Should he stay or should he go? The debate on whether to remove statues of Sir John A. Macdonald — Canada’s first prime minister and also a catalyst for the country’s residential schools — continues to mount.
At the beginning of August, Victoria, B.C.’s mayor and council decided to remove a statue of Macdonald from in front of city hall, as an act of reconciliation with First Nations.
But according to a new survey by Angus Reid, many Canadians believe the country spends “too much time apologizing for residential schools” and statues like Macdonald’s should remain standing.
The survey found that a majority of respondents believed that remembering the trauma of residential schools should not come at the expense of commemorating the country’s first prime minister.
Macdonald was a key architect of the residential school system that removed more than 150,000 Indigenous children from their families so they could be sent to church-run boarding schools. There they were prohibited from speaking their native languages or practising their traditional customs. Many also suffered emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
WATCH: TRC reveals horrific accounts from residential schools
Fifty-five per cent of respondents opposed the removal of the statue in Victoria and 25 per cent supported it.
But Canadians were divided on whether it should be put back in front of city hall — more than one-third of respondents said it should go back to its original spot, 13 per cent said it should be displayed elsewhere and 44 per cent said it should be placed in a museum.
The statue is currently in storage while the city decides what to do with it.
Seven out of 10 respondents said the name and image of Macdonald should remain in public view. In comparison, only one in 10 said his name and image should be removed.
Age, geography, political party
Age, geography and political party association seemed to factor into Canadians’ response on the issue.
For example, past Conservative Party voters overwhelmingly opposed removing the Victoria statue (81 per cent), while past Liberal Party supporters were more divided, with nearly half (47 per cent) also opposed.
WATCH: Canada’s debate over the removal of John A. Macdonald statues
Saskatchewan had the most respondents who were opposed to removing the statue (81 per cent) while Quebec had the highest number of people who were for removing it (31 per cent).
A majority of respondents who voted Conservative (84 per cent) and a majority of respondents over 55 years old (69 per cent) said Canada spends too much time apologizing for residential schools and it’s time to move on.
Those on the other side of the argument were mainly younger and more left-leaning. Forty-one per cent of respondents aged 18-34 and more than half of who voted NDP agreed that “the harm from residential schools continues and cannot be ignored.”
The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) conducted an online survey from Aug. 21 – 24, 2018, among a representative randomized sample of 1,500 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.