Canadians want more security, survey finds

May 02, 2002, vol. 24, no. 1
By Stuart Colcleugh

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“We've come face to face with hell and returned to the shopping mall.”

That's how PhD candidate Michael Markwick characterizes the results of a March 15 poll conducted for SFU's school of communication to assess Canadian attitudes about democracy and security six months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Ipsos-Reid survey of 1000 adult Canadians was completed in preparation for the March 21 SFU forum called Brave New Works of Peace: Canadian Citizenship in the Aftermath.

It found that 58 per cent of Canadians are more concerned about increasing security than protecting democratic rights and freedoms, while 41 per cent hold the opposite view and one per cent are undecided.

At the same time, 30 per cent said the terrorist attacks had not affected their interest in getting involved in citizen's groups or political parties, while 26 per cent were less interested. The others were either somewhat (32 per cent) or much more interested (11 per cent).

“Canadians seem to be acting as though its business as usual,” concludes Markwick, whose research focuses on issues affecting citizenship in a pluralistic society. “We see signs here of the population Orwell warned us about,” he says, “a society less and less equipped to take up the challenges of active citizenship.”

The poll also indicates that 43 per cent of Canadians believe federal government actions since the attacks have strengthened their rights and freedoms, while 20 per cent say they are unchanged and 34 per cent say they have been weakened.

On a seemingly unrelated question, 56 per cent of respondents agreed they would rather see health care services provided by non-profit religious communities instead of private, for-profit corporation, while the rest moderately (21 per cent) or strongly (21 per cent) disagreed.

Markwick says the question was included because health care, democracy and security are closely related issues.

“We've allowed ourselves to settle for a consumer democracy,” he says, in which “people that aren't healthy enough or don't have the money to participate are irrelevant. So there's an intimate connection between the four (survey) questions.”

The poll results are considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

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