Canadians Cool To Immigration, Poll Suggests

Canadians cool to immigration, poll suggests

Globe and Mail Update

Canada's immigration policy took a big hit in public confidence in the wake of 17 arrests in southern Ontario earlier this month, a new poll suggests.

Even though all of those arrested on suspicion of terrorist activity were Canadian residents and most of them were born in Canada the new poll commissioned by the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) and conducted by Lger Marketing found that for the first time more people are dissatisfied with Canada's immigration policy than support it.

While those polled showed substantial support for Canadian security procedures and multicultural policies, they seemed to be cooling to the country's immigration policy.

While the margin is slight 33 per cent saying they were dissatisfied with Canada's immigration policy compared with 29 per cent that were satisfied what becomes more significant is the decrease in positive attitudes from previous research, said Jack Jedwab, executive director of the ACS.

My findings in the past have been that attitudes toward immigration have been quite positive, Mr. Jedwab said, citing a recent Gallop International poll taken before the arrests that found 58 per cent of Canadians were satisfied with the level of immigration in the country.

It's unusual in Canada for more people to express dissatisfaction than satisfaction with respect to immigration policy.

Mr. Jedwab also noted that, paradoxically, Ontario, where the arrests were actually made and the alleged threats were posed, was the only province in which more people were satisfied with the current immigration policy than were dissatisfied (32 per cent satisfied, 28 per cent dissatisfied).

The arrest appear to have had a bigger impact in Alberta and B.C., Mr. Jedwab said. Noting that Ontario is still the most multicultural province in the country, he added: I suspect a fair bit of that multicultural population still feels satisfied with immigration policy.

British Columbians showed the highest level of dissatisfaction at 44 per cent, compared with 26 per cent satisfied. Thirty-seven per cent of Albertans were dissatisfied, compared to 28 per cent who were.

Seventeen men and youths were arrested earlier this month and charged with several terrorism-related offences while allegedly attempting to buy three tonnes of fertilizer that authorities allege was to be used to bomb several locations in southern Ontario.

What surprised Mr. Jebwab, he said, was the attitude Canadians carried about multiculturalism, particularly with all the attention and criticism that was given to it in the aftermath of those arrests.

I was pleasantly surprised with respect to the results on multicultural policy, he said. [The arrests] did not have anywhere near the impact that one might have assumed on the basis of all the criticism we heard to the policy.

More than twice as many people polled said they were satisfied (43 per cent) with Canada's multicultural policy than were dissatisfied (18 per cent).

It's interesting the way Canadians seem to be disconnecting to a certain degree multicultural policy from immigration, he said. But they are making that distinction.

Roughly the same level of satisfaction came with Canadians attitude toward security 47 per cent saying they were satisfied with the level of security in the country, compared with 21 per cent who were not.

The poll was conducted on 1,502 people over the age of 18 across Canada between June 13 and 18.