Here's what's named after Sir John A. Macdonald in Ottawa

The discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former residential school in B.C. has once again given rise to the question about what to do with landmarks named after Canada's first prime minister.

Parks, roads, buildings all bear surname of Canada's 1st prime minister

The Ottawa River is reflected in a sign for the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway in Ottawa on June 2, 2021. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

The imprint of Canada's first prime minister on the geography of the nation's capital is hard to miss.

Roads, parks and buildings all bear the name of Sir John A. Macdonald, a Father of Confederation whose government enforced policies that starved Indigenous people to force them from their land and centralized and expanded the residential school system.

Now, with the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., the question of what to do with landmarks named after Macdonald has once again come up.

Here's 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 councillors whose wards include the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, or "SJAM" as locals refer to it, called for it to be renamed.

Theresa Kavanagh, Jeff Leiper and Catherine McKenney are urging the federal government to launch an Indigenous-led process that would see the road, which 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

Built between 1964 and 1966, the major commuter bridge spans the Ottawa River, connecting King Edward Avenue in Ottawa with Highway 5 in Gatineau, Que.

It's named after both Macdonald and his fellow Father of Confederation 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 the Ottawa International Airport, with few references to its official name on its website or social media channels.

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

The Macdonald-Cartier International Airport goes by the name Ottawa International Airport more frequently these days, 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 heritage 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 "rigourously non-partisan" think tank takes its name from Macdonald, a Tory, and Wilfrid Laurier, a Liberal who was prime minister from 1896 until 1911.

They "were two outstanding and long-serving former prime ministers who represent the best of Canada's distinguished political tradition," the think tank says on its website.

Macdonald Gardens

The picturesque swath of green space just off Rideau Street in Ottawa's Lowertown neighbourhood was designated a 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 resident landscape architect in Canada."

The 'summer house' of Macdonald Gardens has been a landmark in Ottawa's Lowertown for a century. (City of Ottawa)

Macdonald-Cartier Academy

A private French-immersion junior high school in New Edinburgh, the Macdonald-Cartier Academy was founded in 1990 and bills itself as "one of the top-rated private schools in Ottawa."

The Sir John A

A pub on Elgin Street that boasts about having "the largest selection of draft beers in Centretown." 

Ottawa councillors push for renaming of Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway

1 year ago
Duration 1:09
Coun. Jeff Leiper says the name of Canada’s first prime minister, whose government enforced racist policies, should be removed from buildings, roadways and parks in the city in light of the discovery of 215 children buried at a former residential school in B.C.

MacDonald Street

While the five-block street in the Golden Triangle could be named after Canada's first prime minister, its origins are unclear.

It's possible the street was named after Macdonald, and its capital "D" is a typographical error — at least that's according to a city archivist who spoke to Centretown News in 2010.

But ultimately, the street's namesake is likely lost to history.

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

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