2 in 5 Canadians support Wet'suwet'en solidarity protesters — but half say yes to pipeline, new poll finds
Demonstrators have shut down bridges, ports, roads and rail lines across the country
A new poll by a national non-profit research institute finds that two in five Canadians support the Wet'suwet'en solidarity protesters, who have shut down bridges, ports, roads and rail lines across the country.
The Angus Reid Institute survey paints a picture of a country divided along political, regional and economic lines over the protests, the Coastal GasLink pipeline itself and how the pipeline company might proceed.
"We really wanted to get a sense of, 'How do you feel about the project itself, how do you feel about the protesters and what should the company do going forward?'" said Shachi Kurl, executive director of Angus Reid.
"What we find is that opinion, particularly about the protests, is largely driven by politics."
Thirty-nine per cent of people polled say they support the Wet'suwet'en solidarity protesters.
According to the Angus Reid survey, supporters tend to be younger women, as well as those on the lower side of the income scale and those on the left of the political spectrum.
On the flipside, the poll finds that just over half of people surveyed say they support the Coastal GasLink project itself.
The survey, conducted online earlier this week, is a representative randomized sample of 1,508 Canadian adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
"If you're somebody who's inclined to support resource development projects, you are also inclined to be really annoyed at the protesters," Kurl said.
"If you're somebody who is likely to be anti-resource development projects, then you're more likely to say 'Yeah, attaboy or attagirl' to those protesters."
Earlier this month, RCMP officers wrapped up their enforcement of a court injunction in the Wet'suwet'en territory and arrested more than 20 people who had been preventing construction workers from getting to a central work site for the pipeline project.
Those arrests prompted widespread protests in cities across Canada.
Demonstrators blocked access to the B.C. Legislature and occupied the offices of federal politicians earlier this week. Trains have been halted at various points across the country, stranding passengers and cargo. Access to ports on both coasts has been blocked. Traffic in Vancouver and Victoria has been brought to a standstill for hours at a time during rush hour.
"It is possible over time that we'll see the needle start to move one way or the other because sometimes protests can cause a backlash," Kurl said.
"Sometimes, it can actually galvanize or harden opinions in one way or the other."
The conflict revolves around a $6.6 billion, 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline and an assertion by Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs that no pipelines can be built through their traditional territory without their consent.
With files from The Early Edition