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Majority say John A. MacDonald’s name, image should stay in public view

As a long summer of discussion over the legacy of the country’s residential school system and dispute over the subsequent actions of politicians comes to an end, Canadians are weighing in.

After a decision by Victoria, B.C.’s mayor and council to remove a statue of John A. MacDonald, a new public opinion survey from the Angus Reid Institute finds the majority say remembering the trauma of residential schools should not come at the expense of memorializing the country’s first Prime Minister.

While twice as many are opposed to the specific removal of the statue in Victoria as supportive (55% versus 25%), fully seven-in-ten (70%) say, generally, the name and image of John A. MacDonald should remain in public view. This compares to just one-in-ten (11%) who say his name and image should be removed.

Canadians are also nearly twice as likely to say their country “spends too much time apologizing for residential schools” as to say the harm from that policy continues and cannot be ignored.

Against this backdrop, however, half the country is also supportive of either a statutory holiday commemorating the legacy of residential schools (51% support this) or designated “day of remembrance” that is not a statutory holiday (53%).

More Key Findings:

  • Nearly six-in-ten Canadians say the country “spends too much time apologizing for residential schools” (57%). Conversely, about one-third (31%) say “The harm from residential schools continues and cannot be ignored”. The rest (12%) are unsure
  • More than half (55%) are opposed the removal of the John A. MacDonald statue from in front of Victoria city hall, but Canadians are divided over whether it should be restored to its original spot (37%), displayed elsewhere publicly (13%), or placed in a museum (44%)
  • Age and political affiliation are highly correlated with views on these issues. Past Conservative Party of Canada voters overwhelmingly oppose removing the Victoria statue (81%), while past Liberal Party supporters are more divided – with nearly half (47%) also opposed

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