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Canada Canadians' attitudes hardening on aboriginal issues: new poll

First nations protesters march towards Parliament Hill before the start of a meeting between chiefs and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa on Jan. 11, 2013.

CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

Protests by native Canadians appear to have done little to gain public support as a new poll suggests attitudes are hardening on aboriginal issues.

The opinion survey by Ipsos Reid for Postmedia News and Global Television found that a strong majority of Canadians believe that most of indigenous peoples' problems are brought upon by themselves and that reserves should not get any more federal funds until independent auditors can review their books.

"There seems to have been a hardening of Canadian public opinion on aboriginal issues," said Darrell Bricker, CEO of public affairs for Ipsos Reid.

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The poll comes as frustrated native protesters shut down some roads and rail lines in at least six provinces Wednesday as part of a day of action. Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with some aboriginal leaders but did not sit down with all the chiefs who wanted to discuss treaty rights and other concerns.

Such blockades risk further alienating the broader population. Only 31 per cent of poll respondents believe shutting down roads and railways is a form of legitimate protest.

The survey found that almost two-thirds of respondents think native Canadians get too much support from taxpayers. Furthermore, 81 per cent believe reserves should not get any more money until external auditors review their finances.

Conversely, only 27 per cent of Canadians believe that federal money spent on reserves is managed well by native leaders and communities. As well, 60 per cent think that most of native peoples' problems are brought upon by themselves.

Ipsos Reid also surveyed attitudes on some of the key players involved in recent events. National aboriginal leaders, including the Assembly of First Nations, got the highest support, at 51 per cent of respondents. Mr. Harper was a few notches lower, at 46 per cent support. The Idle No More movement received the approval of 38 per cent of those who took the poll while Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence trailed at just 29 per cent.

Despite the poll's findings, however, 63 per cent of respondents believe that the federal government must act now to help raise natives' quality of life. The same number supported resolving land claims to provide aboriginal peoples with the land and resources needed to become self-sufficient.

The poll, which was conducted between Jan. 11 and 14, surveyed 1,023 Canadians online and is considered accurate to within 3.5 percentage points.

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