In the battle for public opinion, Canada's First Nations' have a long way to go.
An Ipsos Reid poll released on Tuesday claims that while most Canadians believe the government must act to improve on-reserve quality of life, they have serious concerns about reserve financial accountability.
Here are some top-line results from the survey:
- 64 per cent agree that Canada's aboriginal peoples receive too much support from Canadian taxpayers
- Only 31 per cent agree that First Nation's protesters are conducting justified and legitimate protests by shutting down roads and rail lines going through their communities
- 81 per cent agree that no additional taxpayers money should go to any Reserve until external auditors can be put in place to ensure financial accountability
- 60 per cent agree that most of the problems of native people are brought on by themselves
"Taken together, these data suggest that last week’s protests have done little to build sympathy for First Nations issues, and have instead created a new issue for First Nation leaders to struggle with – financial accountability," notes the survey report.
Ipsos also gauged the approval ratings of some of the key-players with regard to recent protests. The Assembly of First Nations chiefs earned the highest approval rating of 51 per cent, Stephen Harper came in at 46 per cent while the Idle No More movement and 'hunger-striking' chief Theresa Spence earned very poor ratings at 38 per cent and 29 per cent respectively.
If you've listened to the call-in radio shows in recent days, these numbers won't surprise you.
Stories about financial mismanagement, divisions among different First Nations groups and threats of major road and border blockades have all culminated into a collective frustration and in some cases anger.
Earlier this week, an Idle No More co-founder even distanced herself from Spence reiterating that INM was a grassroots movement and claiming that they barely had any "communications with her."
It was a wise move because Spence, along with some of the more militant chiefs, pose a serious public relations problem for the whole First Nations population: Spence has lost much her credibility because of her unclear demands and because of the damning Deloitte and Touche audit,which suggested a lack of financial checks and balances in her community of Attawapiskat.
Ultimately, First Nations' goals for meaningful resource sharing, treaty recognition and more funding for on-reserve education and health care are more easily achieved if they have public support.
[ Related: Idle No More co-founder uneasy with Chief Spence ]
The Ipsos poll shows that, as of now, they don't have that.
The Ipsos Reid poll was conducted between January 11 to January 14th with a sample of 1,023 Canadians via an online panel. The poll is accurate to within +/-3.5 percentage points had all Canadian adults been polled.