Thursday, February 22, 2007

Afghanistan: 51% no, 49% yes, 22% strongly

Canadians split over staying until 2009 poll
Jack Aubry CanWest News Service February 22, 2007

A new national poll indicates Canadians remain overwhelmingly supportive of their troops and the job they are doing in Afghanistan, although they are split over the government's decision to extend the mission until 2009.

Conducted exclusively for CanWest News Service and Global National, the Ipsos Reid poll was released yesterday as human-rights groups petitioned the Federal Court of Canada to stop Canadian soldiers from giving up control of prisoners captured during fighting in Afghanistan.

Amnesty International wants Ottawa to put a stop to transfers of detainees until the court reaches a decision on the constitutionality of surrendering captives to foreign governments.

Involving a random group of 1,000 respondents from Feb. 15 to 19, the survey found 53% support for the Canadian military sticking it out until its tour of duty ends in 2009 because they believe Afghanistan is too important to abandon.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion is expected to announce this as his party's new position in a speech in Montreal today, noting another country must take over in two years because the mission is misguided.

The poll showed more than six out of 10 Canadians do not believe the public will ever find out what happened in recent allegations of prisoner abuse involving Canadian troops.

Three investigations have been launched into a complaint by a University of Ottawa professor, based on documents obtained under Access to Information, that Canadian troops may have abused three Afghans they arrested in southern Afghanistan this past April.

The majority believe any prisoner abuse, if it took place, would be an isolated incident and Canadians aren't involved in torturing combatant prisoners.

On pulling Canadian forces out of Afghanistan as soon as possible to abandon the mission, 51% disagreed while 49% agreed--including 22% strongly.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.