Montreal Gazette

Ma­jor­ity still back Afghan role: poll

Cana­di­ans want as­sur­ances cause is just and that mil­i­tary will make a dif­fer­ence

- CHRIS LACKNER CANWEST NEWS SER­VICE OTTAWA – OTTAWA CIT­I­ZEN

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.

 ?? CHRIS SCH­WARZ CANWEST NEWS SER­VICE ?? More than 80 Cana­dian sol­diers from Lord Strath­cona’s Horse Reg­i­ment and 1 Com­bat En­gi­neer Reg­i­ment, based at Edmonton Gar­ri­son, em­barked on a Cana­dian Forces plane Thurs­day morn­ing for a tour of duty in Afghanista­n.
CHRIS SCH­WARZ CANWEST NEWS SER­VICE More than 80 Cana­dian sol­diers from Lord Strath­cona’s Horse Reg­i­ment and 1 Com­bat En­gi­neer Reg­i­ment, based at Edmonton Gar­ri­son, em­barked on a Cana­dian Forces plane Thurs­day morn­ing for a tour of duty in Afghanista­n.

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