|Feb. 22, 2003.|
Canadians want U.N. support: Poll American motives found to be suspect
NATIONAL AFFAIRS WRITER
OTTAWA—Support in Canada for a U.S.-led war on Iraq has reached a new low, a poll done for the Toronto Star shows.According to a poll conducted by EKOS Research Associates for The Star, La Presse and the CBC, 74 per cent of Canadians would oppose Canadian participation in a war without the "full support" of the United Nations Security Council. Only 25 per cent would support a war without it.With Security Council approval, 63 per cent of those surveyed support Canadian participation, with 35 per cent opposed. "The pattern is quite clearly one of a continued decline, and actually support by now is much lower than it has been at any point since well over a year ago," said Frank Graves, president of EKOS. He noted later that EKOS tracking of support for the war now shows it is at an all-time low. Last month about 59 per cent of Canadians polled were opposed to war without U.N. backing.In the past few weeks Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has insisted that Canada would only support a war if it sanctioned by the U.N. stamp of approval. Tens of thousands of Canadians across the country have marched to protest any war.Chrétien was in New Brunswick yesterday and told high school students in Shediac how firm Canada's position is, The Star's Andrew Chung reports."Canada said clearly at the start of the crisis in the summer, and I said it to President Bush, that we Canadians we are going to war only under the umbrella of the United Nations," Chrétien said. "So there has been no confusion, I said that clearly."Chrétien was responding to a question from Grade 12 student Josiane Cormier, in a gym crammed full of French-speaking high school students.Chrétien said: "I hope that inspectors make their report next week that he (Iraqi President Saddam Hussein) is respecting the requirements of the United Nations."Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix is to report back to the U.N. Security Council next week. If the Security Council passes a second resolution calling for military action, Chrétien told the students he was unsure what Canada's role would be.He noted that Canada has already committed "important troops (as many as 2,000) this summer in Afghanistan" which would reduce the military's ability to participate in a war in Iraq."I don't work on the scenario of war," he said firmly. "I work on the scenario of peace." The gym erupted in applause. Graves, meanwhile, said in an interview yesterday that for Canadians, "The U.N. sanction is a lynchpin of public support."It's something which changes this from being a doable proposition for the public (with U.N. support) to something which is a non-starter without the U.N."EKOS asked questions of 1,006 Canadians between Feb. 18-20. Results from a sample of that size are considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20."Overall, the war in Iraq is producing dwindling support in Canada and what support does exist is highly divided," Graves said. "There seems to be little enthusiasm for a war in Iraq in Canada today. Support is declining; it's very divided."(In the United States, 85 per cent of those polled support an attack on Iraq if there is Security Council support, and 50 per cent support it if there is no support of the United Nations.)"Decisively, Canadians lean to a much more positive view of the U.N.," Graves said.Of those polled, 73 per cent agreed with the statement that "The United Nations is the best current option available for ensuring world peace and security." Only 24 per cent agreed that "The United Nations is a toothless institution that, like the previous League of Nations, has little real relevance to modern global security." Many Canadians are suspicious of American motives for an attack on Iraq, the poll shows.Asked about the most important reason for a U.S. attack on Iraq, 39 per cent answered that it was to ensure that the United States' strategic oil interests in the Middle East are protected, while 30 per cent think it is to protect the security of Americans from threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and only 18 per cent think it is to remove Saddam Hussein and install a democratic regime in Iraq.Ten per cent think it is to ensure the popularity of the Bush administration for the next election.And Canadians are strongly pessimistic about the outcome of the war.Of those polled, 73 per cent think it will have a negative impact on relations between the West and the Arab world, 60 per cent think it will damage the North American economy, 54 per cent think it will increase the threat of terrorism in North America, and 39 per cent think it will have a negative effect on the efforts to curtail the threat of weapons of mass destruction."There is little conviction that the war will achieve its stated objectives, ostensibly to reduce the threat of terrorism or curtail the spread of the weapons of mass destruction or to install a democratic regime and remove Saddam Hussein," Graves said. "People are at best kind of mixed in their views of those things."Canadians are troubled about the unintended consequences of the war, and its impact on the North American economy and relations between the West and the Islamic world."You find a very decisive view that there are going to be negative effects," Graves said, adding that even supporters of the war don't expect it to have positive effects. "Amongst the growing group of those who are opposed, the real consensus is that it is going to do much more harm than good."Graves said that opposition to the war is particularly marked in Quebec, where only 10 per cent support the war without United Nations backing, with Quebec "looking very much more like France and Germany and Europe now."Taken together, Graves said, Canadian participation in a war on Iraq would be "a very tough sell."