John Ivison: Will the Canadian consensus on immigration fall victim to Liberal bungling on border-crossers?

Ivison on the Michelle Rempel’s critique of the Liberal government’s immigration policies and approach and their communications challenges.

Federal immigration minister Ahmed Hussen’s announcement last week that Canada will increase its immigration target to 350,000 by 2021 seems designed to flush out the Conservatives.

With Maxime Bernier’s fledgling party promising to cut the number of permanent residents arriving in Canada from the current target of 330,000 next year to around 250,000, there is growing pressure on the Conservatives to follow suit.

The party’s immigration critic, Michelle Rempel, admits it might be the politically expedient thing to do. “If I was taking the easy route, I’d just say ‘Cut immigration’ … But the reality is we have to reform the system. It isn’t working by any metric,” she said in an interview.

Rempel said she is desperate to avoid what she called an “Americanized” debate about immigration levels.

“What Bernier doesn’t understand is that for the people looking at his party, there is only one number that is sufficient — and that’s zero,” she said.

An August survey by the Angus Reid Institute set off alarm bells that the consensus that has characterized Canadian attitudes towards immigration for the past four decades is in danger of shattering.

The poll found that the number of respondents who felt immigration levels should stay the same or be increased, which has registered at over 50 per cent for forty years, had fallen to 37 per cent. Half of those surveyed said they would prefer to see the federal government’s 2018 immigration target of 310,000 new permanent residents be reduced.

Rempel said the consensus is under pressure because the Liberals have bungled aspects of immigration policy like the “irregular” border-crossing file.

“The consensus is not breaking down, but the public is looking at what is happening with the asylum seekers and they don’t think the social contract criteria are being met,” she said. “The debate shouldn’t be about numbers but about the process by which we set those numbers.”

It’s clear that immigration will be one of the key battlegrounds in the 2019 election. The Conservatives would seek to close the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement that allows people to enter Canada illegally from upstate New York, and expedite the removal process of those people whose refugee claims were rejected. Rempel admits there is also pressure coming from within her own caucus to put a number on what immigration levels would be under a Conservative government.

“But I’m not going to treat this like an auction for votes,” she said, noting that on the Syrian refugees issue, her party had pledged to admit 10,000, which persuaded the NDP to raise its commitment to 15,000 and the Liberals to trump them all with a promise to admit 25,000. Yet, as she points out, unemployment rates among Syrian refugees remain stubbornly high more than two years after most arrived.

“It’s irresponsible to set a target without ascertaining how much it will cost to adequately process the huge backlog of asylum seekers,” she said.

Unlike many other centre-right parties, the federal Conservatives have long been pro-immigration. In 2015, levels remained at a historically high rate, with 271,833 new permanent residents landing in Canada.

During the Harper government’s term of office, 2.8 million people arrived as permanent residents in Canada, mainly from countries like the Philippines, India, China and Pakistan.

The mix was heavily weighted towards those chosen for their skills and education levels— in 2015, 63 per cent were economic class migrants, 24 per cent arrived under the family reunification program, and 13 per cent were refugees.

The consensus is based on a broad recognition that Canada’s worker to retiree ratio — 4.2:1 in 2012 — is set to decline precipitously to 2:1 by 2031.

It is widely understood that a decade after they arrive the labour force participation rates for immigrants is comparable to those who were born in Canada. And it is accepted that immigrants and the children of immigrants are generally better educated that the Canadian-born population (almost half have a bachelors degree, compared to one quarter for the latter).

But the complexion of the immigration system is set to change. The mix planned by the Liberals will by 2021 see economic class migrants fall to just 51 per cent of the total of 350,000, with family reunification numbers increasing by more than one third to account for nearly 30 per cent of the total and refugee numbers rising by 44 per cent to reach 19 per cent of the total.

[Note: The levels plan shows that the percentage of economic class immigrants is essentially flat at 57-58 percent, compared to the low 60s during the Conservative government).

The increased number of family members admitted into the country is likely to play well in ridings with large immigrant populations — as it did in the 2015 election.

But irregular migration is not playing well with anybody — particularly not immigrants, who see asylum-seekers as queue-jumpers, nor Quebecers, who are bearing the brunt of the refugee tide.

The government has allocated an extra $440 million to improve processing and settlement programs, and an additional $173 million specifically to manage irregular migration levels. A further $50 million has been given to provinces to pay for temporary housing for “irregular” migrants.

But as Rempel pointed out, throwing money at the problem does not make it go away. “The issue for many people is that they see higher numbers (of illegal migrants) at Roxham Road, and the higher social costs, and say we should reduce numbers,” she said.

Rempel is trying to hold a line that is under pressure from “open borders” policy on the left and “closed borders” policy on the right.

She needs to sharpen her messaging, if she is to succeed in persuading Canadians this is not just a numbers game.

But it is a line worth holding.

The debate over immigration in Canada has not descended into bigotry and resentment because it has worked for four decades. As Stephen Harper noted in his recent book, Right Here, Right Now: “Make immigration legal, secure and, in the main, economically-driven, and it will have high levels of public confidence.”

But public support is on the decline thanks to illegal migration, porous borders and an increase in the proportion of non-economic migrants.

Rempel’s argument is that Trudeau has lost the “social license” to increase immigration levels and only the Conservatives can restore it. Whether that can be done without giving a number on entry levels remains to be seen.

Source: John Ivison: Will the Canadian consensus on immigration fall victim to Liberal bungling on border-crossers?

Immigrants in Canada are turning to faith for settlement, support and sociability

Interesting research and findings on the generational shifts, with appropriate nuance on trends:

Upon arrival in Canada, newcomers often look to spiritual communities for support, whether for help learning a new language, locking down a job or simply to find a social circle as they make their way in a new country.

