News / Toronto

New Sir John A. Macdonald walking tour launches in Toronto

Macdonald only lived in the city for two years, "but he made the most of it," says Ryerson history professor Patrice Dutil.

This statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Queen’s Park is the starting point of a new walking tour focused on how Toronto influenced the politics and policies of the country’s first prime minister.

Torstar News Service file

This statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Queen’s Park is the starting point of a new walking tour focused on how Toronto influenced the politics and policies of the country’s first prime minister.

A new walking tour in Toronto is giving history buffs the chance to retrace the steps of Canada’s first prime minister.

Created by Ryerson University history professor Patrice Dutil and students from the school’s Radio and Television Arts program, the Sir John A. Macdonald Walking Tour highlights eight sites in and around the University of Toronto that show how the famous politician shaped – and was shaped by – the city.

“He only lived here for two years, but he made the most of it,” said Dutil.

Macdonald moved to Toronto from Ottawa after losing the federal election in 1876. Dutil said he came to the city to reconnect with his son, rebuild his finances and find a fresh perspective on politics.

“And Toronto did what it does. It energized him,” he said.

Many of the stops on the walking tour show how Macdonald’s experiences in Toronto influenced his politics and policies. For example, Dutil said a visit to the Women’s College Hospital offers a chance to discuss Macdonald’s support for women’s suffrage.

A stroll down Baldwin Street is an opportunity to talk about Macdonald’s tumultuous relationship with Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples, including his order to execute Metis leader Louis Riel.

“He’s controversial, and I accept that,” Dutil said. “But he’s still one of the most important men in our history and Toronto owns a piece of him.”

Directions and materials for the walking tour can be found online at sirjohnatorontotour.com. The site includes a virtual version of the tour, along with an accompanying audio podcast and even mobile apps for Apple and Android.

“No matter where you are, anywhere in the world you can do the walking tour,” Dutil said.