Majority of Canadians want to see soldiers home before deadline
With the body of another Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan due to arrive home today, the majority of Canadians are calling for an early troop withdrawal from the war-torn country.
Gunner Jonathan Dion, 27, a member of the 5th Régiment d’Artillerie légère du Canada, based in Valcartier, Que., was killed by a roadside bomb Sunday, bringing Canada’s armed forces death toll to 74 since 2001.
An online survey of 1,052 Canadians by Angus Reid Strategies, conducted Dec. 19 and 20, shows 53 per cent of those polled believe Canada’s troops should be withdrawn before the February 2009 deadline.
Sixty-one per cent reject any suggestions of extending the mission beyond the deadline.
While Prime Minister Stephen Harper has mused about extending the mission if the House of Commons is agreeable, the poll shows 60 per cent of those surveyed don’t believe Harper has done a good job of explaining Canada’s role in Kandahar.
“The federal government continues to face a challenge in courting Canadians,” concludes the survey, which is considered accurate plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Seventy-one per cent — up dramatically from 58 per cent in July — believe Canada is shouldering too much of the burden of the NATO Afghan mission, which involves nearly 40 countries and a total force of about 41,700 troops.
Among those surveyed in the poll, 47 per cent regard Canada’s role as a war mission, while only 28 per cent believe the country is playing its historic peacekeeping role.
An independent panel, led by former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley, is looking into Canada’s role in Afghanistan and is to report to Parliament. It has been charged with gathering information and recommending what Canada’s role should be after 2009.
“The release of the Manley panel’s conclusions could certainly change perceptions. If the panel emphasizes areas such as peacekeeping and nation building — and Canada’s role is less focused on actual conflict — the entire rationale of the mission would change,” said Angus Reid spokesperson Mario Canseco.