Canadians less welcoming of immigrants, visible minorities, survey says

March 13, 2015

By Carol Sanders, Winnipeg Free Press |

Canadians are becoming less welcoming of newcomers — especially of visible minorities, a new national survey has found.

The EKOS poll, conducted March 4 to 10, shows a country that’s becoming more fearful and less compassionate, say Winnipeggers who help immigrants and refugees.

“I’m horrified by these numbers and find them extremely disheartening,” said Dorota Blumczynska, the executive director of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba. The survey found 46 per cent of Canadians say too many immigrants are coming — up from 25 per cent in 2005. Forty-one per cent said too many immigrants are visible minorities — up from 18 per cent in 2005.

The shift toward a less-welcoming landscape is no surprise to the head of Canada’s largest private sponsor of refugees.

“These are frightening times, and Canadians feel it,” said Tom Denton, executive director of Hospitality House Refugee Ministry. “Political instability across the planet and daily appalling news from abroad is engendering fear of ‘the other,’ not just in Canada but everywhere.”

“The Harper government has picked up on this and is using it to justify a more hard-edged legislative program and policies in the immigration area, in citizenship rules and in the criminal-justice system,” Denton said. “Kindness and compassion are the victims. We’re not as nice as we used to be.”

The president of the Manitoba Islamic Association said he hopes the shift away from accepting visible minorities doesn’t continue.

“A racism-free society is an ideal we should all strive for,” said Idris Elbakri. “I think national and local leaders have a responsibility to set a tone that is welcoming and embracing,” he said. “Focusing on cultural differences and magnifying them distorts the immigrant’s experience and puts it in a negative light,” said Elbakri, who hasn’t felt that negativity here in Winnipeg since the Palestinian man and his family came to Canada.

“Manitoba is wonderful that way. My family and I have always felt welcomed and embraced by our neighbours, schools, at work… Our children have travelled overseas several times, and we also lived for some time overseas, but I can see it in their eyes when we come back that Canada is home to them. My hope is that this continues to be the case and our political leaders will not strike a tone that will shatter this for them.”

Elbakri said unless you’re an indigenous Canadian, you have newcomer roots.

“People need to remember that, other than the aboriginal peoples of Canada, we are all visibly of an immigrant heritage.”

The Conservatives are responsible for the growth in anti-immigrant attitudes, said Blumczynska.

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