John A. Macdonald
Sculptor John Dann (left, in sweater) helps place the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald outside Victoria City Hall in 1982. (John MacKay / Times Colonist)

A new poll says that half of Canadians oppose removing historical monuments like statues of Canada’s first Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald.

The survey by Leger polled both American and Canadian respondents from September 4 to 6 following a string of stories about defacement or removal of controversial monuments.

Leger, the country’s largest Canadian-owned analytics and research firm, says that 50 per cent of Canadians “oppose removing statues/monuments from public spaces of politicians where it has been demonstrated that they harboured racist views or implemented racist policies.”

31 per cent said they support removing these types of statues, while 19 per cent either didn’t know or declined to answer.

The divide was much closer for American respondents, with 40 per cent supporting the removal of monuments dedicated to politicians with racist views or policies, and 44 per cent opposed.

16 per cent were unsure or preferred not to answer.

Age was a major factor in determining where people fell on the issue. Canadians between the ages of 18 to 34 were most likely to support removing statues, at 46 per cent. 29 per cent were opposed.

That number fell quickly with age, with only 20 per cent of respondents in Canada 55 and over supportive of taking down monuments. 68 per cent were opposed.

Canadians were only slightly more open to the idea of renaming streets, schools, or public buildings named for historical figures with racist views or policies.

47 per cent of respondents were opposed to name changes, and 34 per cent were in support.

Americans were nearly equally divided on renaming public places, with 39 per cent opposed and 41 per cent in support.

One area that saw a broader consensus was how controversial figures should be memorialized in society, with 59 per cent of Canadians saying that we should be offering balanced perspectives including positive and negative accounts of their actions.

Similarly, when asked how statues should be handled with regards to information about the subject’s past, a majority suggested adding information to statues while keeping them accessible in some way.

57 per cent of Canadians called for some form of additional information on statues, with 21 per cent saying statues can be placed out of view, and 36 per cent saying they can remain in place.

Leger conducted this Web survey with a representative sample of 1,529 Canadians and 1,001 Americans, over the age of 18, selected from LEO’s (Leger Opinion) representative panel. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size would have a margin of error ±2.51%, 19 times out of 20 for the Canadian sample and of ±3.1%, 19 times out of 20 for the American sample.