How do Canadians feel about removing statues of politicians–some of them iconic–who espoused racist views or who supported racist policies?
It found about half of respondents said they oppose the idea of removing such monuments.
In contrast, 31 per cent said they support the idea, and 19 per cent said they simply did not not know.
Seventy-five per cent of respondents were against the “spontaneous” tearing down of Macdonald’s statue while 11 per cent said they were in favour.
(The divide was smaller when it came to streets, schools and other public institutions bearing the names of historic figures shown to have been racist, with 47 per cent against renaming them and 34 per cent in favour.)
The survey comes two days after a statue of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, was overturned in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on Monday and follows an incident in Montreal last month that provided content for newspapers and websites across Canada and around the world that showed MacDonald’s severed bronzed head on the ground not far from his bronzed body–also felled–in the heart of Montreal.
Politicians across the political spectrum, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, were quick to condemn the vandalism, at the time the latest attack on a Macdonald statue, which have been vandalised across Canada.
He was, after all, the architect of the country’s residential school system, where tens of thousands of Indigenious children were removed from their homes in an attempt to stamp out Indigenous culture–a policy that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report in 2015 called “cultural genocide.”
So Canadians were/are–once again–asking themselves and each other: “Should Macdonald stay (at least, his statue), or should he go?”
According to Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque, the numbers suggest Canadians are more supportive of a deliberate process of dealing with such statues — but take a critical view of activists taking matters into their own hands.
“If it was not through vandalism, would that number be different? Most likely. Because fully a third of Canadians say they would support removing a monument or statue if it were for the reasons described there,” Bourque said.
“But support for doing so through vandalism or some form of illegal action is not supported. In the context that it was done in Montreal, it doesn’t get support from anybody.”
The results show respondents are also divided over how they see Macdonald.
Forty-four per cent said they considered him first and foremost as the architect of Canadian confederation while 15 per cent viewed him as having set in motion policies that attacked the rights of Indigenous Peoples and sought to assimilate them.
Thirty-seven per cent said they did not know enough about him to say either way.
In another question, only 15 per cent said they had a positive view of Macdonald while 47 per cent were neutral, 12 per cent were negative and 26 per cent did not know.
The online survey of 1,529 Canadians took place Sept. 4-6. An internet poll cannot be given a margin of error because it is not a random sample.
With files from The Canadian Press, Leger