And, while some new immigrants find spiritual fulfilment in addition to material help from these communities, firmly held religious views — such as the role religion ought to play in public life — tend to sag over subsequent generations, says new research by the Angus Reid Institute, a non-profit opinion research organization, and Cardus, a non-partisan, faith-based think tank.

“I’m not sure Canadians appreciate the story of what faith communities do,” says Ray Pennings, Cardus’s executive vice-president. “They actually play a pretty significant role in our day-to-day life.”

The report says nearly one-half of those born outside of Canada received material support from a faith-based group, while 63 per cent relied on them to form a social network.

“They don’t know anyone, so they go to their church, synagogue, temple or whatever, and that’s where they find people,” says Angus Reid, chairman of the Angus Reid Institute. The survey, Reid says, didn’t differentiate between services from religiously based organizations and those provided directly from congregations.

“You’re going back to the history of settlement in Canada. Churches always, always played a big role,” says Fariborz Birjandian, who heads the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, which provides services ranging from child care and transitional shelter to employment services. He says many agencies, including his, started as specifically faith-based organizations and are now more religiously diverse, serving a wide array of religious and cultural backgrounds.

Ray Pennings is vice president of research for the Work Research Foundation, a think tank dedicated to the study of Canada’s social architecture.

“If you look at it deeply, the faith groups, part of the mandate is to help those (who are) vulnerable,” he says.

Birjandian, a Baha’i refugee from Iran, says he was helped by the Baha’i community when he arrived in Canada. “That’s was actually an amazing place for us to go, because we were accepted when we went to our faith group with no questions,” he says. “You want to be accepted … and definitely a faith group plays a big, big role.”

And, yes, 65 per cent of respondents — the sample included 1,509 adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum, a community of opinion-givers, and 494 members of Ethnic Corner, a research group focusing on ethnic groups and new Canadians — said they found a spiritual home among Canada’s religious communities. The polling includes both refugees and those who immigrated for different reasons.

But the data suggest there is a change in religiosity between generations of immigrants: 20 per cent of those newly arrived, for example, say religion should have a major influence on public life. But among second-generation immigrants, it drops to 14 per cent and, among those the survey calls “third generation+” (those who trace their roots to their grandparents at least – so, most of the rest of us) that percentage drops to just 10 per cent.

Reid says that while “the political implications of all this remain something you can only speculate on,” the belief in the importance of religion in the public sphere could pose a challenge on issues such as abortion or public funding of religious schools.

On other metrics, too, some views fade, such as the importance of a formal welcoming into religious life, such as baptism. 60 per cent of those born outside of Canada say this is very or somewhat important, dropping to 50 per cent for second-generation Canadians and 47 per cent for everyone else.

As for believing in God or a higher power, 65 per cent of immigrants believe this is very or somewhat important for their children, while 57 per cent of the second generation and 51 per cent of the third generation say that’s the case.

Among those surveyed born outside of Canada, 57 per cent said religion has more positive than negative effects on Canada; by the second generation, 54 per cent say it’s a mix of good and bad and just 33 per cent agree with their parents on its positive effects.

Peter Beyer, a University of Ottawa professor who’s researched religion and migration, says these trends aren’t surprising, although he says some research suggests, among certain demographics, trends of declining religiosity among each generation doesn’t always hold true.

Still, he says, “in the history of migration studies … this has been noted again and again: Immigrants do not stay the same.”

Source: Immigrants in Canada are turning to faith for settlement, support and sociability

On First Nations issues, there’s a giant gap between Trudeau’s rhetoric and what Canadians really think: exclusive poll

While the wording of the questions appears to prompt this kind of response, nevertheless of interest:

From the front steps of her home in Brantford, Ont., Linda Johns looks down the street toward the Mohawk Institute, one of Canada’s oldest residential schools, and says she wishes they’d simply “torn the damn thing down.” The building is currently under renovation to “save the evidence,” as the fundraising campaign for repairs puts it.

Linda has visited the grounds as a tourist with her family, years ago, and says it was awful what happened to Indigenous youth there over the decades, “but now that we’re adults, I don’t care to hear about it. What they’re trying to do is blame other people for the problems they have now.”

She says Indigenous Canadians should have unique status in this country, but equally feels that, through our government, we are “almost climbing over ourselves to apologize” for past transgressions. As for federal spending on First Nations issues, Johns accepts that Indigenous people in northern areas need the money, but she says: “Around here, I think they could get off their butts and work.”

Her husband of 38 years disagrees. For starters, he wants the Mohawk Institute restored: it will serve as a reminder to Canadians of what the residential school did to him when he went there. “The food was terrible. You never got enough to eat. When it came for roll call to make sure everyone was still there, it went by number, not by name,” Doug Johns recalls. “It was almost like being in a prison.”

The front steps of the institute—where Doug was forced to relocate at the age of 10, away from his family on the nearby Six Nations of the Grand River; where he saw classmates beaten for speaking their native tongue; which he first ran away from when he was 12, by way of country fields on a winter night to avoid police detection; where an abusive schoolmaster with a riding crop was more than willing to issue Doug lashings to his rear after every failed escape—are about 100 m from his front porch.

Linda says she doesn’t understand why her husband would want a building where he was so poorly treated to still stand. “She’s not Native,” Doug says of his wife. “We don’t see eye to eye on all these issues.”

Neither does the rest of the country. The most comprehensive public opinion survey on Indigenous issues since the Trudeau Liberals took office has uncovered deep fractures over key questions facing First Nations and the rest of Canada, suggesting the current government’s promises of reconciliation may be as hard to deliver as ever. The findings of the nationwide survey from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute point to divergent yet entrenched attitudes on both symbolic and existential questions.

