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Cablegate: The Silent Majority: Canadian Opinion of the U.S.

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 001062

SIPDIS

HOMELAND SECURITY FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO KPLS
SUBJECT: THE SILENT MAJORITY: CANADIAN OPINION OF THE U.S.
AND THE WAR IN IRAQ

Ref: a) Ottawa 723; b) Ottawa 917 (C); c) Ottawa 1014; d)

Quebec 51 (NOTAL)

1. Summary. Ambassador Cellucci's public expression, March
25, of U.S. "disappointment" over the Canadian government's
posture on the war in Iraq has led to an outpouring of
response from the general public. Since the speech, public
opinion polls have consistently shown growing public
approval of U.S. action in Iraq. Other anecdotal evidence,
including public demonstrations and write-in campaigns to
the Embassy, suggest far greater support from Canadians for
the U.S. than could be inferred from Canadian media reports
and government statements. These indicators, however, show
a divide between Anglophone Canada and Quebec, where a
majority continue to oppose the war (reftel d), in part
because much of their news comes from France. End Summary.

PUBLIC OPINION POLLING - GROWING SUPPORT FOR THE U.S. IN
ANGLOPHONE CANADA.

2. The latest Ipsos-Reid poll, conducted April 1-3, shows a
majority of Canadians outside Quebec (54 per cent) support
U.S. led military action. Not surprisingly, Albertans are
the Canadians most likely to express support for the U.S.
(62 per cent); they are followed by residents of
Saskatchewan/Manitoba (55 per cent); Ontario (54 percent);
Atlantic Canada (53 per cent); and British Colombia (51 per
cent). Nationally, Canadians are evenly split, with 48
percent supporting and 48 per cent opposing the U.S. led war
in Iraq. In Quebec, however, only 29 per cent express
support for the war in Iraq.

3. A separate poll, conducted April 4-6 by COMPAS for "The
National Post," confirms this trend in public opinion. The
COMPAS poll finds that 72 per cent of Canadians "believe
Canada should have supported the U.S. at the start of the
war." That figure breaks down into 41 per cent who believe
Canada should have given "verbal support" to the U.S. at the
beginning of the war; and another 31 percent who say that
Canadian support should have included a commitment of troops
as well as verbal support. However, a much smaller
majority, 56 percent, agree with the original U.S. decision
to invade Iraq.

OTHER INDICATORS OF SUPPORT FOR THE U.S. - PUBLIC
DEMONSTRATIONS.

4. Since the invasion of Iraq, public demonstrations have
been common in many of Canada's major cities. Ottawa has
witnessed regular anti-war and anti-U.S. demonstrations.
Typically, those demonstrations have convened on Parliament
Hill about noon on Saturday and circle the Embassy
throughout Saturday afternoon. The demonstrations of March
29 were far different. Despite a cold, steady rain, a group
of 4,000 to 5,000, the largest since the onset of combat
operations, rallied on Parliament Hill to demonstrate
support for the coalition, with U.S. and UK flags on
prominent display. This contrasted with about 500 anti-war
demonstrators who appeared near the Embassy. On the same
day there were also large "friends of the USA"
demonstrations in Calgary and other communities in Alberta
March 29. A similar pro-U.S. rally drew about 4,000 in
Toronto April 5 during one of the worst ice storms of the
season.

LETTERS FROM THE PUBLIC TO THE EMBASSY.

5. Following Ambassador Cellucci's speech in Toronto, the
Embassy was deluged with calls, e-mails and letters from the
public. Initially, the mailed letters were overwhelmingly
supportive of the U.S. position, while electronic messages
were largely critical. In the past week, those
communications have been more nearly balanced. To date, the
Embassy in Ottawa has received close to 600 letters
supporting the U.S. and about 450 that are critical. The
Embassy in Ottawa has received about 150 e-mails that are
supportive and about 250 that are critical.

COMMENT.

6. The polling data and the public response indicates there
is more of a "silent majority" of Canadians outside Quebec,
that supports U.S. action in Iraq than would be supposed
from Canadian media coverage and commentary. The polling
data and public response also reinforce our observation that
on this issue, Canadian media reporting and commentary are
significantly driven by official Canadian government
statements and by statements from the Liberal Party caucus.

7. As for Quebec public opinion, a leading Quebec pollster
suggested that Quebeckers receive a significant portion of
their information from French sources. TV5 is available on
the ubiquitous cable channels, and Agence France Presse is
frequently used by the Francophone media. Given the sharply
negative French take on Iraq, this pollster thought this
accounted for at least part of the divergence with the rest
of Canada.

8. One thoughtful media pundit suggested that there is a
large segment of the Canadian public who, whether or not
they support Canada's direct involvement in the war, are
deeply troubled that Canada is not supporting its two
traditional allies, the U.S. and the U.K. How these
sentiments of the public may affect substantive Canadian
support for large-scale humanitarian assistance and
reconstruction efforts in Iraq remains to be seen. END
COMMENT.
Cellucci

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