Seven out of 10 Canadians say Prime Minister Jean Chrétien did the right thing in refusing to support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, according to a new poll.
Seventy-one per cent of those surveyed for an Ipsos-Reid CTV-Globe and Mail poll said that based on the current knowledge of the situation in Iraq, the Liberal government was justified in not supporting the U.S. government and its coalition in the military action to topple Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
The results, the highest approval rating to date of Canada's stance, come as U.S. President George W. Bush finds himself under growing pressure to justify the war.
Two months after the fall of Baghdad, Democrats are accusing the Republicans of exaggerating the case for the invasion.
At question is the failure of the U.S. administration to find the weapons of mass destruction it had cited to wage war.
In a survey of 1,055 people from June 10 to 12, most respondents said they do not believe Mr. Bush's claims that the war was justified. Fifty-nine per cent said the U.S. government used incorrect information to press for military action, while 42 per cent said Washington knowingly used incorrect or fabricated intelligence to justify the invasion.
Seventeen per cent said evidence used against Iraq was based on incorrect U.S. intelligence reports.
Canadians are growing increasingly wary of their hawkish neighbour, said John Wright, a senior vice-president of Ipsos-Reid.
"What we're seeing now is extreme doubt about the premise of the U.S. war in Iraq. It's made the Canadian public cautious.
"This will be the acid test of credibility for the U.S. and the current administration," Mr. Wright said.
Canada faced criticism from the United States over Canada's decision not to participate in the coalition forces that invaded Iraq.
Before the war began, 66 per cent of those surveyed agreed with the Prime Minister's stand, but in a subsequent Ipsos-Reid poll during the third week of the conflict in April, support had plunged and respondents were split at 48 per cent for and against the war.
Although the latest poll suggests that support is the highest yet for Ottawa's position, that varies widely across the country, with a minority of Albertans polled -- 47 per cent -- supporting Mr. Chrétien's decision not to involve Canada in the war.
Quebeckers surveyed showed the strongest support for Ottawa's decision at 88 per cent, with British Columbia respondents the next closest at 78 per cent.
Although no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, more than half, or 53 per cent, of those surveyed said the liberation of the Iraqi people is justification enough for the war.
One in three respondents overall believed the intelligence reports were correct and that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that were not found or were destroyed by Iraq.
The White House and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr. Bush's strongest wartime ally, have come under increasing pressure to turn up evidence of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in Iraq.
Was war on Iraq justified?
1,000 Canadians were asked the folowing questions:
-*Given the current knowledge of the situation in Iraq, do you believe that the Prime Minister and the government of Canada were justified in not supporting the United States and its coalition in its military action against Iraq?
............ Yes..... No... Don't know/Refused
Total 71% 27% 2% Alberta 47% 52% 1% Quebec 88% 11% 1%
-*I am now going to read you three statements, which of the three is closest to your personal point of view?
The United States knowingly used incorrect or fabricated intelligence to provide justification for attacking Iraq in order to remove Saddam Hussein from power.
Total 42% Alberta 31% Quebec 53%
The intelligence reports were correct and Iraq did, in fact, possess weapons of mass destruction that the coalition has just not discovered yet or that Saddam Hussein had destroyed before the start of the military action.
Alberta 51% Quebec 27%
The evidence used against Iraq was incorrect and is the result of a failure of the U.S. intelligence agencies.
Alberta 14% Quebec 15%
Don't know or refused.
Alberta 4% Quebec 5%
-*To date, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq despite the extensive U.S. intelligence. From what you have seen, read or heard, do you believe that the United States and its allies were justified in taking military action against Iraq based on the premise that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction?
......... Justified.... Not justified... Don't know/Refused
Total 35% 59% 5% Alberta 52% 40% 7% Quebec 23% 74% 4%
Note: Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.