A statue of Canada’s first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, stands outside the entrance to city hall in Victoria on Sept. 23, 2017. The statue was removed almost a year later. Weeks after a statue of John A. Macdonald was removed from the front steps of city hall in Victoria, a new poll has found that the majority of Canadians oppose scrubbing the image or name of Canada’s first prime minister from public view.
The survey from the Angus Reid Institute (ARI), released Thursday, also found that more than half of respondents believe Canada spends "too much time" apologizing for the country’s infamous residential schools.
Under the system, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities to be placed into government-funded, church-run establishments that aimed to "kill the Indian in the child," according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Thousands died at the schools, the TRC said in its 2015 report, and legions more suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the schools.
Macdonald’s government, which ushered in the Indian Act, approved the creation of these schools. A little girl stops to look at a statue of John A. Macdonald in Victoria Park in Regina, on Aug. 22, 2018. Seventy per cent of respondents in ARI’s poll said Macdonald’s name and image should not be scrubbed from public view, while 11 per cent disagreed.
Last month, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said city council voted to remove Macdonald’s statue as a gesture of reconciliation.
"We will remove the statue of Sir John A. MacDonald from the front doors of city hall so that the family "members and other Indigenous people do not need to walk past this painful reminder of colonial violence each time they enter the doors of their municipal government," Helps wrote on her website. Majority disagree with Victoria’s move
The move provoked both praise and scorn, and it reignited a debate over how Macdonald’s legacy should be commemorated.
The debate hasn’t been limited to Canada. The government in Scotland, where Macdonald was born, recently quietly wiped articles about Macdonald from its websites out of respect for Indigenous Peoples In Canada.
"While we want to celebrate the very positive contributions Scottish people have made across the world, we also want to present a balanced assessment of their role and are reviewing the wording of these articles in that light," the Scottish government said in a statement to HuffPost Canada.
Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government also waded in to the debate, offering to give the statue a "new home." Helps rejected the offer.
After the backlash, Helps penned a column for the Times Colonist apologizing for how the decision-making process made some people "feel excluded from such an important decision." But she maintained that the decision to remove the statue was the right one.
But according to the Angus Reid Institue’s survey, the majority of Canadians disagree. Angus Reid Institute Fifty-five per cent of those polled said the statue shouldn’t have been removed. Twenty-five per cent were in favour of the decision, while 20 per cent were unsure.
And while the polling firm noted that the strongest opposition to the move came from past Conservative party supporters, almost 45 per cent of respondents who supported the Liberals in the last election also disagreed with Helps’ decision.
At the party’s policy convention in Halifax, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called out Victoria City Council’s move. "I’m proud to say that we are the party of Canada’s first prime minister, the father of our federation, and the visionary who made this land possible," Scheer told the audience.
"I think it’s a disgrace that we’re allowing extreme voices in this country to […]
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