A Canadian Press-Harris/Decima poll of just over 1,000 Canadians between January 31 and February 4 found that less than one in five of those polled supported sending Canadian troops to Mali to fight Islamist insurgents.
Even when it comes to humanitarian aid, just over one third of Canadians approved. Just 28% supported sending trainers, equipment, and support personnel. Eleven per cent said that Canada should not be involved in Mali in any way.
Chair of Harris/Decima, Allan Gregg, claims that the poll suggests that after a decade of involvement in Afghanistan, Canadians are not anxious to be involved in another conflict. Gregg said:"While Canadians believe Canada has a role to play in the world — even in parts of the world where a direct, vested interest might not be readily apparent — few see that role as a military one.The notion that Canadians are 'peacekeepers' and moral leaders — as opposed to a combat nation — seems to run very deep and clearly applies to the current conflict in Mali."
Canada has already provided some logistic support in the form of a C-17 transport plane but Canada had been sending development aid assistance to Mali for more than four decades. Canadian mining companies have been operating in Mali for two decades. Canada is the fifth largest donor of foreign aid to Mali. In 2010-11, Canada gave $110million. As the appended video shows, there are some Canadian special forces in Mali as well to protect Canadian assets.
The humanitarian needs of Mali are huge. Over half of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day. Many Malians have been internally displaced by conflict in the north.
Robert Fowler, a former Canadian ambassador to Mali who was held captive by militants in northern Mali for 130 days in 2008 said:"We have lots of very fine friends in that area of the world. Friends that we've been working with for 50 to 60 years. We've invested hundreds of millions of dollars in development assistance in those countries, and surely it's in our interest to protect that investment."
However, on this issue Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is probably closer to majority opinion in Canada when he says:"I do think it is important to help this mission. At the same time, I think we've been very clear, and I think this reflects Canadian opinion that, while we're prepared to help, we don't want to see a direct Canadian military mission to Mali."
There are several gold mines in Mali involving Canadian companies. The largest is Iamgold Corp which is involved in a joint venture with the AngloGold Ashanti of South Africa and the Malian government. The two mines are far from any conflict but the company has reduced exploration activities as a precaution. The two together produced about 129,000 ounces of gold last year. In 2008 it is estimated that royalties and taxes from gold mining generated about 17% of Malian government revenues.