Posted on July 12, 2016

Ontario Facing ‘Epidemic of Islamophobia’ Survey Finds

Nicholas Keung, The Star, July 4, 2016

While Canada rides a wave of global praise for welcoming Syrian refugees, a new poll suggests we’re also facing a wave of something sinister–Islamophobia.

The survey by polling firm MARU/VCR&C measured public perceptions of ethnicity and immigration in Ontario in the wake of the recent influx of thousands of Syrian refugees–almost 12,000 to this province alone.

“There is an epidemic of Islamophobia in Ontario. Only a third of Ontarians have a positive impression of the religion and more than half feel its mainstream doctrines promote violence (an anomaly compared to other religions),” said the 51-page survey to be released this week by the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants and advocacy group Mass Minority. “These sentiments are echoed with Syrian refugees in Ontario where acceptance often coincides with acceptance of Islam.”

Ontario has seen a number of recent incidents targeting Muslims. A woman wearing a hijab wasattacked at a supermarket in London in June and a Western University student from Iran was beaten by two men who taunted him and told him to go back to his country. Also, in June, an anti-immigrant group rooted in Germany held an anti-Muslim protest in Toronto.

While the survey’s respondents agreed that immigrants play a valuable role in society (72 per cent) and are an important part of our cultural identity (71 per cent), three-quarters of the survey participants said we need to focus on taking care of the people “here” instead of spending resources on refugees.

“Taken together, this suggests that Ontarians see non-immigrants as more entitled to social care. This entitlement is, in some ways, a contradiction given the inherent value that immigration offers,” said the poll of 1,009 Ontarians conducted between May 11 and 16.

The survey was funded by the province and the City of Toronto for its recently launched public awareness campaign on Islamophobia, which has sparked heated debate over its provocative posters, seen by some as reinforcing stereotypes and fuelling tensions.

The research was commissioned to take a snapshot of Ontario residents’ attitudes and perception towards immigrants and ethnic minorities as a benchmark to assess the effectiveness of the multimedia campaign. A followup survey is planned after 12 months.

While 46 per cent of Ontarians feel Canada admits too many immigrants, 45 per cent said they welcomed the right amount.

“Higher and lower levels of acceptance are associated with distinct demographic profiles,” the report said. “Less educated and rural Ontarians over-index on feelings that Canada accepts too many immigrants.”

Three-in-five residents in the province supported Ottawa’s decision to accept Syrian refugees while one-fifth of all respondents said they have participated in welcoming Syrians to Canada in various ways from donating money to furniture, volunteering and participating in a sponsorship group.

Comparing Canada’s six major mainstream religions, Islam is the most likely to be viewed by the respondents as a promoter of violence, followed by Sikhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and Buddhism.

Three-quarters of Ontarians said they feel Muslim immigrants have fundamentally different values, largely due to perceived gender inequality, the survey found.

“Opposition to Syrian refugees is higher among those with unfavourable impressions of Islam,” said the report. “Opposition is mainly because of concerns that Syrian immigration will mean less help at home. Those opposed see Canadians as needing support first and foremost.”

Despite a generally positive view of immigrants, 53 per cent of Ontarians said we should only allow immigrants from countries that have similar values to our own while 74 per cent said we need to be more strict about what kinds of immigrants we accept.

“There are imbalances in the worth of immigrants relative to ‘the people here.’ They are seen as valuable to society but less deserving of our resources,” the poll found. “This shows that acceptance of immigrants is not without its limits.”

Results of the poll are considered accurate within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.