Canadians still see immigration in positive light: survey

October 25, 2016

By Levon Sevunts, Radio Canada International |

Despite growing anti-immigrant sentiments in much of the Western world, most Canadians continue to view immigration as a net benefit for the country, according to a new national survey.

The survey, released today by the Environics Institute for Survey Research, in partnership with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, shows that eight in 10 Canadians still believe that immigration is good for the country’s economy.

It also finds that most Canadians (58 per cent) disagree that immigration levels are too high, while almost two-thirds (65 per cent) are confident that immigration controls are effective in keeping out criminals.

The survey findings come as the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accepted 320,932 immigrants over the last year, including more than 31,000 Syrian refugees, the largest annual number since modern record-keeping began.

Keith Neuman, executive director of the Environics Institute, said given the rising anti-immigrant sentiments in Europe and the United States, researchers expected that similar feelings could exist in Canada as well.

“So we were surprised when we saw in our results that in fact we have the opposite trend,” Neuman said, “that opinions on our key indicators are either stable or have actually improved noticeably in the last 15 months.”

Nearly half of Canadians (48 per cent) believe the 31,000 plus Syrian refugees being accepted into Canada this year is about the right number, according to the survey. One in ten Canadian felt that Canada should be taking more Syrian refugees, Neuman said.

Slightly more than one-third (36 per cent) say this number is too high, primarily because of concerns about the country’s capacity to support them or because it is diverting resources from other priorities, Neuman said.

“Some people did say they felt that refugees had different values or lifestyles that wouldn’t fit in, but that was only 14 per cent of this group, and only about 12 per cent of this group expressed concerns about potential security threats,” Neuman said.

A declining majority of Canadians believe that too many immigrants are not adopting Canadian values, the survey found.

“But what I think is most important with this survey is that the proportion of Canadians to agree with that statement, which is 54 per cent, has dropped significantly over the past year, in fact over the last few years,” Neuman said. “Not as many Canadians are now expressing that view.”

Also, nine in ten (91 per cent) Canadians continue to express the opinion that someone born outside the country is just as likely to be a good citizen as someone born in Canada, Neuman said.

“And I think that speaks quite a bit about the sense that people who come from elsewhere can indeed fit in very well,” Neuman said.

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