Majority still back Afghan role: poll
Canadians want assurances cause is just and that military will make a difference
A majority of Canadians support military participation in “conventional combat missions,” such as the Afghan counterinsurgency, as long as they’re convinced the cause is just and progress is being made, according to a new poll conducted for the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.
The survey revealed that 55 per cent of Canadians are willing to send troops into danger – even if it leads to deaths and injuries – as long as they believe in the military’s goals.
“Some people might be sur- prised to see the level of Canadian commitment to getting on the playing field and not just sitting on the grandstands when it comes to military combat missions,” said Greg Lyle, managing director at Innovative Research Group Inc., which carried out the survey.
Only 19 per cent of respondents said they’ve always been firmly opposed to combat missions, while 23 per cent said they’d be willing to send troops, but that casualties would affect their level of support.
“This isn’t a blank cheque for the government to take troops wherever they want,” Lyle said.
“But if Canadians are con- vinced the cause is right and we’re making a difference, they are prepared to send soldiers into harm’s way – even if there is no direct Canadian interest at stake and no Canadian lives at risk.”
But the poll also showed Canadians are increasingly uneasy with the military’s current role in Afghanistan.
While 54 per cent support the troops’ presence, opposition to the mission has risen to 42 per cent from 36 since a similar poll was conducted in June.
Dawn Black, defence critic for the New Democratic Party, said the poll demonstrates that the public is increasingly uncomfortable with the mission, because it lacks focus and doesn’t appear to be offering tangible benefits to Afghan civilians.
“It’s pretty clear that Canadians are increasingly uneasy about this fighting mission in Afghanistan,” she said.
“By their very nature, Canadians want to help, but they want assurances that their efforts are based on Canadian values and a real chance of success.”
Étienne Allard, director of communications for Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor, said the government does not comment on polls.
The survey also revealed a linguistic divide over the Afghan mission: approval among English-speaking Canadians is 59 per cent, while support among French speakers rests at 38 per cent.
The online poll of 2,494 Canadians, conducted between Oct. 25 and 27, was commissioned for a CDFAI conference that will be held in Ottawa on Monday. It has a margin of error of 1.96 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.