A majority of Canadians are ready to give new powers to the government to combat security threats, including blocking websites that promote the proliferation of terrorism, a new poll suggests.
Over all, the Globe and Mail/Nanos Research survey found the federal government has strong support to introduce legislation that would limit Charter rights such as freedom of expression, within certain limits, after a series of attacks at home and abroad.
"Canadians believe that we are at war," pollster Nik Nanos said of his findings. "They expect more attacks, and that is the general frame through which a pretty comfortable majority of Canadians are looking at these issues related to our role around the world and what is happening at home."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised anti-terrorism legislation to be tabled on Friday that will give new powers to security agencies to track and arrest extremists, but also to "criminalize the promotion of terrorism." Mr. Harper said this month "the international jihadist movement has declared war" on countries such as Canada after a series of attacks in Ottawa, Sydney and Paris.
The Nanos poll of 1,000 respondents found that 66 per cent agreed or somewhat agreed with the notion that "Canada is currently at war with terrorist groups." Only 29 per cent of respondents disagreed or somewhat disagreed with the statement.
The results are closer regarding the justice system's ability to handle the threat of homegrown terrorism. Still, there are more Canadians who feel the system is not up to the task at the moment (48 per cent) than those who feel the situation is satisfactory (44 per cent).
The poll found that 65 per cent of respondents agreed that the "government should have the power to remove websites or posts on the Internet that it believes support the proliferation of terrorism in Canada." Only 31 per cent of respondents said they disagreed or somewhat disagreed with the measure.
"The Prime Minister might be very hawkish, but in a way, he is capturing some of the sentiment that is out there," Mr. Nanos said.
Still, Mr. Nanos said the government needs to worry about the perception that it is going too far in infringing the rights of Canadians in the name of the war on terror. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64 per cent) said they were somewhat concerned or concerned about the possibility that "Canadian security agencies will be given too much power." By comparison, 34 per cent of respondents said they were unconcerned or somewhat unconcerned by the prospect.
"There is the line that the government has to make sure that it does not cross," Mr. Nanos said. "If Canadians start feeling uncomfortable about potential personal intrusions on their privacy, the government has to be very careful and tread carefully that it does not cross that line."
The NDP has stated that it will wait and see the legislation before passing judgment, while the Liberals have signalled they are likely to support the measures, while calling for increased parliamentary oversight.
Mr. Nanos said the opposition will have a key role to play as the legislation is being debated in Parliament.
"There is a sweet spot for them to take in terms of making sure the government is really clear on the specific powers that they need and why, and the specific role that they want to undertake and why," he said.
With its legislation, the Canadian government is expected to lower the threshold for preventive arrests and restrict the movements of alleged radicals, in part by making it easier to place people on no-fly lists.
"We want to make sure that we get a balance – that we protect the rights of Canadians and also the security of Canadians," Mr. Harper said this month.
The hybrid telephone and online survey by Nanos, conducted between Jan. 24 and 26, is deemed to be accurate within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.