Canada's Historic Sites and Monuments Board is targeting the plaque of a founding NDP leader over "controversial beliefs and behaviour" dating back nearly a century.
Cabinet in 2019 issued a Framework For History And Commemoration that mandated a "careful review of existing designations and plaque texts" for content deemed offensive.
Tommy Douglas, who served as Saskatchewan premier and health minister in 1944, and founding NDP leader in 1961, is subject to the first review for a plaque unveiled after the feds introduced the Framework.
"The Historic Sites and Monuments Board noted that Tommy Douglas wrote a master's thesis on eugenics," said Board spokesperson Dominique Tessier.
In 1933, he penned a master's thesis at McMaster University, which advocated government action against people with "low mental rating" or "moral standards below normal who are delinquent." He referenced unwed mothers, prostitutes, and people "so improvident as to be a public charge" in his research of several Saskatchewan families.
Douglas also penned a June 1934 article that praised the sterilization of people deemed unfit. "The rising generation will tend to build a heaven on earth rather than to live in misery in the hope of gaining some uncertain reward in the dim, distant future," he wrote.
As an early advocate of sterilizing unwed mothers, the board spokesperson acknowledged that Douglas "later changed his views on this topic," according to Blacklock's Reporter.
He rejected a eugenics program, and the CBC subsequently voted him the "greatest Canadian" during a call-in television program.
The Saskatchewan delegate to the board, historian William Waiser of Saskatoon, declined comment in 2019 when they unveiled a federal plaque in honour of the NDP leader in Regina. The board at the time described the former NDP leader as a "skilled politician, witty orator and advocate for social justice."
According to Blacklock's, the monuments board is reviewing 2,100 historic commemorations since 1919 for "outdated or offensive terms or word choices" and "an absence of a significant layer of history most frequently associated with the exclusion of Indigenous peoples."
"Nothing can be immune from review," the board wrote in a 2019 report, Careful Review Of Existing Designations. "Every designation can be re-evaluated."