Majority of Canadians want Victoria's John A. Macdonald statue to stay put: poll
A statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Victoria, B.C., Tuesday, January 31, 2017.
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Thursday, September 6, 2018 5:01PM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 6, 2018 5:12PM PDT
Weeks after the removal of a John A. Macdonald statue generated intense controversy in Victoria, a new poll suggests the majority of Canadians don't want to hide the legacy of the country's first prime minister.
Seven in ten people said they think John A. Macdonald's name and image should stay in public view while just 11 per cent of respondents think it should be removed, according to a new poll released Thursday by the Angus Reid Institute.
Nearly 20 per cent of the 1,500 Canadians polled weren't sure or couldn't say how they felt about the issue.
Many people from Victoria and across the country were outraged after council voted to remove the John A. Macdonald statue, which sat in front of city hall, with no public consultation.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said at the time that the statue was a barrier to Indigenous participation at city hall, because Macdonald was instrumental in the creation of Canada's abusive residential school system.
The backlash was so extreme that Helps followed up with an editorial in which she apologized for the way the removal was handled.
"As Mayor of Victoria, I apologize for not recognizing that the City Family’s process might make some people feel excluded from such an important decision," Helps wrote in a Times Colonist column. "I didn’t recognize the great desire of Victoria residents to participate in reconciliation actions. The process going forward will enable this."
As far as Victoria's specific actions, 55 per cent of people who responded to the poll said they opposed the removal of the Macdonald statue from its spot in front of City Hall. But there was no clear consensus when it comes to relocating the statue, with 44 per cent of people saying it should be placed in a museum and 37 per cent saying it should be put back in its original spot. Only 13 per cent said it should be displayed elsewhere publicly, and six per cent said they wouldn't display it publicly again.
The highest levels of opposition to the removal were predictably in Saskatchewan (81 per cent opposed) and Alberta (67 per cent opposed), where Conservatives dominate federal politics.
Helps has said the plan for the statue, currently in storage, was always to relocate it and provide further context on Macdonald's legacy and role in the residential school system.
The poll also sheds some light on Canadian attitudes toward reconciliation efforts with First Nations.
Fifty-seven per cent of respondents said the country "spends too much time apologizing for residential schools," while 31 per cent said the harm from those schools continues and can't be ignored.
While the majority (57 per cent) of respondents said Canada spends too much time apologizing for residential schools, slightly more than half said they support a statutory holiday or designated day of remembrance to commemorate the legacy of residential schools.
The statue removal has become a hot topic and it remains to be seen whether it will play a role in B.C.'s civic elections, which take place Oct. 20.
Angus Reid's poll, conducted online from Aug. 21-24, carries a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.