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Polls show Canadians want ceasefire in Gaza, placing Trudeau at a crossroads

Since Oct. 7, nearly 13,000 people have been killed as Israeli bombardment rocks the Gaza Strip

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes a statement on Israel and Gaza in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday, Oct. 16, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes a statement on Israel and Gaza in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday, Oct. 16, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

As the war in Gaza enters its sixth week, Canadians and world politicians' attention remains on the region, as public opinion polls show the views of citizens of the West are trending increasingly far away from where their leaders are.

In Canada, the most recent polling available, from Mainstreet Research on Nov. 7, found 71 per cent of all Canadians were in support of a ceasefire. Even by party affiliation, a majority of voters said they support a ceasefire, though Conservatives supported it the least, at 55 per cent.

To contrast, just four weeks earlier on Oct. 12, 62 per cent of Canadians polled approved of the "Canadian government’s support for Israel and its right to defend itself."

In the last month, thousands have shown up to rallies calling for a ceasefire in Gaza in cities across Canada, including Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Ottawa. As well, a record-breaking petition has collected 280,000 signatures calling on the Canadian government to support a ceasefire.

Though the increasingly unpopular Trudeau has not yet called for a ceasefire, as of Nov. 21, we examine below the evolution and apparent softening of his stance on Israel's continued bombardment of Gaza, which has killed nearly 13,000 people since Oct. 7, according to figures from CNN.

October 7: Trudeau 'supports Israel's right to defend itself'

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement in support of Israel within hours following the declaration of war by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against Hamas. The attack by militants left "around 1,200" people dead, according to revised government figures, and more than 200 people were taken as hostages.

October 9: Trudeau denounces rallies 'in support of Hamas' attacks

The prime minister reiterated Canada’s support for Israel at a vigil he attended in Ottawa’s Soloway Jewish Community Centre on Thanksgiving Day, a day which also saw an outpouring of support by pro-Palestinian demonstrators across Canadian cities.

A rally took place at Nathan Phillips Square in downtown Toronto, which was denounced by the city's mayor, Olivia Chow, who later apologized.

In his address at the vigil, Trudeau expressed solidarity with Israel while condemning the “terrorist attack” and appeared to reject the pro-Palestinian rallies across Canada with comments about the "glorification of death and violence and terror."

"Hamas terrorists aren't a resistance, they're not freedom fighters. They are terrorists, and no one in Canada should be supporting them, much less celebrating them," he said.

October 12: UN warns Israel is violating international law; Trudeau announces $10 million in aid

Following the total siege of the Gaza Strip, as described by Israel, halting the entry of food, fuel and medicine, the United Nations warned Netanyahu’s government violated international law by making essentials inaccessible for civilians caught up in the war.

Trudeau announced $10 million in humanitarian aid to Israel and the Gaza Strip, but "refused to say whether he agrees with a United Nations warning that Israel is violating international humanitarian law," according to the Canadian Press.

October 14: Trudeau calls for 'unimpeded humanitarian access' for aid to Gaza

Palestinians were warned and forced to evacuate northern Gaza and head south as Israel's impending ground invasion loomed.

Trudeau used his first speech to Parliament since the Oct. 7 attack to call for the release of hostages and create a humanitarian corridor for aid to flow through.

He acknowledged the worsening crisis and called for "unimpeded humanitarian access and a humanitarian corridor so that essential aid like food, fuel and water can be delivered to civilians in Gaza."

"It is imperative that this happen."

October 17: Trudeau takes ‘necessary time’ in probing Gaza hospital attack

The Gaza health ministry accused Israel of an airstrike that killed hundreds at the al-Ahli hospital. In response, Israel blamed it on a Palestinian barrage causing the blast.

Instead of rushing to assigning blame, Trudeau said Canada was working with allies to determine "exactly what happened" in the blast at the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza hospital, and that Canada was taking the "necessary time" to probe the blast.

U.S. President Joe Biden told Netanyahu the attack appeared to have been carried out by the "other team, not you," during his Israel visit about the same time.

On Oct. 21, The Canadian defence ministry announced the results of an independent analysis conducted by the Canadian Forces Intelligence Command, stating “Israel did not strike the hospital on October 17, 2023.”

October 24: Trudeau calls for 'humanitarian pause,' rather than ceasefire

Trudeau officially announced the support for a humanitarian pause in the conflict after an hours-long meeting with his cabinet.

This followed the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s push for "humanitarian pauses" during his speech to the UN Security Council and Biden underscoring the need to sustain "a continuous flow" of humanitarian assistance into Gaza, a day before.

Linking the two events, Canadian politics and government expert Nelson Wiseman told Yahoo News Canada Trudeau’s position in the matter has to be in line with that of his allies.

“The Canadian position will continue to be in line with that of its allies. The Canadian position has shifted for the same reason the American position has shifted. Biden called for a humanitarian pause and then followed Trudeau. The call for a ceasefire, too, is likely to follow the same pattern,” Wiseman said.

Meanwhile, A House of Commons petition, started by Maëva Gaudrault Valente of Montreal and addressed to the prime minister of Canada, demanded Justin Trudeau call for the bombing to stop in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

November 4: Petition calling for a ceasefire reaches a milestone

The House of Commons petition, sponsored by NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice who represents the Montreal riding of Rosemont-La Petite Patrie, demanding Justin Trudeau call for a ceasefire reached more than 123,000 signatures. A majority of signatures are residents from Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec.

In Canada, an electronic petition must have at least 500 signatures before it can be certified and tabled in the House of Commons, warranting a response from the government within 45 days.

November 6: Polls find Canadians want government to call for ceasefire

A new poll from Angus Reid found 65 per cent of Canadians in support of a ceasefire — 30 per cent wanting a full ceasefire and 35 per cent wanting a temporary one to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

A separate poll by Mainstreet Research reported 71 per cent of Canadians either strongly support or somewhat support Canada calling for a ceasefire so that humanitarian aid can reach Gaza.

Across both the polls, less than one in five Canadians either strongly opposed or somewhat opposed the calls for a ceasefire.

November 9: Trudeau reiterates 'need' for 'humanitarian pauses'

Trudeau stressed the importance of humanitarian pauses lasting long enough for people to leave the area and for aid to arrive.

"They need to be significant, they need to last long enough to get people out (and) to get supplies in. And we have to start using them to start thinking about what the medium term and long term is," he said.

November 14: Trudeau calls for 'maximum restraint,' Netanyahu responds

Justin Trudeau called on Israel to exercise “maximum restraint” after the IDF raids Gaza’s largest hospital.

Netanyahu swiftly responded on X, formerly known as Twitter, and blamed Hamas for putting civilians "in harm's way."

November 20: House Of Commons petition calling for ceasefire breaks record

The House of Commons petition, started by Maëva Gaudrault Valente of Montreal, demanding Trudeau call for an immediate ceasefire reached 280,000 signatures, a record for e-petitions, which have been around since 2015. It is set to close on Nov. 23.