James Cockburn Day is going to be different. Usually, the James Cockburn Society participates in a weekend full of local activities to help raise awareness about the Hon. James Cockburn, a Father of Confederation and the First Speaker of the House of Commons. Its purpose is also to increase people’s knowledge of local history in Northumberland County.
For many years, Rob Franklin has portrayed Cockburn in several plays at Victoria Hall and the Cobourg Museum. Due to the pandemic, the Society decided not to do a performance this year.
Instead, we would like to facilitate conversations about local history.
In recent weeks, news reports of protests by Black Lives Matters and Indigenous groups question whether statues of significant historical Canadian figures like Sir. John A. Macdonald and Egerton Ryerson should be removed. Locally, a statue of Lt. Col. Arthur Williams in front of Port Hope town hall has created a stir.
These groups and others challenge our notions surrounding the records of these people who are aggrandized through statues, public monuments, and other honours. The role of these people in the genocide of Indigenous people tests the standards by which we, as a society, see their contribution to Canada’s formation.
This shines a light on our views of people in the past. So, we are going to have a discussion about how we see historical figures using our very own James Cockburn and others as examples. We are calling it: The Honourable James Cockburn Warts and All: Seeing the humanity in people from our past.
We hope it will give you some food for thought.