Afghanistan Evacuation: Almost no Canadians call mission successful; most hesitant to call it a failure yet

by Angus Reid | August 29, 2021 10:30 pm

Most say Canada should accept at least 20,000 Afghan refugees; One-fifth say crisis will affect their vote

August 30, 2021 – An election campaign many had thought would be fought and won or lost on the basis of Canada’s post-pandemic future is instead being overshadowed in its first weeks by the future of Afghanistan and the evacuation of those desperate to leave the embattled nation.

The images from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul and other parts of the country have been troubling, and the questions to the Trudeau government over whether it has done enough, pointed.

New data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute show that while the number of Canadians calling this country’s efforts to evacuate Afghan nationals “successful” hovers near zero, many (20%) are refraining from judging at this point, while the largest portion (41%) say that operations went as well as can be expected, with the Taliban taking over surrounding areas and ISIS-K posing a constant threat of violence[1].

That said, nearly two-in-five (37%), led by those currently intending to vote for the Conservative Party (65%), say that the execution of the plan should be considered a failure.

While Canada has removed nearly 4,000 military personnel and Afghan refugees, the expectation is that thousands more will follow in the coming months and years. Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would commit to accepting 20,000 Afghan refugees – something all other major federal party leaders committed to in a show of rare campaign solidarity.

A plurality of Canadians (44%) agree with this target for resettlement, while one-quarter (25%) would take even more Afghan’s seeking to leave the country. That said, 31 per cent say this number is too high, including 45 per cent of Erin O’Toole’s current supporters.

The timing of the crisis – running in parallel with the 44th federal election, creates an obvious political dimension for parties and leadership. And while the majority of the electorate (59%) say it will have no impact on their vote, one-in-five say it will.

Those who say these events will affect their choice are unfavourable to the Liberal Party. Two-thirds of this group (14% of Canadians overall) say the events have made them less likely to support the Liberals.  represents a net risk to the Liberal Party and leader Justin Trudeau.

More Key Findings: [2]

About ARI

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.



Part One: Evacuation not a success, but was it a failure?

Part Two: 20,000 refugees 

Part Three: How will it affect the vote?

 Part Four: Canada’s future in Afghanistan


Part One: Evacuation not a success, but was it a failure?

The contrast between the scenes could not have more stark. On August 15, as Justin Trudeau visited Rideau Hall[3] asking Governor General Mary Simon to dissolve parliament and trigger an election, Canadians watched as the Taliban took control of Kabul[4] – and effectively the entire nation – hours after its President fled the country.

In the weeks since, what was supposed to be a campaign framed around pandemic related issues such as vaccinations and health care has been dominated by scrutiny over Canada’s mission to evacuate Canadians, Afghans, and others from Afghanistan ahead of the US deadline for troop withdrawal August 31.

So far, Canadian military personnel have removed nearly 4,000 people, but thousands more, including those who helped the Canadian government during its two-decade presence in the country remain stuck, with no clear path to leave. Canada has ended its official evacuation mission. Officials say efforts will continue[5] but safety concerns preclude the continuation of its formal, direct evacuation strategy. Critics have derided the Trudeau government for not doing more[6] in the face of increasing desperation.

Canadians have been gripped by events in Afghanistan. Two-in-five have been following the story “very closely” (41%), while a similar number (40%) have been following the headlines. Overall, this represents a score of 72 on the Angus Reid Institute Engagement Index, placing it above the number who were following the earlier weeks of the WE Scandal and SNC-Lavalin affair:

On Sunday Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau accepted criticism of the removal campaign as “fair[7]”, reiterating a familiar refrain from leaders, both American[8] and Canadian[9], that no one could have predicted how quickly the country would fall into the hands of the Taliban regime.

For Canadians, the mission was by no means a success, but many are hesitant to call it a failure. Most are largely split between saying it went as well as it could have, and saying it was a failure. A mere two per cent say it has been a success. That said, one-in-five say it is too early to tell, refraining from judgement at this point:A plurality of those who currently intend to vote for the Liberal Party and NDP, say that the evacuation efforts went as well as could be expected, although a significant segment of NDP and BQ voters also characterize it as a failure. They are joined by two-thirds of CPC voters in this opinion:

Part Two: 20,000 refugees

As chaos continues to unfold in Afghanistan, lives of both civilians and armed forces members have been lost. Amid this turmoil, thousands of Afghans are seeking refuge in other countries. Canada has committed to resettle 20,000 refugees. All parties have affirmed their commitment to that target as a part of their election campaigns.

For a plurality of Canadians, 20,000 is a good target, while one-quarter say it isn’t enough, and three-in-ten say it is too many:

Those most likely to disagree with resettling Afghan more refugees are Conservative and Bloc Quebecois voters. In each case nearly half say this.

Meanwhile, four-in-five Liberal and NDP voters say the target is either the right amount or too low:

Young people are particularly likely to support resettling efforts, though it is notable that a majority of all age and gender groups support either the 20,000 target or higher:

Part Three: How will it affect the vote?

The timing of the events in Afghanistan has imbued the situation with a political element in Canada. But not all voters are viewing the situation through a political prism. In fact, most (59%) say it will have no impact on how they vote. For one-in-five, however, this is now a part of their voting calculus:

For those who say they will reconsider their vote in lieu of events, the primary beneficiary is the Conservative Party:

Looking at this another way, the negative impact appears to be concentrated primarily with the governing Liberal Party. Among those who say they will re-assess their vote, most say it will discourage them from voting for the Liberals:

Part Four: Canada’s future in Afghanistan

Canada took part in the initial War in Afghanistan[10] – launched by the United States and an international coalition after 9/11 – for 12 years. After ending its official military operations in 2014, Canada has continued to play a role in a limited military and humanitarian fashion[11].

So, what does the future hold? Canadians are divided about what they would like to see. Half say that Canada’s role in the region should come to an end; they feel the country has done enough. Canadians are more than twice as likely to say this as opposed to the opposite – that Canada has more to do and should maintain a role in Afghanistan in the future.

The sentiment that Canada should refrain from having a role in Afghanistan is held by a majority of men and women 55 and older. Younger women are largely undecided about what they would like to see:

Political leaders may be pressed in the coming weeks to share their vision for Canada’s place in world affairs. When it comes to Afghanistan, fewer feel Canada has more to do. New Democrat voters are most likely to say that they see Canada participating in the future, but only three-in-ten feel this way:

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.[12]

To read the full report including detailed tables and methodology, click here.[13]

To read the questionnaire, click here.[14]


Shachi Kurl, Executive Director: 604.908.1693[15] @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Director: 250.899.0821[16]

Image Credit – ID 228427060 © Burnstuff2003 |

  1. constant threat of violence:
  2. [Image]:
  3. visited Rideau Hall:
  4. Taliban took control of Kabul:
  5. will continue:
  6. for not doing more:
  7. fair:
  8. American:
  9. Canadian:
  10. War in Afghanistan:
  11. limited military and humanitarian fashion:
  12. click here.:
  13. click here.:
  14. click here.:

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