Canadians are more happy than xenophobic

March 24, 2018

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun |

Immigrating to Canada makes people happier, according to the United Nations’ 2018 World Happiness Report, which confirms Canadians are among the most tolerant and welcoming people in the world.

The Happiness Report reveals Canada is “the fourth most accepting country for migrants.” That’s out of 117 nations for which data is available, behind only Iceland, New Zealand and, surprisingly, Rwanda. It’s basically an A+ grade for Canadians.

Despite the media frequently reporting on accusations that Canadians are inclined to be “xenophobic,” this imperfect but generally kind country has been a beacon of light, at least to a fraction of the 700 million people who say they want to permanently leave their homelands.

The annual Happiness Report, which includes a groundbreaking and largely ignored new section on migrants, shows most of the roughly 300,000 immigrants who have been arriving each year in Canada become happier than they were before leaving their country of origin.

Migrants to Canada end up with virtually the same life-satisfaction levels as native-born Canadians. That lead the UN Report to rank Canada as the overall seventh happiest nation on the planet, bested only by Finland, Norway, Denmark and other northern European countries.

The UN’s Happiness report adds more weight to previous international surveys, such as one done by Britain’s Legatum Institute, which found global respondents naming Canada the most “tolerant” nation in the world.

While most Canadians continue to recognize that acts of hatred and racism occur, including the murderous attack in early 2017 on worshippers at a Quebec City mosque, the UN report might remind Canadians that discrimination is on a continuum, and Canada is at the more positive end of it.

The UN’s remarkable figures counter claims by many activists, academics and real-estate industry lobbyists, who routinely throw out the accusation that Canadians are racists. Such critical Canadians don’t seem to recognize, for one, how bad things are elsewhere, especially in big countries. The Happiness Report found Russians are among the most antagonistic toward foreigners. Attitudes are also at rock bottom in South Korea and Pakistan, which are among the top six source countries of emigrants to Canada, and which themselves take in almost no migrants.

Canada, meanwhile, maintains its reputation as a tolerant country while being home to 8.2 million foreign-born people (7.5 million of whom are immigrants). That’s one in four of all residents. The foreign-born population of Greater Vancouver is even higher, at 45 per cent, while its 32 per cent in Calgary and 49 per cent in Greater Toronto.

In contrast, foreign-born people make up only 3.3 per cent of the residents of all countries on average, says the UN report, co-written by University of B.C. economist emeritus John Helliwell.

“Of the 12 countries with populations exceeding 100 million, only three had foreign-born population shares exceeding one per cent — Japan at 1.7 per cent, Pakistan at 1.9 per cent and the U.S. at 15 per cent.” The two most populous countries, China and India, have virtually no foreign-born.

The UN, relying on pollsters from Gallup, tallied each country’s quotient for tolerance by asking 36,000 people three questions: Whether it was a “good thing” or “bad thing” that immigrants were living in their country, were becoming their neighbours and marrying into their families.

While Canada came out as the fourth most accepting, a bit ahead of the Netherlands, Australia and the U.S., some of the least-accepting countries for migrants were Pakistan, Greece, Egypt and Poland. (The report generally avoids using the term xenophobic.)

India and China were not as hostile as South Korea, Pakistan and Eastern Europe, but still ranked poorly. Another troubling finding was that these two major immigrant-source countries to Canada rank low for happiness, with China coming in 86th and India 133rd.

The main conclusions of the UN Happiness Report were that people who leave “unhappy” countries, where people lack trust, to go to happier countries such as Canada and Austria wind up matching the host society for happiness, with the second generation remaining at the same level as the first generation. But there are many winners and losers in the process, including among family members left behind.

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