Pro-Palestinian Encampments in Canada: Who are the Supporters and Opponents?

Robert Brym and Jack Jedwab
May 31, 2024

The encampment at the University of Toronto, May 2024. Credit: David S. Koffman

The Encampments Break Camp

As of late May 2024, most members of the pro-Palestinian university encampment movement in Canada have begun to decamp. At the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary, police broke up encampments at the behest of university authorities. At the University of Toronto, last-minute negotiations are underway between university administrators and protesters. If talks break down, the president of the University of Toronto says he will follow the lead of Alberta’s largest universities. At McMaster University and Ontario Technical University in Oshawa, encampments disbanded after reaching compromise agreements with university authorities. The Quebec courts twice refused to issue an injunction against the McGill University encampment, but they issued an injunction against the encampment at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

The fifteen Canadian university encampments were always tiny. If the McMaster University encampment at the time of its demise and the current University of Toronto encampment are anything to judge by, university encampments tend to be populated by about 0.3 percent of their student bodies—about one hundred of 36,500 students at McMaster and two hundred of 62,000 students at the downtown campus of the University of Toronto.

Supporters and Opponents

However, the existence of encampments is supported by just over 16 percent of the country’s adults according to a poll of 1,519 Canadians undertaken by Leger for the Association for Canadian Studies. Conducted by web panel over the period May 17-20, 2024, the poll results were weighted by population characteristics taken from the 2021 Census of Canada. A probability sample of this size would have a maximum margin of error of ±2.5 percent, nineteen times out of twenty. The poll also shows that 40 percent of Canadians oppose the encampments and almost 44 percent say they neither support nor oppose the encampments, don’t know, or declined to answer the question (Table 1).

Who are the supportive 16 percent and how do they differ from the opposing 40 percent of Canadians?


For one thing, encampment supporters tend to be young (Table 2). Excluding individuals who replied “don’t know” or did not supply information about their age, those who strongly support the encampment range from nearly 18 percent of eighteen- to twenty-four-year-olds to 0.0 percent of those over the age of 74 (all of the following percentages are based on the same exclusions). Contrariwise, those who strongly oppose the encampments range from nearly 46 percent of those over the age of seventy-four to under 14 percent of eighteen- to twenty-four-year-olds.

Ideological Orientation

Encampment supporters also tend to be on the left wing of the ideological spectrum (Table 3). For example, just over 39 percent of those who say they are on the hard left strongly support the encampments compared to a little more than 3 percent of those who say they are on the hard right. Conversely, nearly 58 percent of those on the hard right strongly oppose the encampment movement compared to under 17 percent of those on the hard left.


A third characteristic of encampment supporters is that they tend to be racialized. Respondents were asked, “Which of the following best describes you?” This question was followed by a list of twelve ethnic and racial labels from which they could choose. Table 4 shows the breakdown for those who claimed to be White and those who did not. Non-White respondents are more than twice as likely as White respondents to strongly support the encampments (about 14 percent versus 7 percent, respectively). On the other hand, White respondents are more than 9 percentage points more likely to strongly oppose the encampments than are non-White respondents (around 32 percent versus 23 percent).

Pride in Canada

When asked to respond “yes” or “no” to the statement, “I am proud to be a Canadian,” only a small percentage of respondents say “no.” However, strong supporters of the encampments are nearly twice as likely as strong opponents to say “no” (approximately 13 percent versus 7 percent).

Urban, Suburban, Rural

Dividing the population into urban, suburban, and rural areas, strong opposition to the encampments is most widespread in rural areas (about 38 percent) and least widespread in urban areas (around 27 percent). Contrariwise, strong support is most widespread in urban areas (approximately 12 percent) and least widespread in rural areas (about 4 percent).

Attitudes towards Jews

Finally, Canadians who have a strong positive view of Jews are more than 4.5 times more likely to strongly oppose the encampments than strongly support them (43.6 percent versus 9.6 percent; Table 5). Moreover, strong opponents of the encampments are three times more likely than strong supporters to think that Jews are “the most likely” group to be “the victim of prejudice or hate in Canada” (more than 32 percent versus under 11 percent). On this last point, police hate crime statistics are in line with the view of strong encampment opponents.

In sum, encampment supporters are more likely than encampment opponents to be young non-White urban dwellers on the left wing of the political spectrum. At the same time, encampment supporters are less likely than encampment opponents to take pride in being Canadian, regard Jews highly, and believe that Jews are the country’s top victims of prejudice and hate.