Less than one-third of Canadians support removing the name of the country’s first prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald from schools, museums, and other institutions, according to a new poll from Forum Research, despite renewed criticism over his role in creating the residential school system and advancing discriminatory policies against Indigenous peoples.
The random telephone survey of 1,408 Canadian voters found 44 per cent of respondents disapproved of removing the name from buildings and other landmarks, while only 31 per cent supported the concept.
Another 26 per cent said they neither agreed or disagreed, and one per cent responded that they didn’t know.
The survey results come amid renewed pressure from activists to drop the Sir John A. Macdonald name from public institutions and other facilities because of his role in egregious 19th century policies or actions harmful to Indigenous peoples, including his support of assimilation and creating the residential school system; implementation of the Indian Act; and even the hanging of Métis political leader Louis Riel.
Earlier this month, a Kingston pub that was once home to Mr. Macdonald’s law office changed its name to remove reference to the former prime minister, and the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario union is calling for the name to be removed from all schools in the province.
However, opponents are warning against erasing history, citing the late prime minister’s fundamental role in bringing about Confederation and construction of Canada’s first transcontinental railway. They also say his views aligned with many of his contemporaries, and that he shouldn’t be judged by 21st century values.
Opinion on the appropriateness of maintaining the name appear to be sharply divided in the Forum poll, conducted between Jan. 22 to 24, with 31 per cent strongly disapproving of removing Sir John A. Macdonald from buildings and other landmarks, compared to 16 per cent saying they strongly approve.
Respondents supporting the federal Conservatives (69 per cent), living in Alberta (63 per cent), and those making more than $100,000 (61 per cent) were the mostly likely to voice disapproval to scrapping the name.
Sir John A. Macdonald led the historical Conservative Party of Canada throughout his tenure in office.
Men and older Canadians were also more likely to fall in the opposition camp, with 53 per cent of those in the 45 to 54 age bracket against dropping the name, compared to 55 per cent of men. Fifty-two per cent of respondents holding a university of college degree opposed removing the name.
“The plurality do not approve of stripping Sir John A. Macdonald’s name from buildings or landmarks, with the majority of the wealthiest Canadians vehemently opposed,” Forum Research president Lorne Bozinoff said in a statement, noting that least wealthy Canadians were the only group more likely to approve of dropping the name than disapprove.
According to poll results, NDP supporters (45 per cent), Green Party backers (43 per cent), post-graduate degree holders (40 per cent), Quebecers (40 per cent), and Canadians earning less than $20,000 (36 per cent) were the most likely to support dropping Sir John A’s name.
Afterwards, the demographic and income bands voicing strongest support for shedding the name were Canadians making between $80,000 to $100,000 (35 per cent), those bringing home between between $20,000 to $40,000 (34 per cent), women (34 per cent), and folks making $40,000 to $60,000 in salary (33 per cent).
Meanwhile, 33 per cent of respondents 34 years old and younger approved of the plan, compared to 30 per cent of those in the 35 to 44 age band.
The Hill Times