Saskatchewan

Survey suggests most people — but just by a margin — oppose renaming schools named after John A. Macdonald

According to a survey from the Angus Reid Institute, more than half of Canadians would oppose renaming schools named after John A. Macdonald.

Angus Reid Institute polled 1,500 people across Canada

The survey comes in the aftermath of a resolution by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario to urge school boards within the province to reconsider public schools named after Macdonald. (National Archive of Canada/Canadian Press)

According to a national survey, 55 per cent of participants oppose renaming schools named after Sir John A. Macdonald.

Another 25 per cent of the more than 1,500 people polled by the Angus Reid Institute said they were in favour of renaming schools named after Canada's first prime minister, while 19 per cent had no opinion one way or the other. 

The survey comes in the aftermath of a resolution by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario to urge school boards within the province to reconsider public schools named after Macdonald. 

Macdonald was a key architect in the country's residential school system. The last federal residential school closed in 1996, more than a century after Macdonald died.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government has no plans to do any renaming of buildings named after Macdonald. 

Modern concepts of racism

Sixty-nine per cent of people surveyed said historical figures should not be judged by modern concepts of racism because "most Canadians at the time of Confederation would be judged as racists, colonizers, and misogynists."

"Canada's history is laced with troubling, but, at the time, acceptable and even popular treatment of non-European peoples," an article by the institute said. 
Sixty-nine per cent of people surveyed said historical figures should not be judged using modern concepts of racism. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Eighty-eight per cent of those surveyed said the entire life of a person and their principal legacy should be considered when assessing names for monuments.

Still, seven out of 10 people said the monuments and statues would be better served in museums, where proper context could be provided. 

Political aspect

Capital "C" Conservative voters were more likely to oppose renaming schools named after Macdonald, with 71 per cent in opposition compared to the 41 per cent of NDP voters who are opposed. Just over half of Liberals polled opposed the renaming of schools. 

Macdonald was a member of the Conservative Party of Canada, though not the current iteration.

The survey was conducted by the Angus Reid Institute between Aug. 25 and 27. For comparison, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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