Fully 53 per cent surveyed said the country spends too much time apologizing for residential schools and it’s time to move on (compared to 47 per cent who believe harm done by the schools continues and cannot be ignored); more than half of respondents said Indigenous people should have no special status that other Canadians don’t; the same proportion said Indigenous peoples would be better off if they integrated more into broader Canadian society, even if the cost is losing more of their traditions and culture. Such ideas are, to put it mildly, anathema to the future many First Nations people—and the politicians who advocate on their behalf—envisage.

The wide-ranging survey, provided exclusively to Maclean’s, polled nearly 2,500 Canadians, and deliberately oversampled in regions with high Indigenous populations, only to uncover solitudes that the Johns household neatly encapsulates: sympathetic yet resolved; divided yet finding ways to co-exist. “This country is split down the middle on many of these questions,” says pollster Angus Reid in an interview. “It tells me the perspective of Justin Trudeau and [Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs] Carolyn Bennett on some of these issues is certainly not shared by a lot of Canadians.”

Sheryl Lightfoot isn’t surprised to see a divided public opinion at this point regarding Indigenous issues. “Given the heightened attention to them since 2015, with the shift in government to the Liberals, I could see it enhancing that polarization because people will view it—depending on their perspectives—as either too much or too little,” says Lightfoot, who holds a Canada Research Chair in global Indigenous rights and politics at the University of British Columbia. “What we’ve got is a country that’s woefully uneducated on Indigenous history and issues. Or they are living it every day and are close to it. There isn’t a lot in the middle.”

A lack of contact, familiarity and exposure defines Canadian relations with First Nations issues in many ways—most importantly by relegating them to the bottom of the political agenda. For decades, politicians have shied away from debating Indigenous matters regarding public policy, says Ken Coates, senior fellow in Aboriginal and northern Canadian issues at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. “There’s been an implicit assumption in the Canadian political process for decades that if you had parties say we should do more [for Indigenous people], you’re not going to win many votes, so stay away from it.”

As such, the Trudeau government deserves credit for “moving ahead with something they feel is important,” Coates adds. But the fact that fully a third of Canadians polled feel Trudeau gives too much attention to Indigenous issues, compared to 17 per cent who feel he gives too little, highlights a gap in how the country prioritizes this relationship. (The rest are divided, saying either Trudeau gives them the right amount of attention, or they’re unsure.) “So long as you have a public that doesn’t believe Indigenous issues are a big deal, or doesn’t understand their context, then those issues are going to persist,” says Tunchai Redvers, co-founder of We Matter, a national support campaign for Indigenous youth. “Look at the Colten Boushie case.”When a Saskatchewan jury acquitted farmer Gerald Stanley for the 2016 shooting death of Red Pheasant First Nation resident Colten Boushie, the Prime Minister said, “There are systemic issues in our criminal justice system that we must address.” Trudeau’s words of support for the family of the deceased 22-year-old drew support from advocates, but scorn from others who felt he’d undermined the court’s authority and independence. In what has become a common avenue to express public support, a GoFundMe page set up for the Stanley family “to recoup some of their lost time, property and vehicles that were damaged, harvest income, and sanity” garnered more than $220,000 in donations in three months—surpassing the $200,000 in GoFundMe donations for Boushie’s family over a nine-month span.

The Boushie case points to one of the survey’s most puzzling findings: that non-Indigenous Canadians with regular exposure to reserves were more likely to take a rigid stance on Indigenous issues.

The institute found that Canadians are divided into four groups of roughly the same size on most questions: those who advocate for First Nations self-determination; those sympathetic to Indigenous people; those wary of Indigenous people asserting their priorities; and full-on hardliners who oppose special status and accommodation. “Western Canadians tend to be more hardliners,” Reid says. “Quebec has very liberal attitudes, but it’s also where we have the least likelihood of contact.”

Hardliners—a group that encompasses nearly a quarter of the sample—unanimously said Canada spends too much time apologizing for residential schools, and almost unanimously felt Indigenous Canadians should have no special status, while 85 per cent of them said Indigenous people would be better off if they integrated into broader Canadian society. “The hardliners are not racist, but they don’t buy the idea of separate status,” Reid says. “I think what the hardliners are saying is they don’t think the answer to the issues confronting Indigenous communities is going to come through more spending, but it’s going to come through improved leadership in Indigenous communities and through a heavier emphasis on integration.”

If there’s one thing respondents to the Angus Reid Institute survey agreed on, it’s that tax dollars meant to help First Nations people are generally failing to do so. Two out of three said government funds going toward Indigenous issues are generally ineffective—and a new report from the auditor general’s office will hardly quell that pessimism. Among other things, it found that data on high school graduation rates on reserves left out students who dropped out prior to Grade 12, meaning the department overstated the graduation rate by 22 percentage points.

Similarly, Employment and Social Development Canada—despite 30 years of supporting Indigenous employment—didn’t collect data or measure whether its key skills development fund resulted in Indigenous people getting steady meaningful work. Back at Six Nations, Doug Johns credits Trudeau with good intentions, but asks, “How many terms will he get to serve before he gets any of that accomplished? It would take two or three terms to see anything really done.”

Canadians might not have that kind of patience. Indeed, the survey results raise the question of whether a politician might succeed by taking a hardline stance on Indigenous issues. No mainstream leader is running on an explicitly integrationist platform, or argues the government should stop apologizing for residential schools. But Sen. Lynn Beyak published on her website letters of support from Canadians on these exact issues after she commented about the positive outcomes of residential schools. Her actions prompted Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to call some of the letters “simply racist” and booted Beyak from caucus for refusing to remove them. But other letters voiced opinions that, while taboo, have a discernible market.

