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Support for renaming British Columbia varies by age: survey

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Summary

Among those between 18 and 34, 37 per cent were in favour of changing B.C.'s name

Discussion about renaming British Columbia comes as institutions, streets named after colonial figures are being changed

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — While the majority of people are not in favour of renaming British Columbia to acknowledge its Indigenous heritage, the support for the move from younger people suggests the issue is far from settled — according to a new poll.

Overall, six in ten people surveyed think the province should keep its name. However, among those between 18 and 34, 37 per cent were in favour of changing B.C.’s name, a Research Co. online poll found. Among those 55 and older, support was just 14 per cent.

“The numbers go through very significant fluctuations when you look into the age demographics so it’s not a situation that is unanimous or settled at this particular stage,” President Mario Canseco explained.

“What we have here is a situation where the younger population is more likely to be in tune with the fact that our province isn’t really acknowledging its Indigenous heritage with its name, and this is one of the reasons for the level of support for a change in this group to be as high as it is. We have seen a higher level of understanding about the situation related to residential schools. They’re also more likely to have learned about residential schools when they were younger, and I think we see a little bit of that in this survey.”

Canseco says B.C. Day survey included questions about renaming the province for the first time this year.

“We felt it was important to add a couple of questions on the flag, and the name of the province because of all of the discussions that we’ve had over the past few months,” he says.

“We do intend to actually track this every year, it’s an important topic.”

The discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools has shone a spotlight once again on the genocide of Indigenous people, renewing the debate over whether or not the legacy of colonialism should be honoured with place names and statues. In Vancouver, Trutch Street is set to be renamed by the Musqueam First Nation. Toronto’s Ryerson University will also get a new moniker.  In recent years, some statues of colonial figures have already been removed from public places – including Justice Matthew Begbie outside the New Westminster courthouse and Sir John A. MacDonald at Victoria City Hall.

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In 2010 after an agreement between the province and the Haida Nation, the Queen Charlotte Islands were renamed Haida Gwaii. Canseco says his poll revealed the majority of British Columbians are now in favour of this move. Fifty-six per cent of people said they agree with the decision, while 20 per cent disagree and 24 per cent have no opinion.

“We see a majority of British Columbians who believe that this was the correct course of action. What this suggests to me is there might be an opportunity for somebody to actually champion this and to try to take it to the next level,” Canseco says.

Support for renaming B.C. didn’t vary significantly based on political affiliation, but Canseco says this is likely because the major parties have not taken a public position.

“This isn’t an issue that has been championed by any political party and I think that also plays a role in the way the numbers are looking. If you had somebody from the Greens or from the Liberals or from the government saying that they are exploring the idea of changing the name of the province, maybe the numbers would dance a little bit but right now it’s essentially a debate that is being fought by age, and not by political allegiance.”