The statue of Sir John A. MacDonald is shown torn down following a demonstration in Montreal on August 29, 2020. A new survey suggests that while Canadians are divided over removing statues of politicians who harboured racist views or pushed racist policies, many oppose the “spontaneous” toppling of statues of Canada’s first prime minister, John A. Macdonald. The Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies survey follows the controversial tearing down and vandalism of a Macdonald statue in Montreal last month by activists angry at his anti-Indigenous views and policies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Canadians reluctant to remove statues of historical figures now seen as racist: Poll

75% of respondents to the poll were against the Montreal-style ‘spontaneous’ tearing down of Macdonald statues

A new survey suggests that while Canadians are divided over removing monuments to politicians who harboured racist views or pushed racist policies, many oppose the “spontaneous” toppling of statues of Canada’s first prime minister, John A. Macdonald.

The online poll by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies follows the controversial tearing down and vandalism of a Macdonald statue in Montreal last month by activists angry over his anti-Indigenous views and policies.

The incident, which was condemned by political leaders of various stripes, occurred during an anti-racism protest Aug. 30. Video showed a group of activists chanting and cheering as the statue was pulled to the ground before its head snapped off.

The episode represented the latest chapter in a growing debate about what to do with such statues, given Macdonald’s legacy as an architect of both Canada and the country’s residential school system, where thousands of children suffered abuse, or even death, during efforts to stamp out Indigenous culture.

READ MORE: Protesters in Montreal topple John A. Macdonald statue, demand police defunding

Half of respondents to the survey said they oppose the idea of removing statues or monuments to politicians who espoused racist views or implemented racist policies, while 31 per cent said they support such moves and 19 per cent did not know.

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.

Yet 75 per cent of respondents to the poll were against the Montreal-style “spontaneous” tearing down of Macdonald statues by activists while only 11 per cent said they were in favour.

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, said Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque.

“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.

Yet 37 per cent said they did not know enough about him to say either way, while 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.

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Racial injustice

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Central zone has 20 active cases of COVID-19

Province identified 143 new cases across Alberta on Wednesday

Black and Indigenous Alliance at Wetaskiwin City Hall

The Alliance gathered Saturday for a peaceful protest on City Hall grounds.

COVID-19: Active cases in central zone up Tuesday

Central zone active cases remains lowest of all zones

Central zone active cases down to 20

Province provides update

Ladies Golf Scramble raises $3,355 for local charity

All proceeds raised will be donated to the Education Plus Fund for the WRPS district.

Liberals vow wage-subsidy extension to 2021, revamp of EI system in throne speech

Canadian labour market was hammered by pandemic, when lockdowns in the spring led to a loss of 3 million jobs

First annual Best of Wetaskiwin Readers’ Choice Awards

Enter to win a $200 gift card for Canadian Tire.

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

Grand jury indicts police officer in Breonna Taylor death

Officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment

Missionary plane dedicated at Ponoka, Lacombe airports

MiracleAir flies humanitarian missions to Nicaragua

RCMP investigating after far-right groups disrupt anti-racism rally in Alberta

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said she respects the right of peaceful assembly, but denounces racism and violence

Refresh of Liberal government’s agenda comes amid new looming COVID-19 crisis

Lockdowns saw fed spending soar to historic levels in effort to offset pandemic’s blow to Canadians’ livelihoods

Public health officials urge Canadians to limit contacts again as COVID-19 cases rise

Canada has committed $1 billion to buy at least 154 million doses of vaccines from five different companies

Most Read