CBC News & David Ljunggren / Reuters – 2006-09-09 23:59:56
New Poll Says Most Canadians Blame US for 9/11 Attacks
(September 7, 2006) — A majority of Canadians believe US foreign policy was one of the root causes that led to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and Quebecers are quicker to criticize the US administration for its international actions than other Canadians, a recent poll suggests.
Those conclusions are found in a newly released poll conducted by Léger Marketing for the Association for Canadian Studies.
The poll suggests that 77 percent of Quebecers polled primarily blame American foreign policy for the Sept. 11 attacks. The results suggest 57 percent in Ontario hold a similar view.
When participants were given the option of choosing more than one cause for the attacks, two-thirds blamed Islamic fundamentalists and their anti-Western views, while a third pointed the finger at Israel and its position in the Middle East.
Canadian opinions have hardened against the United States and its role on the world stage, said Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have contributed to a change of heart among people, he said.
But Canadians are divided on whether their government should pay more attention to issues fuelling extremist organizations in the Middle East, he said.
“There are a lot of people who think we should be listening closely [to extremist groups] and that there is an opportunity to dialogue with these sort of groups,” said Jedwab Wednesday. “So it is showing a real ideological divide on some of these issues.”
There’s a growing need since the Sept. 11 attacks for balanced public education about terrorism, added Jedwab. “There is a tendency to see in these movements something more romantic than actually exists. That’s something we need to keep debating in the country.”
Léger Marketing interviewed 1,508 Canadian adults from Aug. 22 to Aug. 27. The poll results are considered accurate within 2.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
Calls Grow in Canada for Rethink of Afghan Mission
David Ljunggren / Reuters
OTTAWA (September 6, 2006) — The rising death toll among Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan is prompting calls for the minority Conservative government to rethink Canada’s military mission in the war-torn country.
The issue is becoming a major problem for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s fragile administration and one prominent commentator predicted on Wednesday the Afghan mission would cost him support at the next election.
Five soldiers were killed over the weekend, bringing the toll in the last three months alone to 16. Parliament voted earlier this year to extend the 2,300-strong mission in Kandahar by two years to February 2009.
The new deaths sparked massive media coverage as well as more questions about why Canadian troops, best known in recent decades for taking part in peacekeeping operations, were involved in a major military mission against the Taliban.
Jack Layton, leader of the minority left-leaning New Democrats, wants the troops out by February 2007.
“I think it’s becoming increasingly clear to Canadians … that the mission doesn’t have a focus and a set of clear objectives; there is no exit strategy,” he told CBC television late on Tuesday.
Opinion polls show that only around half of those surveyed think the troops should stay in Afghanistan.
The separatist Bloc Quebecois party, which seeks independence for French-speaking Quebec, is also alarmed by the death toll and wants an emergency parliamentary debate.
Quebec poses a particular problem for Harper, who won power in the Jan. 23 election in large part because of the 10 Parliamentary seats he unexpectedly gained in the province.
He needs to raise support for the Conservatives in Quebec in order to have clear chance of winning a majority in the next election, but growing opposition to the Afghan mission makes this prospect look ever less likely.
Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hebert, a frequent commentator on Quebec political issues, said Harper would lose power if an election were held now, mainly because of plummeting support for the party in Quebec.
“Every once in a while, there comes an issue that takes on a life of its own and dwarfs the efforts of a government on other policy fronts … the Afghan mission is well on the way to defining Stephen Harper’s term as prime minister,” she wrote on Wednesday.
Harper’s problems could grow in August 2007, when a large contingent of Quebec-based troops is due to go to Afghanistan. Political observers say Quebecers will have much less patience for the mission if soldiers from the province start dying.
The government says it has no intention of changing the mandate or the duration of the mission.
“This is tough slogging. Canada has one of the most difficult parts of Afghanistan. They (the troops) are engaged in a very determined effort to take the Taliban on,” Foreign Minister Peter MacKay told CBC.
“You have to take on a determined enemy if in fact we are to bring about the stabilization. You either take them on or you surrender to them … sadly there is a cost for peace,” he said, dismissing the Bloc’s call for a parliamentary debate.
The Toronto Star, the country’s largest newspaper, said on Wednesday that Harper had to quickly make a persuasive case for Canadian soldiers continuing to fight.
Most other newspapers say Canada should stay the course. But columnist Don Martin in the pro-Conservative National Post wrote on Wednesday that “there is now no way out of this quagmire for the Conservatives”.
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