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One in four support Canadian Armed Forces joining the fight against Russia, poll finds


‘We’re pretty bullish about entering the fray,’ said John Wright, executive vice president of Maru Public Opinion

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A quarter of Canadians said they would support military forces being sent to Ukraine now alongside NATO allies to deter Russia and protect citizens — even if it means casualties, a new poll finds.

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“Canadians stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukrainians in every possible manner here,” said John Wright, executive vice president of Maru Public Opinion, which released the poll. “We’re pretty bullish about entering the fray. I think that’s the first thing that I take away from this.”

Canadian troops have already been deployed to Europe to help NATO countries; however, they have not entered Ukraine. While a quarter of Canadians do want to engage in direct military contact now, roughly the same amount — 26 per cent — said they don’t believe Canada should ever send troops to Ukraine. They said only financial and economic sanctions should be imposed.

One third of respondents said the country should only impose sanctions at the moment, with the possibility of sending in troops in the next two weeks.

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The majority — 46 per cent — agreed in the poll that enough is being done and nothing more is currently necessary.

“We are, as a country, split on the strategic options. There is no consensus in terms of how we should effectively be responding to this,” Wright said.

Strikingly, the majority agreed that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is not bluffing when he threatened nuclear war against countries who interfered.

“You see two thirds of the public effectively saying that we run the risk of entering world war three with a nuclear-armed opponent,” said Wright. “But at the moment, we’re taking a prudent set of steps.”

The public, he added, understands that there is great potential on the other side for massive damage and is “holding an iron fist behind their back with great force behind it.”

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In April 2015, Canada announced that it would send about 200 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members to Ukraine in what is referred to as Operation Unifier. Its mission, according to the Government of Canada, is to support the Security Forces of Ukraine. The operation has since grown and the end date has been extended to March 2025. All CAF personnel that were deployed on the operation were temporarily relocated to Poland in mid-February, amid threats of Russia’s attack. They will remain there until conditions permit a resumption of training, the government said.

Support for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was strong, with 65 per cent agreeing with his response to and his handling of the war. He is “hitting all the right notes” on this particular issue, said Wright.

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“Political character is defined in moments,” said Wright. “We’ve turned the page on the truckers, which only a week or so ago had his own personal numbers and character in question.”

The majority of Canadians also believed that the United Nations (UN) is a “useful forum” to stop Russian aggression. The role of the UN being important was more significant than Wright expected.

“Polling that I’ve done over the last 33 years has always indicated that the United Nations…is a place of disappointment, where there’s too much politics and it’s just a talking forum,” he said. “It’s clear here that Canadians believe that talk is important.”

Compared to the United States and Great Britain, Canada had similar views on the use of the military and strategic options.

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“There is this sense of great challenge with Russia, but there’s also a sense of potential military resolve that I don’t think many would expect,” said Wright.

The majority of people from all three countries agreed that former president Donald Trump would not have been able to stop the war. However, where the countries diverged was their support of their leadership. Canadians and Americans were overall supportive of the prime minister and the president, respectively, whereas the British were disappointed with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“I expected the United States to be more bullish on military action. That is based on perception of character,” said Wright, adding that the sentiment in North America was aligned in almost every way.

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We all understand the reality of a potential nuclear conflict,” he said. “We are actually talking about that…. Both countries [U.S. and Canada] are effectively saying we are prepared for more action to rescue Ukraine.”

North American sentiment will likely be echoed in Biden’s State of the Union address, which is to take place Tuesday evening.

“There is such a similarity between our views that what he says will be carefully watched,” said Wright. “The focus on the president tonight will be immense…. It will be the most important speech a president has probably made since John F. Kennedy in the missile crisis. We are at that edge and Canadians understand that — and that’s why Canadians will be tuned into what’s going on.”

The data for the poll was collected between Feb. 25 and 27 among a random selection of 1,519 Canadian adults who are Maru Voice Canada panelists. Maru said its results were weighted by education, age, gender, and region (and in Quebec, language) to match the population, according to Census data. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error (which measures sampling variability) of +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

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