Poll Looks At Feelings On Haitian Immigration

Poll looks at feelings on Haitian immigration

By ELIZABETH THOMPSON, Parliamentary Bureau
The Toronto Sun
Last Updated: 29th January 2010, 5:36pm

OTTAWA—-Canadians of Haitian origin should be allowed to bring extended family members to Canada in the wake of the earthquake that devastated that country, according to a new opinion poll.

However, respondents draw the line when it comes to suspending normal immigration rules to allow thousands of disaster-struck Haitians to flock to Canada.

There seems to be a willingness to bend the rules in this particular case … but they dont want the rules broken, said Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies which commissioned the poll.

The Leger Marketing poll conducted earlier this week and released exclusively to QMI found 55% of respondents believe Canadians of Haitian descent should be allowed to sponsor members of their extended families, including siblings, aunts and uncles, compared to 36% who disagreed.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has maintained that only immediate family such as children and parents can be sponsored.

But while most Haitian-Canadians live in Quebec, Quebecers were the least likely to support extending the definition of family. The poll found 48% in favour compared to 45% against.

The strongest support was in the Maritimes where 68% agreed compared to only 22% who disagreed and British Columbia where it had the support of 63% of respondents and 26% were opposed.

Many Canadians are willing to open their own arms to Haitian orphans. The poll found nearly one in five Canadians would be willing to adopt one of the children left orphaned by the disaster with that rising to one in four respondents who are parents.

However, Canadians dont appear to be ready to throw the doors wide open.

Asked whether Haitians should be exempted from the usual immigration rules to allow 5,000 to enter Canada, 59% of respondents disagreed and only 30% thought it was a good idea.

A second poll conducted by Leger Marketing, this time for QMI Agency, found that on the whole, Canadians are satisfied with the way the government is handling the aftermath of the earthquake and the relief effort.

The poll found that 47% of respondents believe the governments response was quick and significant. Of those who disagreed, 22% said the government should be doing more while 20% said the government had done enough in the past and should focus on domestic issues.

While Ontarians were the most likely to back the governments response (50%) the poll found 31% of Quebecers believe the government should be doing more while 24% of Albertans said enough has already been done in the past.

Both polls of 1,500 respondents were conducted earlier this week and have a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

Can Haiti rebuild?

Many Canadians question whether Haiti will ever be able to rebuild, regardless of the millions of dollars of aid flowing into the country.

Despite the great generosity of Canadians leading the world in the average contribution to that country, the population is divided around the degree to which it feels that Haiti will recover from the tragedy, said Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies which commissioned the poll.

Canadians have donated $104.5 million to Haitian earthquake relief, $85 million of which is eligible for federal government matching.

The Leger Marketing poll found that 44% of respondents believe Haiti will not recover from the tragedy regardless of how much Canada helps, compared to 48% who believe it will recover.

Albertans were the most optimistic while Maritimers were the most pessimistic.

Across the country, 75% said they wanted the federal government to take the lead when it came to relief.

While 67% said Canadian citizens had the right to be evacuated from Haiti regardless of the cost, support varied from a low of 61% in Ontario to a high of 79% in Quebec.

The poll found 68% believe a quick evacuation of Canadian citizens was unrealistic given the circumstances in Haiti.