Study Finds Canadians are Still Positive about Immigration despite Negative Attitudes Internationally
Immigration has been a hot topic both in Canada and around the world in recent years. There are thousands of refugees fleeing violence in their home countries, and it often seems as though they end up in countries where they are not welcome. Anti-immigration sentiment is growing in regions that are experiencing an influx of refugees.
When Donald Trump became U.S. President in 2017, his anti-immigration threats caused many immigrants to fear for their future. Fearing deportation, many asylum seekers conducted irregular border crossings into Canada at unmonitored sections of the border.
Trump’s anti-immigration sentiment has been felt elsewhere around the globe as well. Far-right groups are gaining media attention, loudly voicing intolerant attitudes towards newcomers. And some of these extremist groups have even gained momentum in Canada.
But despite this global sentiment, most Canadians still hold positive attitudes toward immigration. According to findings from a recent survey, most Canadians were positive about immigration and some had doubts.
In February 2018, the Environics Institute for Survey Research interviewed 2,000 Canadians across the country. In response to the question “Are immigration levels too high?” an average of six-in-10 Canadians chose “disagree.” Furthermore, eight-in-10 Canadians agreed that immigrants have a positive economic impact.
The study also shows that positive attitudes toward immigration have been on the rise in Canada over the past 30 years. Overall, there is a growing trend toward greater acceptance of immigrants.
Opinions on immigration issues are also less polarized compared to those in the U.S. and Europe. Canadians are more likely to be uncertain or doubtful instead of strongly agreeing or disagreeing with immigration issues.
Although 35 percent of those surveyed agree that Canada takes in too many immigrants, that number has been declining over the last 10 years. For those who hold negative or uncertain attitudes towards immigration, fear may be fuelling their views.
The survey results also show that more respondents in Alberta and Quebec had what could be described as a negative attitude toward immigration. Compared to the previous survey, more respondents in these provinces expressed doubt over the legitimacy of refugee claims and whether immigrants are adopting Canadian values.
The rise in negative attitudes toward immigration in Quebec is likely due to the influx of asylum seekers that crossed into Quebec from the U.S. in 2017. The number asylum claims made in Canada through irregular border crossings was 20,593. And the majority of those were made in Quebec.
However, Albertans felt the strongest about immigration, both against and in favour of immigration. These anti-immigration sentiments may be a side effect of the province's perceived economic uncertainty. With the provincial oil industry’s future in doubt, coupled with the lasting impact of severe wildfires and a depressed economy, immigrants and refugees may be seen as economic threats.
But for the most part, Canadian society is in favour of immigration. There are still some negative attitudes in Canada, but the majority of Canadians value inclusivity and tolerant attitudes.