A clear majority of Canadians do not want the government to do anything to bring back ISIS fighters detained abroad.
In a poll conducted exclusively for Global News, Ipsos asked respondents whether they supported the position that “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, and that Canada should do what it can to bring Canadian nationals home to Canada, even if they’ve been fighting for ISIS.”
Only 29 per cent agreed with the statement.
In contrast, 71 per cent said “we should not do anything to help bring these Canadians back to Canada.”
There was little difference in responses among male and female voters, with 69 per cent of male respondents and 73 per cent of female respondents favouring no action on the part of Ottawa.
There was also broad similarity in responses based on level of education: among those with less than a high school education, high school education, a post-secondary education or a university education, the difference in responses favouring no action ranged from 68 to 74 per cent.
However, there were clear differences based on age and political affiliation.
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Support for taking no action to help Canadian ISIS fighters abroad was highest among those over the age of 55 while it was lowest among those between the ages of 18 and 34.
Eighty-three per cent of those over the age of 55 said the government should take no action, compared to 70 per cent of those aged 35-54.
Fifty-six per cent of those between the ages of 18 and 34 said the same.
A majority of decided voters among all the main federal parties agreed no action should be taken, but there was a range in their responses.
Most vehement were Conservative voters, of whom 82 per cent said they did not want Ottawa to do anything to help bring those accused of fighting for ISIS back to Canada.
Among Liberal voters, 62 per cent said the same, compared to 71 per cent of NDP voters and 72 per cent of those supporting the Bloc Quebecois.
As Global’s Stewart Bell has reported, five male Canadians are detained in Syria for allegedly fighting with ISIS. Another 11 women and roughly two dozen children are also detained.
But not a single one has been charged, even though national security experts say they believe there is enough evidence to do so.
When asked why none have been charged, the RCMP called terrorism investigations “complex and resource-intensive.”
“Often, they require evidence of an individual’s activity in foreign conflict zones, or rely on information provided by partners that we are not authorized to disclose in court,” said RCMP Sgt. Caroline Duval.
Some 60 foreign fighters – not just suspected ISIS fighters – have returned to Canada in recent years, but Canadian officials have not yet charged any of the ones detained abroad specifically for fighting with ISIS.
Ralph Goodale, Liberal candidate and public safety minister, has said Canada has no obligation to facilitate the return of any of the Canadians detained abroad and that the government will not put consular officials at risk in the region, which remains contested.
But the Liberal government also did away with a law put in place by the former Conservative government that would have let Ottawa revoke the citizenships of Canadians convicted of terrorism.
The U.K. recently used their version of that law on a dual British-Canadian citizen detained in Syria, a move that was widely condemned in Canada as an abdication of the U.K.’s responsibility, given the individual in question had lived in British all his life and left there to allegedly join ISIS.
Turkey’s recent invasion of northeastern Syria has brought the question of how to deal with detained Western ISIS fighters into the spotlight, with no politicians on the Canadian campaign trail so far providing a clear proposed response.
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between October 11 and 13, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of n = 2,204 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed. A sample of n = 1,504 was interviewed online, via the Ipsos I-Say panel and non-panel sources, and respondents earn a nominal incentive for their participation. A sample of n = 700 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed by live-interview telephone interviewers by landline and cellphone, using random-digit dialing. Quotas and weighting were employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe (weighting efficiency = 66.9%). The precision of Ipsos polls which include non-probability sampling is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 2.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.