Canadian Attitudes Harden on Immigration

Bill Curry and Marina Jimènez, Globe and Mail (Toronto), Aug. 12

OTTAWA; TORONTO—In a country that prides itself on embracing multiculturalism, a new poll finds a large number of Canadians say immigrants from Europe are far more likely to make a positive contribution to Canada than those from Asia, India or the Caribbean.

One leading race-relations organization said the findings show that Canada has a particular problem with anti-black racism, while others say they’re largely a reflection of the increasing difficulties immigrants face.

Immigration has become a controversial issue since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and recent surveys show Canadians’ attitudes have hardened. A Globe and Mail/CTV poll released yesterday found a large majority of Canadians supporting the deportation or jailing of anyone supporting terrorists.

The new Globe/CTV poll, conducted by The Strategic Counsel, found Canadians are generally in favour of the government’s current immigration policy and say it strikes the right balance in terms of numbers and countries of origin.

But 41 per cent of Canadians believe the country an immigrant comes from is linked to their likelihood of success in Canada. Among those polled with such views, there were also clear notions of which immigrant groups are more likely to make a positive contribution.

European immigrants—who tend to be predominantly white—topped the list with 76 per cent, followed by Asians at 59 per cent. Less than half of that subsection of Canadians, at 45 per cent, believed Indians make a positive contribution and West Indians were viewed favourably by only 33 per cent.

In Quebec, where the province’s Haitian community is celebrating the recent appointment of Michaëlle Jean as the next governor-general, West Indian immigrants are viewed more favourably than in the rest of Canada, with a difference of 46 per cent to 28 per cent.

University of Toronto Professor Jeffrey Reitz says that while he suspects the findings do reveal some racial bias, his studies of census data show European immigrants are in fact more economically successful than visible minorities.

“Then it wouldn’t necessarily reflect anything other than a knowledge of income levels in different groups, but some people say the reason why some groups make more than others is racism,” said Prof. Reitz, who teaches ethnic and immigration studies.

Karen Monk, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, says steps need to be taken to address anti-black racism in the media, police and justice system.

“It needs to be acknowledged and named,” she said. “Time is long overdue for people to stop using language like ‘it’s only their perception.’ “

Ms. Monk said the appointment of Ms. Jean, who has openly discussed her experiences with racism, is a welcome move that could lead to improvements.

Most of Canada’s immigrants today come not from Europe but from Asia. In 2004, the top 10 source countries for immigrants, meaning where they most recently lived, were: China, India, the Philippines, Pakistan, the U.S., Iran, Britain, Romania, Korea and France.

Historically, immigrants who came here 40 years ago—many of whom were European—did as well or better financially than their Canadian-born counterparts.

However a number of studies have found that recent immigrants of all backgrounds are unable to catch up to native-born Canadians, despite their high levels of education.

Experts suggest part of the problem is related to a bottleneck preventing professional newcomers from having their credentials recognized. This is especially true for foreign-trained doctors, engineers and other regulated professions.

This spring, Ottawa launched a $239-million strategy to help newcomers enter the job market and obtain recognition for their foreign credentials.

The poll also found Canadians are overwhelmingly in favour of abandoning the “mosaic” approach to multiculturalism that has long been a defining feature of the nation’s identity, according to the survey of 1,000 people conducted from Aug. 3-7. A sample of 1,000 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Nearly seven in 10 Canadians say immigrants should be encouraged to integrate and become part of the broader society rather than maintaining their ethnic identity and culture.

Claudette Legault, the executive director of the Metropolitan Immigration Settlement Association in Halifax, says her experience has shown first-generation immigrants will have a strong connection to their home country but subsequent generations are fully integrated in the Canadian culture.

Immigration opinions

Question: Do you think Canada accepts too many, too few or about the right number of immigrants per year?

Don’t know: 12%

Too few: 10%

Too many: 32%

About the right amount: 46%

Question: What approach should Canada take with new immigrants?

Don’t know: 11%

Should encourage immigrants to maintain their identity and culture: 20%

Should encourage immigrants to integrate and become part of the Canadian culture: 69%

Question: Do you think immigrants from some countries make a bigger and better contribution than immigrants from other countries?

Don’t know: 9%

Immigrants from some countries make a bigger and better contribution: 41%

There is no difference in the kind of contribution immigrants make based on their country of origin: 50%

*Question: What kind of contributions do immigrants from certain countries make?

Percentage saying positive/very positive contribution

Europe: 76%

Asia: 59%

India: 45%

The Caribbean and West Indies: 33%

*Asked of those who think that immigrants who come from certain countries make a bigger and better contribution

Topics: ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.

Comments are closed.