As it stands, only a third of Canadians believe Indigenous communities should move toward greater independence and control over their own affairs, according to the survey, compared to two-thirds who feel First Nations communities should be governed by the same rules and systems as all Canadians. Kim Baird, former chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation in B.C., wonders whether Canada has attained a critical mass of people who grasp basic truths about residential schools and the foundation of the country. “There needs to be more knowledge about the systemic reasons why reserves don’t look like other places, why they’re trapped in poverty, why there’s a lack of resources and infrastructure. It’s such a complex story to unpack. I think the residential school story is a good starting point.”

The Mohawk Institute, alas, will remain closed for a while, though visitors can take a virtual tour of the grounds. Before the work began, Doug Johns took his own kids through the school’s deserted corridors. He showed them where he ate, where he slept and the visitors’ room, where he got the whip for his attempted escapes.

He recalls new students getting beaten for not speaking English; because of the language barrier, they couldn’t understand why they were being punished. He remembers it being a “terrible place,” with fights often erupting on the grounds. “The whole idea of residential schools was to kill the Indian and save the child,” he says. “A lot of non-Native people aren’t aware of that, so I want them to restore the institute so people can see it.”

Source: On First Nations issues, there’s a giant gap between Trudeau’s rhetoric and what Canadians really think: exclusive poll

Kurl: Canadians are now confronting how generous we really are

While overall support for immigration remains high, and Canadians believe in the economic benefits of immigration, valid to ask how these macro numbers will continue to hold up should the asylum seeker numbers continue to grow and the government measures, current and likely those under consideration, do not result in a decline:

This is soon to be our summer of our discontent, disagreement and discomfort, as Canadians watch increasing numbers of people claiming asylum try their luck at undesignated border crossings

Discontent over Justin Trudeau’s government’s handling of the file. Disagreement over how it should be handled, and discomfort over the realization that despite the often-proffered narrative of Canada’s endless, unconditional welcome of newcomers, we’re wary to say the least, about this phenomenon.

As they try to escape the ever fear and uncertainty of Donald Trump’s ever-tightening restrictions on immigration, and spurred on by that now infamous prime ministerial tweet, they do so by circumventing Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), which denies entry to those who have already claimed or obtained status in the United States, by crossing into Canada not at airports or other, staffed border crossings, but anywhere they can, along thousands of kilometers of unmonitored perimeter.

Who doesn’t remember the iconic photograph early last year, of a smiling Mountie lifting a little girl in a pink coat over the U.S.-Canada border near Hemmingford, Que? What came to national attention as something of a curiosity – and for many a representation of the “best of Canada” – has since given way to pointed questions about how officials plan to deal with the tens of thousands and counting who are seeking to make a home on this side of the 49th parallel.

When the issue again dominated headlines last fall, slightly more than half of Canadians (53 per cent) said the country has been “too generous” to the border crossers, more than eight times as many as those who said Canada hasn’t been “generous enough” (six per cent). Politics drives those opinions: past Conservative voters are overwhelmingly more likely to say this, although it should be noted that at least 40 per cent of 2015 Liberals and yes, even past New Democrat voters agree.

As to where they wanted government focusing its attention, seven-in-10 said they’d prioritize assigning more staff to monitoring and securing unguarded parts of the border. The rest (30 per cent) said they’d prioritize assisting those seeking asylum.

Little wonder then, that at the time, the majority (57 per cent) disapproved of the Liberal government’s handling of the situation, including one-third of his own party’s past voters.

Even less wonder, for reasons practical and political, the government which last year rejected calls to suspend the STCA, is now calling on the U.S. to agree to amendments that would have it apply to the entire length of the border.

How did we get here? Didn’t Trudeau proclaim that “diversity is our strength?” Wasn’t the popularity of his stance on accepting 25,000 Syrian refugees part of what convinced centre and centre-left voters to spur the Liberals to a majority?

The thing is, feel-good rhetoric is easier to accept when a complex issue isn’t staring you right in the eyeballs. Before this, incidents of irregular asylum seekers suddenly reaching our borders were largely limited to a handful of boats that managed an arduous ocean journey; Indian nationals arriving off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador in the ’80s. Migrants from Fujian arriving in the late ’90s. Sri Lankans who made a similar trip about 10 years later.

Not until now have we had to answer uncomfortable questions about how welcoming we really are. The vast majority of people in this country (79 per cent) have said our immigration and refugee policy should give primacy to national economic and workforce needs over those in crisis abroad (21 per cent).

Given the more than 150,000 economic class immigrants who came from every corner of the world in 2016, diversity is indeed our strength. What Canadians perceive as a government weakness, however, is equating diversity with an open invitation followed by an ill-prepared response, to unchecked migration as Canada confronts its own mini-Greece moment.

via Kurl: Canadians are now confronting how generous we really are | Ottawa Citizen

Funding religious schools: the majority of Canadians say at least some public dollars should be provided – Angus Reid

Suspect support would vary if questions were posed with respect to different religions as the 2007 Ontario election showed given concern in particular over Muslim schools:

Should religiously affiliated schools receive taxpayer dollars? And if so, what amount, and under what circumstances?

This ongoing debate in Canadian education – one complicated by the historical position of Catholic schools as a key provider of publicly funded education in many provinces – has been revived most recently in Saskatchewan, where legal challenges are underway to a court ruling that the provincial government cannot fund non-Catholic students’ attendance at the province’s Catholic schools.

Recent polling from the Angus Reid Institute – part of a year-long partnership with Faith in Canada 150 – finds Canadians more amenable than not to this particular intersection of church and state.

Asked a broad question about public funding of private, faith-based schools, six-in-ten Canadians (61%) say such institutions should either receive support equal to that enjoyed by public schools (31%), or at least some amount of government funding (30%).

