Less than a fifth of Canadians support anti-Israel campus protests

Among those who identify as left-wing, 59 percent support the encampments, while 27 percent are opposed. Only 5 percent of right-wing individuals support the protests.

Less than a fifth of Canadians support anti-Israel campus protests
The Canadian Press / Christopher Katsarov
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The vast majority of Canadians do not support university campus demonstrations by anti-Israel protesters, a new national poll conducted by Leger for the Association for Canadian Studies found.

The poll shows that just 19 percent of Canadians support the protests, though that number increases slightly to 21 percent in metro Toronto and 25 percent in Greater Vancouver. The support is tiny in comparison to the number of Canadians who oppose the protests, with 48 percent saying they were against it. Forty-five percent in Toronto said they did not support the protest, along with 34 percent in Vancouver, and 49 percent in Montreal.

“They’re making a lot of noise and upsetting a lot of people. But we have to recognize that it’s only a relatively small minority of the population that’s involved in this stuff,” said Robert Brym, a professor at the University of Toronto, in an interview with the National Post.

The figure only counts those who have heard of the protests. 16 percent of respondents said they had not heard of the demonstrations.

The first Canadian anti-Israel protest camp was established at McGill University in late April, copying similar movements in the United States. Shortly thereafter, other universities such as the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, and the University of Alberta followed suit.

Protesters are calling for their respective institutions to cut ties with Israel and end arrangements with Israeli universities. They are also calling on schools to divest from companies supplying arms to Israel.

Young Canadians expressed the most support for the encampments, but a majority still opposed the demonstrations. Thirty percent of those between the ages of 18 and 24 support them against 33 percent who oppose them. That number declines as age increases.

Among individuals aged 25 to 34, 28 percent are in favour while 37 percent are opposed. Support decreases to 18 percent for those aged 45 to 54. Only 10 percent of those over 75 support the protest encampments, with 66 percent opposed.

“Younger people only remember the (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu years, in which the government’s becoming increasingly right-wing,” said Brym. “I mean, there’s a lot more to be upset about now than there was 20 years ago or 50 years ago about Israel, and younger people are more exposed to that.”

He also said that the issue has been oversimplified to the point that people are now misinformed about the history of the region.

Administrators have faced difficulties in removing the encampments, despite their claims that many protesters are not students, are trespassing on university property, and that the encampments have fostered antisemitism.

Some demonstrations hardly lasted an evening, with police in Alberta cracking down on encampments set up at the University of Alberta and the University of Edmonton. There, police used riot gear along with smoke grenades and other anti-riot equipment. The response ended the protests swiftly.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s government called in the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, which investigates police misconduct, to assess the actions of the Edmonton and Calgary police.

Just one school—the Ontario Tech University in Oshawa—agreed to meet protester demands. The school said in its statement that it is not aware of any investments in any companies that are benefiting from the war in Gaza.

Support for the protests varies by political affiliation.

Among those who identify as left-wing, 59 percent support the encampments, while 27 percent are opposed. Only 5 percent of right-wing individuals support the protests. In the political center, 13 percent support the university encampments, with 47 percent opposed.

Franco-Canadians are more likely to be against the protests (52 percent) than those who speak English (48 percent) or another language (43 percent) but those who listed other languages as their mother tongue are also the least likely to support the protests (16 percent.)

The polling was done between May 17 and 20 with a sample of 1,519 Canadians via an online panel. A probability sample of that size would have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent 19 times out of 20.

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