A strong majority of Canadians support the idea of a national day of remembrance for victims of residential schools, a new survey suggests.
The discovery of the remains of 215 children in an unmarked burial site at the Kamloops Indian Residential School has served as a wake-up call to many Canadians, a new Ipsos survey suggests, with 80 per cent saying they were shocked by the uncovering of the burial sites and 77 per cent agreeing there should be a national day of remembrance for residential school victims, including missing Indigenous children.
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Terry Teegee, regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, sees the move as a positive but notes that more needs to be done.
“I think it is a good move, but I think concrete actions are needed further than symbolic moves to acknowledge the atrocities that were imposed on Indigenous peoples for well over 150 years,” he said.
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Sixty-three per cent said the discovery has changed their view of residential schools, while 68 per cent noted that they never learned about residential schools during their time from kindergarten to the end of secondary school.
Teegee noted the survey found something of a generational divide with 85 per cent of baby boomers reporting not learning about residential schools compared to half of millennials and a third of gen Z.
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“There is a stark difference from the boomer generation right up to now,” he said. “There certainly is more in education nowadays and it’s demonstrated in this poll.”
“But it really speaks to the education school system about acknowledging the true history of Canada, not only the residential school system, but also all Indigenous contributions to this country, as well as [the] years before the country was born. There was a history here before. ”
Eighty-seven per cent of Canadians feel the federal government should help in searching for unmarked burial sites at the sites of other former residential schools. The same number, 87 per cent, said the Catholic church and religious organizations that ran residential schools need to play a bigger role in reconciliation.
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Eighty-one per cent agree that the federal government must act to raise the quality of life of Canada’s Indigenous people, a six-point increase from 2020, and up 18 points from 2013.
However, the survey found that Canadians appear divided on whether the treatment of Indigenous peoples until now has been adequate and whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has kept his promises.
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Forty-six per cent of Canadians agreed that Indigenous peoples are treated well by the federal government, marking a 16-point decline since 2013, which saw the rise of the Idle No More movement and a hunger strike by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.
Indigenous respondents were significantly more likely to strongly disagree that Indigenous peoples are treated well by the Canadian government, the survey found.
Opinions are more divided when it comes to Canada’s founders, many of whom were architects of the residential school system.
Fifty-four per cent agreed that the statues of historical figures who are deemed to have perpetuated racism should be removed, a 15-point increase from September of last year when the same question was asked amid the Black Lives Matter movement.
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Fifty-two per cent agreed that statues of leaders who planned the residential school system should be removed, while 56 per cent agree buildings named for these persons should be renamed.
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Nearly 60 per cent agreed that Sir John A. Macdonald’s legacy as Canada’s first prime minister outweighs his role in the creation of residential schools. However, 46 per cent agreed that statues and buildings bearing his likeness or name should be removed.
Respondents who self-identify as Indigenous, the survey notes, were significantly more likely to strongly agree with removing statues and supporting protesters who remove or deface statues of historical figures who they deem to have perpetuated racism.
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted from June 4 to 6, 2021, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18 and older was interviewed online. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
— With files from Sean Boynton and The Canadian Press
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