A new poll suggests that while nearly two-thirds of Canadians disagree with the ongoing Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockades that are interrupting rail and truck traffic, three-quarters of Canadians also think the federal government needs to act immediately to address quality of life issues affecting the country’s Indigenous people.
On Wednesday, Ipsos published a new poll conducted exclusively for Global News about the demonstrations that revolve around the construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern B.C. and which have gripped the country for weeks.
The survey results show 61 per cent of respondents disagree that the protesters blockading key transportation corridors are conducting justified and legitimate protests, compared to 39 per cent who said that they believe the protests are legitimate and justified.
“It’s the first poll that we’ve ever done on this issue,” Ipsos Public Affairs CEO Darrell Bricker told Global News. “The first takeaway is that Canadians are not pleased to see ports and railways blocked.
“In fact, they so don’t agree with it that almost half of Canadians — actually better than half, 53 per cent — actually think the police should move in and do something about it.”
But Bricker noted that the numbers indicating strong views about protester tactics that are disrupting the national economy appear to come with somewhat of a caveat.
“What we also see in the polling is that… [75 per cent] of the people we interviewed are saying that something needs to be done about the plight of the Aboriginal community and that the government hasn’t performed particularly well on this,” he said.
“So there’s some understanding, I would say, for the plight of the Indigenous community, but the blocking of natural infrastructure is not necessarily supported.”
Tensions began to rise significantly on the Wet’suwet’en Nation on New Year’s Day when some members of the community served Coastal GasLink, the company that’s trying to build the pipeline, with an eviction notice, saying its workers were “currently trespassing” on their unceded territory.
A day earlier, the B.C. Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink an injunction that called for the removal of any obstructions, including cabins, on any roads, bridges or work sites the company had been authorized to use.
Coastal GasLink says it has signed agreements with the elected councils of all 20 First Nations along the path of its $6.6-billion pipeline — including the Wet’suwet’en. However, some of the nation’s hereditary chiefs have been vehemently opposed to the project out of environmental concerns.
The ensuing blockades by protesters expressing solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the project have led to significant disruptions in parts of the country, and just last week, CN shut down its operations in Eastern Canada as a result.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau aborted his plans abroad and returned to Canada to deal with the crisis. An emergency debate was held about the impasse in the House of Commons on Tuesday night.
When asked about the government’s duty to consult with Indigenous communities on resource development projects, the poll results published on Wednesday show that only 56 per cent of respondents agree that Indigenous people are adequately consulted, and 44 per cent disagree.
“I think Canadians are still trying to sort through what is happening here,” Bricker said.
“They are trying to reconcile two things in their minds: one of them is a legitimate concern that Canadians have about the situation and the plight of Aboriginal people in this country — it’s quite clear that there’s a fairly deep feeling that something needs to be done on that… but on the other hand, even though they feel that this is an important thing that needs to be dealt with, they don’t feel that protesting by shutting down rail lines and shutting down ports is the correct response.”
Bricker also noted that the poll indicates there’s a contrast among different regions in Canada in terms of how the events are being viewed.
For example, support for police intervention is highest in Alberta (69 per cent) and B.C. (68 per cent), while opposition to the use of law enforcement to end the blockades is highest in Quebec (38 per cent) followed by Ontario (29 per cent).
“This is one of the only issues I’ve seen in which British Columbia and Alberta actually align — when natural resources are concerned,” Bricker said, also noting the poll results suggest “younger Canadians are more aligned with the Aboriginal community.”
Bricker said while this marks Ipsos’ first poll on the latest blockades in Canada, his company did surveys related to Idle No More blockades in 2013 and revisited those figures after gathering data for its latest survey.
“Opposition to the Idle No More blockades was higher than what we’re seeing right now,” he pointed out.
“But I should say that we’re just starting into this, we’ll see where this goes over time.”
Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ coverage of the railway blockades aimed at showing solidarity with members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation that oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline project.
Bricker noted that with his experience in polling, he believes that “the longer that things go on like this, the more the pressure builds on the government.”
“Public order is one of those things that is really regarded as a primary responsibility for the government and to the extent that… [the public] perceives that things are out of control, the worse it gets for the government.”
Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.”
METHODOLOGY: This Ipsos poll was conducted between Feb. 14 and Feb. 17, 2020. For this survey, a sample of 1,301 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed online. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
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