More Key Findings:religious school funding canada

  • Those favouring partial funding were asked a follow-up question about roughly how much money religious schools should receive. More than half (51%) in this group say funds should be less than 50 per cent of what public schools get
  • Younger respondents – those ages 18-34 – are more likely than their elders to say public funds should be appropriated to religious schools (38% favour full funding, and 35% prefer partial)
  • Residents of the three provinces where separate, publicly funded Catholic school boards still operate – Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario – are more likely to support full funding than people in other parts of the country

How much funding should religious and faith-based schools receive?

As mentioned, six-in-ten Canadians (61%) say faith-based education should receive government funding, though they disagree about how much money religious schools should receive in comparison to the public system. Three-in-ten (31%) say faith-based education should receive government funding on par with public schools. Another three-in-ten (30%) say religious schools should get only partial funding, while the plurality (39%) say they should receive no public money at all.

Respondents who said religious schools should receive partial funding were asked how much money they would allocate to such institutions, relative to public school funding. Slightly more than half (51%) said they would provide less than 50 per cent of the amount public schools receive to religious schools, while one-in-five (20%) said they would provide more than 50 per cent of what public schools receive. The rest (29%) were unsure.

Taken together with those who would provide full funding or no funding at all, the group that would provide partial funding can be broken down as seen in the following graph.

religious school funding canada

Notable differences by region, age, and gender

Three provinces – Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario – currently provide separate streams of public funding for Catholic schools. These separate schools have their own publicly funded school boards, and have historically educated Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Given the prominent ongoing role of publicly funded religious schools in these three provinces, it’s perhaps not surprising that the three are the only regions above the national average in terms of the number of residents supporting full funding for religious education.

It’s worth noting, of course, that in no region of the country does a majority of the population reject all public funding for faith-based schools. Quebec – where the religious neutrality of the state is a recurring and salient political issue – comes closest, as seen in the following table:

Age and gender are also key drivers of opinion on this question, with men more likely to say religious schools should receive “no funding at all” and women more divided, as seen in the graph that follows.

Looking at responses by age, it becomes clear that those closest to their own school days view public spending on religious education most favourably. A plurality (38%) of those ages 18 – 34 say religious schools should receive full funding, while among older age groups “no funding at all” is the plurality choice:

religious school funding canada

One demographic characteristic that – perhaps surprisingly – doesn’t have much impact on responses to this question is whether a person has children living in their household or not.

Parents and guardians are only marginally more likely to favour full funding (33% do, compared to 30% of those without kids in their households – a difference that is not statistically significant). Likewise, people with children are no more or less likely to favour partial funding, nor are they more or less inclined to say this partial funding should be above 50 per cent. See summary tables at the end of this report for greater detail.

Via: http://angusreid.org/funding-religious-schools-majority-canadians-say-least-public-dollars-provided/

Religion, multiculturalism and the public square: Shachi Kurl, Angus Reid

See the article for the charts:

The inclusion of “God” in the preamble to Canada’s 1982 Constitution Act was a last-minute addition by Pierre Trudeau.

Thirty-three years later, as his son Justin presided over the swearing in of a new Liberal cabinet, over half of its members chose to drop the words “so help me God” from their oath of office. In a little more than a generation, the religious beliefs that were once the central tenets of Canadian society have been swept aside, as the courts and Parliament moved to assert a person’s individual liberty over their body, their identity and their relationships, from birth to death. And Canadian public opinion — sometimes leading, at other times following — has marched largely kept pace with this transformation.

The era when churches and religious leaders held sway over public policy in Canada has come to an end. There are important pockets of religious opposition to abortion, assisted dying and gender neutralization, but in the final analysis secularism seems to have won the day.

Religion and religious influence declined in Canada after the Second World War. (In Quebec during the 1960s the process accelerated, and the province moved from being the most to the least churched society in the modern world.) In the 1980s, not long after Pierre Trudeau wrote the word “God” into the constitutional preamble, regular church attendance in Canada was at around 40 percent. When Justin Trudeau formed his first cabinet in 2015, regular attendance had decreased to around half that….

With this decline in influence, the era of religious dominance in the public square has come to an end. But this is not the end of the story. The role of religion in setting public policy has been replaced by a new issue: religion itself as a topic for public policy.

The highest-profile example is the controversy over the clothing worn by some Muslim women. In Quebec — once more at the centre of a religion-versus-state tangle — Bill 62 would require citizens to show their faces when receiving public services. Squarely aimed at niqabs and burkas, this legislation is wildly popular in Quebec but less so in the rest of Canada, where such moves have failed to garner majority support…

The niqab/burka issue is part of a larger drama playing out in Canada concerning rising levels of religious diversity, how Canada should adapt to this multifaith reality and the importance Canadians place on religious freedom guarantees enshrined in the Constitution.

The current debate over religious freedom isn’t limited to the Muslim religion. Indeed, major issues of religious freedom that have recently been before the courts involve Christian organizations attempting to assert their rights: for example, in British Columbia, Trinity Western University’s policies that impose moral standards on their students; in Ontario, the fight with the College of Physicians and Surgeons over exempting health care workers from activities related to abortion or assisted dying; and in Quebec, Loyola College’s demand to be able to set its own religious instruction curriculum, independent of the one established by provincial education authorities.

Beyond the legal aspects, the fate of religion in Canada ultimately depends on public attitudes. On this, the results of surveys by the Angus Reid Institute in 2017 reveal there is cause for concern among religious communities and faith groups. The most startling finding is the relatively tepid support for the very concept of religious freedom. Asked whether the inclusion of religious freedom in the Constitution makes Canada a better or worse country, only slightly more than half (55 percent) of 1,500 respondents in an October 2017 poll said “better.” A sizable minority — roughly 1 in 7 — said “worse”….

