Support for Immigration Slipping

Elizabeth Thompson, Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall, Ont.), June 26, 2009

The number of Canadians who say immigration has a positive effect on their community has dropped “noticeably” over the past two years and is now at the lowest level since the government started tracking attitudes in 2004.

A public opinion poll conducted for the immigration department earlier this year found there is still strong support among most Canadians for immigration and most Canadians consider immigration beneficial. But it also showed signs that support might be slipping.

The last time the department conducted a tracking poll in August 2007, 59% of respondents said immigration had a very positive or somewhat positive impact on their community compared to 50 per cent in January 2009.

The poll also showed a slight drop in the belief that cultural diversity strengthens Canadian culture. While a majority of Canadians, 55%, agreed with it, that was down from a high of 61% in July 2004.

The poll also found a shift when it came to the challenges that newcomers face. The number of respondents who identified employment as a top challenge rose to its highest level since they started tracking it in 2005. While language was cited as a top challenge, those who cited employment rose to 40% from 15% in November 2006.

In general, the more educated the respondents, the more they favoured immigration. The poll also found regional differences, with residents of Ontario (32%) and Alberta (29%) more likely to think too many immigrants are coming to Canada versus Atlantic Canada where only 16% felt that way.

The poll showed 82% supported allowing temporary workers to gain permanent resident status once they have worked in Canada a few years but little sympathy for undocumented or illegal immigrants. The poll found 67% believe undocumented workers should be deported–with Alberta coming in highest at 74%.

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