Nearly half of Canadians are opposed to university protest encampments, poll suggests

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Published May 8, 2024 at 8:46 am

university encampments canada

A new opinion poll suggests nearly half of Canadians oppose the pro-Palestinian encampments that have cropped up on some university campuses.

Just 31 per cent of people who took the Leger survey last weekend said they support the encampments, while 48 per cent were against the demonstrations. About one in five said they don’t know.

The encampments began more than a week ago, with students demanding their schools publicize and end their investments in Israeli defence companies.

McGill University has condemned the protests on its campus. The university and the Quebec government have asked police to step in, but law enforcement has not taken action. Last week, a judge rejected a request for an injunction to force the protesters out.

Encampments at the University of Ottawa and University of Toronto have drawn less scrutiny.

Meanwhile, encampments at U.S. universities like Columbia and UCLA have seen students clash with police and barricade themselves inside campus buildings.

In Leger’s poll, 44 per cent of respondents said they think the encampments should be dismantled, “as they may be a threat to campus safety and the safety of students.”

Another 33 per cent instead agreed they should be removed “if and only if protesters voice antisemitic views or propagate any form of hate speech.”

Just 23 per cent of respondents said the protests should be accepted as a form of free speech and should not be taken down.

The results of the poll, which surveyed 1,519 people, cannot be assigned a margin of error because online surveys are not considered truly random samples.

Respondents were also asked whether they had heard antisemitic comments since the start of the current Israel-Hamas conflict in October.

Nearly three-quarters, or 73 per cent, said they had not, while 17 per cent said they had and another nine per cent said they didn’t know.

Earlier this week, political leaders condemned some of the protesters’ actions. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he supports free speech but doesn’t support actions that make other students feel unsafe.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford called for an end to the demonstrations, saying on Monday that “the university has to move these people along.”

Support for the protesters was strongest with younger people who took the poll. Forty-five per cent of respondents between 18 and 35 said they supported the encampments, while two-thirds of those over 55 said they do not support the protests.

Respondents in the older age group were also more likely to say they felt the encampments should be dismantled.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2024.

Simon Hopkins, The Canadian Press

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