These findings, which reflect deep division in Canada over the country’s increasing religious diversity, follow decades of immigration from non-Christian countries. Canada may prize its multiculturalism, but when it comes to the religious roots of this diversity, Canadians are divided.

When asked if religious diversity in Canada is good or bad, 26 percent said “good” and 23 percent “bad,” and the rest were unsure or felt the impact is “mixed.” (Not surprisingly, Quebec is the outlier on this question, with those who said “bad” outnumbering those who said “good” by nearly 2 to 1.) This finding is supported by another from our polling, which asks Canadians if they think the country does too much to accommodate different religious and faith groups… Here we find opinions massively on the side of doing too much (53 percent think the country does too much to accommodate religion, only 9 percent say it doesn’t do enough, and the rest think it strikes the right balance).

The lack of deep support for religious freedom and religious diversity suggests that faith communities could come under increased scrutiny in the future, especially if political leaders sense an advantage in limiting the special status enjoyed by these organizations in taxation, education and health care.

On taxation, recent polling shows Canadians divided — 55 percent in favour and 45 percent against — on special tax status for religious organizations; in Quebec, the percentages are reversed…. The same pattern is evident on opinions about religious schools and about regulations that would curtail the right of faith-affiliated hospitals to opt out of assisted dying.

Starting with the election of Stephen Harper, and continuing into Justin Trudeau’s government, there has been an increasingly politicized debate over religion. Although Harper appointed a special ambassador for religious freedom, he also voted against a motion proposed by members of his own caucus to set up a parliamentary committee to study when life begins. Trudeau, in contrast, did not hesitate to ban pro-life candidates from running for the Liberal Party. When the Governor General he appointed used her maiden speech to disparage those who believe in “divine intervention,” he was quick to jump to her defence.

It’s still early days in this political chapter, where leaders are seeking to change public expression and institutional arrangements associated with religious belief. Ironically, the diversity that is at the heart of this emerging debate may impose the greatest limits on those who would seek to limit religious expression: Canadian immigration policies favour vibrant Islamic, Sikh, Hindu and Christian communities.

The late Richard Neuhaus, one of the 20th century’s great activists and thought leaders on matters of religion and the public square, was born a few miles down the Ottawa River from Canada’s parliament. He understood better than most that politics is a function of culture, and culture is ultimately a function of religion. Canada, which so proudly celebrates its multiculturalism, is witnessing a growing debate over religious diversity that eventually will have far-reaching political consequences. How the debate evolves depends on whether the different religions and traditions can cooperate and have sufficient impact in the political sphere to withstand the forces of secularism that are driving large elements of public policy in Canada.

via Religion, multiculturalism and the public square

A quarter of Canadians think religious diversity is a bad thing

Not much new here:

Canadians are divided over whether religious diversity is healthy for the country, but they consider Islam in particular to be a negative force, a new poll has found.

In the survey, conducted the same week Quebec adopted a law prohibiting niqab-wearing women from receiving government services, 26 per cent of respondents said increasing religious diversity is a good thing while 23 per cent said it is bad. Nearly half — 44 per cent — said diversity brings a mix of good and bad; the remaining seven per cent were unsure.

When the pollsters sought respondents’ views on particular religious groups, anti-Islam sentiment stood out. Forty-six per cent of the people polled said Islam is damaging Canada compared with 13 per cent who said it is beneficial. The others either did not know (20 per cent) or said it has no real impact (21 per cent.)

The Angus Reid Institute, which conducted the poll in partnership with Faith in Canada 150, said the results are in keeping with “a well documented pattern” in recent years. “Namely, if Islam is involved, a significant segment of Canadians will react negatively,” the institute said in its analysis of the numbers.

The only other religion with an overall negative score was Sikhism, with 22 per cent calling it damaging and 13 per cent beneficial. Catholicism, Protestantism, evangelical Christianity and Judaism all had overall positive ratings.

Angus Reid, the founder and president of the institute, said he found it disheartening that Canadians are not more committed to the freedom of religion enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A slight majority — 55 per cent — of respondents said freedom of religion makes Canada a better country, while 14 per cent said the freedom makes Canada worse and 21 per cent it has no impact.

“I think the low number of Canadians who celebrate the fact that we have religious freedom is very troubling and really speaks to the forces of secularization that are at work in Canadian society,” Reid said in an interview.

He sees in the results a “potential for intolerance” toward the faithful, especially adherents of minority religions. Asked whether various groups’ influence was growing or shrinking in Canada, respondents identified Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism as growing. Canada’s more established religious groups were all seen to have a shrinking influence.

The poll is part of Faith in Canada 150, a multi-faith initiative of the think tank Cardus to highlight the role religion has played historically and continues to play in Canada.

I don’t think the people answering this poll are answering from the consequence of day-to-day experience. I think what we’re talking about is a public narrative

Ray Pennings, executive vice-president of Cardus, noted that roughly three per cent of Canadians are Muslim and less than two per cent are Sikh, so the chances of a poll respondent having a Muslim or Sikh neighbor are slim.

“I don’t think the people answering this poll are answering from the consequence of day-to-day experience. I think what we’re talking about is a public narrative,” he said.

He said it is telling that the two groups seen negatively are also those with visible religious symbols such as the hijab and turban. “Is it a discomfort with the particulars of their faith? Or is it a discomfort with the fact that they’re different than us?”

The poll asked about cases where religious practice intersects with the public sphere. There was solid opposition to the niqab — a garment worn by some Muslim women that covers the entire face except the eyes. Forty-nine per cent of respondents said a woman in a niqab should be prohibited from visiting a government office and 29 per cent said she should be discouraged but tolerated. Twenty-two per cent said the woman should be welcomed.

