Canadians are increasingly open to welcoming immigrants and refugees.
A new study from the polling firm Environics Institute found that attitudes among Canadians have become increasingly positive, even as millions remain out of work and the country faces grim economic projections.
“These views are not a blip. They’re not chance. They seem to be deeply rooted and widely spread,” said Andrew Parkin, executive director at Environics. “At first, we thought maybe Donald Trump would knock these positive trends. Maybe Canadians would catch the vibe of what’s going on in the States and start pulling back. That didn’t happen,” he said. "If these views are not going to get knocked back by politics in the United States or a major health or an economic crisis, they’re probably not going to get knocked back.”
Instead of political unrest and xenophobia in America and Trump’s xenophobic views spilling over the border, Parkin suspects they have had the opposite effect in Canada. “It actually seems to have reinforced our sense of distinctiveness.”
The latest results show for the first time ever that Canadians are more likely than not to reject the idea that immigrants are not adopting Canadian values. At the same time, a large majority of Canadians continue to see immigrants as critical to the Canadian economy and don’t feel they take jobs away from other Canadians. The pandemic, which has so far millions of jobs and left Canadians in precarious financial situations, has not turned residents negative towards newcomers. Nor has the emergence in 2019 of the anti-immigration People’s Party of Canada which has also failed to shift opinions.
Close to one-third of Canadians say that too many refugee claimants are not “real” refugees – sharply down from 79% in 1987.
The shifting attitudes are not found just in heavily populated and diverse cities like Toronto but the research also recorded increasing openness among older residents aligned with conservative political parties and in regions that have faced economic devastation.
Atlantic Canada is often compared to the US rust belt or northern England – rural areas where industry has left, the population is poorer and residents are older.
“In other countries, this all correlates with less openness to immigration. But in Atlantic Canada, they’ve realized that the more immigrants they have, the more businesses that are going to get started there.”