Less support now for stiffer terrorism legislation, one half of those aware of it disapprove of Bill C51

HEADLINES PARLAMENTIN a random sampling of public opinion taken by the Forum Poll among 1,370 Canadian voters, just more than half now agree Canada needs stiffer anti-terrorism legislation (56%) compared to 7-in-10 who took this position in November, when the Iraqi mission was in its infancy (70%).

More than two-thirds of Canadian voters are aware of the anti-terrorism Bill C51 (69%), and this is especially common to boomers (55 to 64 – 78%), males (77%), the very wealthiest ($100K to $250K – 79%), in Alberta (80%), among New Democrats (74%), the best educated (post grad – 84%), Protestants (76%) and the non-religious (74%).

One half of Canadian voters disapprove of Bill C51 (50%) when they are asked without being prompted on any of the details of the bill, and just more than a third approve (38%). One tenth have no view (12%).

Disapproval of the bill is characteristic of the youngest (64%), in Atlantic Canada (60%), the Prairies (58%) and BC (61%), among Liberals (66%) and New Democrats (77%), the best educated (65%) and the non-religious (70%).

When asked their approval of a number of specific provisions of Bill C51, the majority disapprove of the Bill allowing security services to infiltrate and track environmentalists, First Nations and pipeline protesters (61%), and the lack of parliamentary oversight included in the bill (52%). In each of these cases, about one quarter approve (28% and 27%, respectively), and this is especially common in Alberta (32% and 34%, respectively) and among federal Conservatives (56% and 46%, respectively).

Two thirds of Canadian voters approve of the ‘peace bond’ provision of the Bill, in which those who are thought to be potential terrorists can be detained, placed on the no-fly list and have their passports taken (66%), while one quarter disapprove (26%).

There is an even split in opinion on the fact there is no requirement for a warrant or a judge’s permission to infiltrate, track or disrupt organizations the security services see as suspect (47% approve, 45% disapprove). Approval is highest in Quebec (57%) and among Conservatives (74%).

After being presented with a number of provisions of Bill C51, voters were asked once again if they approved or disapproved. In this case, approval increases from one third (38%) to close to half (45%), while disapproval decreases from one half (50%) to 4-in-10 (42%). Support is strongest in Quebec (57%) and among Conservatives (82%).

When voters are presented with three options on how to deal with Bill C51, more prefer the NDP approach (“fight the bill unless changed significantly” – 38%) over the Liberal Party approach (“support the bill but add parliamentary oversight” – 34%). Few support the government’s desired approach (“pass bill as written” – 19%).

“It is clear that, now the immediate rush of anxiety over the October 22 attacks is over, Canadians are slightly less likely to see the need to alter the country’s security protocols.  Voters are especially disturbed at the idea of legitimate activist groups such as environmentalists and First Nations being labelled and tracked as terrorist suspects, but they are no more comfortable with the fact parliament has no role in overseeing the activities of the security services. They see no problem, on the other hand, with terrorist suspects having their freedom of movement constrained,” said Forum Research President, Dr. Lorne Bozinoff.