There was greater tolerance for the idea of opening a council meeting with a non-denominational prayer to God — just 25 per cent said the practice should be prohibited. Opinion was divided on whether organized religions should continue to receive special tax consideration, with 55 per cent saying yes and 45 per cent saying no.

The same split — 55 per cent yes and 45 per cent no — emerged on the question of whether a religiously affiliated nursing home should be able to refuse the practice of physician-assisted death.

via A quarter of Canadians think religious diversity is a bad thing | National Post

ICYMI – Ray Pennings: Don’t overlook the contribution faith has made to Canada’s first 150 years | National Post

More polling data from Angus Reid/Faith in Canada 150:

Beer, beavers, and ketchup chips may be convenient replies to the perennial question “What is Canadian?” but answering with substance takes more than a word. When it comes to Canadian perceptions of the role of faith and faith institutions, new polling conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, in partnership with Faith in Canada 150, exposes unarticulated Canadian values that contradict the one-word answers most might expect on the subject.

Ask Canadians about their own religious perspectives, and 21 per cent fit into the “religiously committed” category with 19 per cent on the “non-believer” end of the spectrum. The majority is somewhere in the mushy middle. When it comes to the most obvious expressions of religion in a local community — physical buildings such as churches, temples, mosques, or synagogues — the response seems to be shrugged shoulders. Sure, 36 per cent see these buildings enhancing the aesthetic of the community (compared to 9 per cent suggesting they detract) but the majority suggests their impact is neutral.

A different story emerges, however, when Canadians are asked about more specific expressions of faith in their neighbourhood. For example, when it comes to the delivery of healthcare, whether through hospitals, homes for the elderly, health clinics or programs for individuals with special needs, between one-third and one-half of Canadians see a positive connection with religious faith compared to less than 10 per cent who see a negative one. Similarly, when it comes to caring for the marginalized and homeless, providing relief in disaster situations, or assisting in the settlement of refugees and immigrants, the proportion of those who express appreciation of faith’s role is anywhere between 31 and 50 per cent higher than those who are skeptical of it. Even non-believers generally affirm these contributions, although they are the most likely to admit ignorance of them in their communities.

As with any poll, there is nuance. It would be misleading to ignore that on most questions approximately one-quarter of the population sees the role of faith communities in Canada as “a mix of good and bad.” Certainly, the interactions of faith communities with Indigenous peoples are widely perceived to be a black mark on the Canadian faith story. At the same time, the most religious respondents are also the most likely (84 per cent) to believe in the importance of reconciliation.

Consistent with the findings of April’s poll conducted by Angus Reid Institute, Canadians seem to respond more negatively when asked about religious institutions or religion in general. However, when it comes to the specifics, their attitudes and behaviours tell a different story. They recognize that faith communities have been an important part of delivering the Canadian social safety net historically, and continue to play that role today. There is a minority negative perspective, dominated by younger males who profess no faith and express hostility to religion. But for more than two-thirds of Canadians who are quite certain that God or a higher power exists, it is clear that faith communities are doing either “very good” or “more good than bad” in their neighbourhoods.

Source: Ray Pennings: Don’t overlook the contribution faith has made to Canada’s first 150 years | National Post

Altruism vs. self-fulfillment: Faithful in Canada are more caring, but compassion has its limits, poll finds | Angus Reid / Cardus poll

Interesting survey in the secondary questions on attitudes and beliefs:

The larger the role faith plays in the lives of Canadians, the more likely they are to say they value altruism over self-fulfillment, a new poll has found.

Religion and politics, it is often said, don’t mix. Just because it’s said doesn’t mean it’s true — and in Canada, it’s not true.

Freshly released poll numbers collected by the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) and Faith in Canada 150, in collaboration with think tank Cardus, suggest faith and religious belief do indeed play a hefty role in our views on politics and the world.

The survey, conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with Faith in Canada 150, is part of a year-long project gauging Canadians’ beliefs and religious practices. It grouped respondents into four categories ranging from non-believers to religiously committed who attend places of worship regularly.

“Caring for others versus personal fulfillment, those are two very different value constructs,” Angus Reid, the institute’s founder and chairman, said in an interview. “And the relationship between them and religiosity is really significant.”

Asked to choose between two approaches as “the best way to live life,” 53 per cent of respondents picked “achieving our own dreams and happiness” over “being concerned about helping others.”

But when the results were broken down along the spectrum of religiosity, 67 per cent of the religiously committed favoured helping others. For non-believers, 65 per cent chose the pursuit of happiness.

 

The question revealed significant differences across Canadian regions. Quebec had the highest proportion of respondents across the country opting for self-fulfillment, at 65 per cent. Alberta was second at 54 per cent and British Columbia next at 53 per cent. In all other parts of the country, a majority of respondents picked helping others, with Saskatchewan the most altruistic at 59 per cent.

“What this survey proves is that having a faith, being part of a faith community, seems to propel people in the direction of developing higher levels of compassion or caring,” Reid said.

 

But that compassion has its limits. The 2,006 Canadian adults surveyed were asked a series of moral questions. The responses showed that the two groups on the religious end of the spectrum – the religiously committed and privately faithful – were together the most likely to say:

  • Canada should accept fewer immigrants and refugees;
  • They would be uncomfortable if a child planned to marry someone from a different cultural or religious background;
  • There should not be greater social acceptance of people who are LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer);
  • Preserving life is more important than people’s freedom to choose on issues like abortion and doctor-assisted death.

In another question, the poll asked which statement corresponded most closely to respondents’ personal views:

  • People are fundamentally sinners and in need of salvation; or
  • People are essentially good and sin has been invented to control people.

Two-thirds of those polled sided with the essential goodness of people. But among the religiously committed – who made up about one-fifth of the survey group – 73 per cent said people are fundamentally sinners.

