Canadians want military to pursue peacekeeping, according to new Ipsos Reid research finding

A public opinion poll conducted for National Defence says half of Canadians surveyed want their soldiers to return to a “peacekeeping only” role in the world.

OTTAWA — A public opinion poll conducted for National Defence says half of Canadians surveyed want their soldiers to return to a “peacekeeping only” role in the world.

The Ipsos Reid research suggested there was “a small, but statistically significant increase,” in the number of people who feel that way.

The figure edged up to 50 per cent of the 1,300 people surveyed last March, compared with 46 per cent of those asked in a similar survey in 2008.

The public supports the deployment of troops when it is “an observation and monitoring role over a more aggressive one for the military,” said the survey, conducted in early March and released on a federal government website.

That Canadians cling to the image of their soldiers as peacekeepers is something that grates on the military and its supporters, who argue the era standing in between warring factions largely ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The survey noted that there is a growing recognition among the public that times have changed and world conflicts are now more opaque.

Even still, when focus groups were asked to identify their first impressions of the Canadian military, they chose peace signs, hands reaching out to help others, blue berets and helmets, as well as soldiers helping others rather than bearing arms, rather than the images of death and combat from Afghanistan.

“When I thought of Canadian forces, I drew an army guy helping someone else — helping as opposed to destroying, peace rather than bearing arms — unlike the States,” one participant told researchers.

The results suggested to researchers that “other images of the Forces remain more deep-seated, despite the high profile of the Afghan mission in the media over the last few years.”

The nostalgia for the Pearsonian peacekeeping days and the demand that the military make humanitarian relief operations, rather than combat its principle focus seem to be tied to the realization that such operations offer “a clear-cut reason for Canada’s involvement” over a defined period of time, said the survey.

It’s also easier to measure the outcome and success of a mission.

The study noted there is also a feel-good factor, where the public sees such missions as contributing to the image of “helpful or good Canadians.”

The survey had a margin of error of 2.7 per cent 19 times out of 20.

The poll also found a significant lack of understanding and confusion about Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.

There were two conflicting views on whether Canada should remain in the fight Afghanistan, with surprisingly many in the focus groups saying the country should ‘stay the course’ while others have come to the conclusion the war is unwinnable.

“Many participants expressed the view that Canada should ‘stay the course’ in Afghanistan because of the potential damage that could be done to the Afghan people were they to pull out,” the report said.

“Participants expressed concern about the humanitarian crisis that could unfold if the Canadian Forces were to leave, particularly if there were a swift withdrawal from the country.”

Yet surprisingly many of those asked were unclear about Ottawa’s 2011 deadline to end combat operations.

“Certain participants suggested that an extension to Canada’s mission should be considered only if it was requested by the people of Afghanistan,” said the report.

The survey was conducted around the same time Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a U.S. cable news network that he had doubts about the current direction of the war.

“We’re not going to win this war just by staying … my own judgment is quite frankly we are not going to ever defeat the insurgency,” Harper told CNN on March 1.

Researchers said it may have influenced their results.

Calls for the country to end its involvement in Afghanistan are getting louder.

Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, a staunch supporter of the military, equated the ongoing fight in Kandahar to the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, a comparison that has privately outraged many in uniform.

He defended the provocative statements Sunday on CTV’s Question Period by saying politicians are too afraid of offending soldiers and their families by questioning the direction of the war.

He said it’s important to have an honest debate about the mission.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 in Rome, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse via AP
Health Canada approves AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

Canada has pre-ordered 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine

A fallen Western Red cedar tree at Francis/King Regional Park in Saanich, B.C., Thursday, May 26, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Logging delay agreement for B.C. old-growth tree stand helps endangered spotted owls

Deal announced to hold off logging watershed for a year

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

FILE - Cameron Forte (right) and his Fraser Valley Bandits are 2-0 at the Canadian Elite Basketball League Summer Series after being the Saskatchewan Rattlers. (CEBL photo)
CEBL releases 14-game 2021 schedule, hopes to see fans attend games in person

Season will kick off with the Edmonton Stingers and the Fraser Valley Bandits

FILE - Keegan Messing performs during the Men’s Short program at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. If the world figure skating championships do go ahead in a bubble in March in Sweden, there is a good chance Canada won’t be there. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Messing leads Canadian figure skating team at world championships

Messing was the only Canadian to compete on the Grand Prix circuit this season

Nurses episode, titled “Achilles Heel,” was first aired on Global in February 2020. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Global pulls ‘Nurses’ episode after scene with Orthodox Jews deemed anti-Semitic

TORONTO — Global TV says it has pulled an episode of Toronto-set… Continue reading

Lady Gaga is offering a $500,000 reward for the return of her two French bulldogs. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Lady Gaga’s dog walker shot, French bulldogs stolen in LA

Dog walker expected to survive injuries

Calgary Flames defenceman Mark Giordano tries to help goaltender David Rittich stop a shot from Ottawa Senators right wing Drake Batherson during first-period NHL action Thursday, February 25, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Colin White scores two goals to lead Ottawa Senators to a 6-1 win over Calgary Flames

Colin White scores two goals to lead Ottawa Senators to a 6-1 win over Calgary Flames

Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Art McDonald is seen during an interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Military reeling as new defence chief steps aside amid allegations of misconduct

Military reeling as new defence chief steps aside amid allegations of misconduct

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Most Read