in the city in light of the discovery of 215 children buried in a former villa school in BC 1:09

MacDonald Street

While the five-block in the Golden Triangle could have been named after Canada’s first prime minister, its origins are unclear.

It is possible that the street was named after Macdonald, and its capital “D” is a typo – at least according to a city archivist who spoke to Centretown News in 2010.

But in the end, the street’s namesake is probably lost to history.


Support is available to anyone affected by their experience in residential schools and those triggered by the latest reports.

A national crisis line for Indian housing has been set up to provide support to former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis services by calling the 24-hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.

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