 

Another set of questions sought to gauge positions on moral relativism – whether the concept of right and wrong is absolute or can change depending on the situation. A large majority, 68 per cent, said what is right or wrong “depends on the circumstances.” But nearly the same proportion, 66 per cent, rejected the notion that “answers to moral questions will be different for different cultures.” At 74 per cent, the religiously committed were the most likely to say universal rights and wrongs apply to the whole human race.

Ray Pennings, executive vice-president of Christian think tank Cardus, welcomed the poll’s finding that a majority of Canadians say their faith is important to their personal identity (54 per cent) and their day-to-day lives (55 per cent.)

 

“On the one hand, in contrast to the prevalent public narrative that religion is private and it doesn’t matter, it’s quite clear that for the vast majority of Canadians, it does.  Over half say, ‘Religion is actually shaping my identity and my decisions,’ ” Pennings said.

“On the other hand, that engagement is a relatively thin engagement.”

Source: Altruism vs. self-fulfillment: Faithful in Canada are more caring, but compassion has its limits, poll finds | National Post

Canadians may be vacating the pews but they are keeping the faith: poll

Interesting poll that gives some sense of “religiosity,” in terms of beliefs, compared to general religious affiliation:

Beneath Canadians’ widespread abandonment of places of worship and their negative view of even the word “religion,” a new poll has found a solid core of faith that continues to shape the country.

The survey, conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with Faith in Canada 150, grouped respondents into four categories according to their answers on a range of questions gauging their beliefs and religious practices.

“We have a society that has a secular government and there is a general assumption of faith being very private,” said Ray Pennings, executive vice-president of think tank Cardus. “On the other hand, when you actually take a look at everyday society, the majority of people are people of faith to one degree or another, and faith informs and influences many of the ways we deal with each other on a day-to-day basis.”

Mike Faille/National Post//Angus Reid

Mike Faille/National Post//Angus Reid

The poll classifies 21 per cent of Canadians as religiously committed, meaning they hold a strong belief in God or a higher power and regularly attend religious services. At the other end of the spectrum, 19 per cent of Canadians are pure non-believers.

It is the swath in between, equally divided between what the pollster terms “privately faithful” and “spiritually uncertain,” that offers the greatest insight into Canadians’ evolving beliefs and practices.

The privately faithful, 30 per cent of respondents, “are people who actually believe in God, believe in heaven, believe in an afterlife,” said Angus Reid, the institute’s founder and chairman. “They have largely not been involved in organized religion. They will go to funerals and weddings and that sort of thing, but their faith is largely a private matter, and it’s really driven by their prayer. They pray on a regular basis.”

Mike Faille/National Post//Angus Reid

Mike Faille/National Post//Angus Reid

The spiritually uncertain, also representing 30 per cent, “seem to be a bit confused about where they want to be,” Reid said. “On some issues they kind of side with the non-believers, but they haven’t given up totally on everything.

“They continue to believe that there’s a God, but they’re uncertain about the role of God.”

The poll is part of a multi-faith effort initiated by Cardus called Faith in Canada 150, which aims to highlight the role religion has played historically and continues to play in Canada. The initiative, which has a budget of roughly $1-million, was denied federal funding as part of official 150th anniversary celebrations.

Source: Canadians may be vacating the pews but they are keeping the faith: poll | National Post

And the accompanying op-ed by Ray Pennings of Cardus:

Despite this religious openness, the same polling indicates a significant disconnect between the perception and reality of faith’s role in today’s Canada.

Simply put, religion has an image problem in Canada. In fact, the word “religion” is more likely to be seen negatively than positively, according to this new poll. Moreover, just over half of Canadians say they disagree with the claim that religion’s overall impact on the world is positive.

About half of Canadians polled say they’re uncomfortable around those who are religiously devout. Throw in terms like born-again, theology and evangelism, and just 15 per cent of respondents associate those words with a positive meaning.

But how well do Canadians actually understand the role faith plays in everyday life? Asked what’s most important in life, the 21 per cent of Canadians who are religiously committed are most likely to prioritize family life, honesty and concern for others.

Conversely, concern for others was a lower priority for non-believers. Instead, they are more likely to select a comfortable life, self-reliance and good times with friends as important. Not to put too fine a point on it, but those who are most likely to pray to God, attend religious services regularly and read the Bible or another sacred text seem most oriented toward others and their welfare.

What about Canadians’ emotional lives? The religiously committed are the happiest amongst us. Fully 47 per cent of them say they’re very happy or extremely happy overall, compared with 35 per cent of non-believers. They also report the highest levels of happiness among friends and in their communities. None of that is terribly surprising. If anything, it simply confirms what other research has shown. It makes sense, then, that the religiously committed are also more likely to be “very optimistic” about the future.

When it comes to community engagement and charitable giving, once again it’s the religiously committed who report the strongest involvement. Slightly more than half of non-believers say they are uninvolved in community groups or activities. That percentage drops to 17 per cent of the religiously committed. In fact, 41 per cent of the religiously committed have at least some involvement in their community, with another 42 per cent reporting heavy involvement.

Almost a third of the religiously committed say they regularly volunteer compared with 13 per cent of non-believers. Dare we ask about charitable giving?  Only 12 per cent of non-believers say they try to donate to whatever charities they can. That jumps to 43 per cent among the religiously committed. These are not selfish people.

The numbers present a clear picture: Religiously committed Canadians tend to be the most concerned about others, the happiest and most generous. So, why do Canadians have a negative view of religion? Arguably, the story of faith in Canada is not being well told. The narrative around faith is often negative. Religion is frequently presented as something that divides rather than unites people within communities.

That is part of the reason why Faith in Canada 150 exists, to showcase the role of faith in making Canada the country that it is. That legacy is a story worth telling.

Source: It is time to change the narrative around religion in Canada