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

There has been COVID-19 exposures at two elementary schools in District 42. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 24 additional COVID-19 cases

This includes three school exposures in Kelowna

File photo
Man escapes truck incident unscathed

Submitted by Sgt. G.D. Simpson October 19 The Clearwater RCMP detachment received… Continue reading

Peter Milobar, BC Liberal candidate for the Kamloops-North Thompson has been elected for a second term. Milobar is pictured here with his wife Lianne. (Facebook photo)
Milobar takes Kamloops – North Thompson for a second term

Peter Milobar, the BC Liberal candidate for the Kamloops-North Thompson has been… Continue reading

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

Tyrell Giroux was arrested by Williams Lake RCMP on Sunday, Oct. 25. (Facebook video screenshot)
Tsilhqot’in leaders call for suspension of officers seen in controversial Williams Lake arrest

Disturbing video demands an immediate, independent investigation, says TNG

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
U.S. election results one factor that could impact immigration to Canada next year

The survey polled 1,523 Canadians between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25

Most Read