Adams and Parkin: Canadians aren’t just adapting to diversity – there’s data to show we’re embracing it

Of note, the general consensus with relatively few exceptions (CPC views on CBC and official bilingualism, Quebec differences):

This past year offered Canadians plenty of reasons to question their national identity. The angry occupation of Ottawa last winter, on the edge of Parliament Hill, clashed with our stereotype of Canadians as polite compromisers. Day-long emergency room wait times quashed any urge we might once have had to brag to Americans about our public health care system. Provincial governments started behavinglike our beloved Charter of Rights and Freedoms was merely a suggestion, not a set of binding rules. Even the death of Queen Elizabeth II had a disruptive effect, as some of us balked at swearing allegiance to a new heir.

Other signs of change came from the steady stream of new census numbers published over the course of 2022 by Statistics Canada. We learned that a greater proportion of our population than ever before (23 per cent) is made up of immigrants – people who are increasingly from Asia and Africa rather than Europe. More than one in four of us are now racialized, and one in 20 is Muslim. Our Indigenous population is growing almost twice as fast as the non-Indigenous population and will soon surpass two million.

It would be reasonable to assume that the combination of change, anxiety and conflict we have experienced in the past year is straining the common bonds that have previously held us together. Our research shows some evidence of this, if we look at the popular appeal of the traditional symbols of the Canadian state, such as our flag or national anthem. Both are a little less likely than they were 20 years ago to be seen as very important to the Canadian identity.

Other iconic institutions, such as the RCMP and the CBC, have also lost some of their appeal as symbols of a shared identity. Even the game of hockey has been declining in its importance to the Canadian sense of self since it hit a peak in 2010, the year of the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

But in actuality, the Canadian identity is not weakening – it is shifting. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms now appeals to more Canadians than any other symbol or institution. The concept of multiculturalism has become more popular than ever: Almost two in three Canadians now say this uniquely Canadian concept is very important to our identity (30 years ago, it was closer to one in three). And in just the past decade, there has been a striking increase in the extent to which Canadians see Indigenous peoples as being very important to the country’s self-image.

This last finding may stir controversy. Some Indigenous peoples may object to their being positioned as a symbol of the country whose existence their own nations predate by many thousands of years. And framing our relationship with Indigenous peoples in terms of Canadian identity might strike some as papering over the long list of injustices that remain to be addressed.

But it is also possible to interpret the survey in a more positive light. The events of recent years – from the disruption of the railways in early 2020 in support of the land claims of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, to the discovery of unmarked graves on the sites of former residential schools, to the prevalence of violence inflicted upon Indigenous women and girls – have not prompted Canadians either to turn their backs or cover their ears. They have led instead to a concept of what it means to live in a country that puts learning from our mistakes ahead of tradition, and that is thereby becoming more inclusive than ever before.

Significantly, these shifts in the Canadian identity are most pronounced among younger generations. But older Canadians themselves are hardly clinging to an image of the country that their children or grandchildren find outdated. The fact is that Canadians in all age groups are increasingly framing their sense of national identity in terms of diversity. The proportion of Canadians over the age of 60 who say that multiculturalism is very important to the Canadian identity has never been higher than it is today; the proportion in the older age group who say the same of the Canadian flag has never been lower.

Other historic cleavages, however, remain. Almost all the traditional symbols of the Canadian identity have far less appeal to Quebeckers than to Canadians living in the rest of the country (the main exception being bilingualism, which naturally is much more popular among francophones). It is no surprise that the monarch and O Canada, for instance, stir fewer hearts in Quebec than elsewhere.

The fact that a growing proportion of Quebeckers – about twice as many as 25 years ago – recognize multiculturalism as very important to the Canadian identity, may be more of a surprise (it might certainly be news to the province’s Premier). The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Indigenous peoples, are also at the top of the list in Quebec in terms of importance to identity, just as they are in the rest of Canada.

There are also gaps between the views of new Canadians, and those who were born in this country. Predictably, immigrants are more likely to value multiculturalism as part of their new country’s identity. But notably, almost everything associated with Canada has more appeal to immigrants than to “old stock” Canadians, including the flag, the national anthem, the monarchy – and even hockey. What distinguishes immigrants from other Canadians is not so much the appeal of the value of diversity. Rather, it is their level of enthusiasm for the country that has welcomed them.

It would also be a mistake to attribute the growing popularity of multiculturalism in Canada to the growth in the country’s immigrant population. Regardless of whether they were born here or abroad, Canadians are increasingly likely to see multiculturalism as an important part of their shared identity.

The one divide that is more jarring is between supporters of different political parties. There is no doubt that the more traditional symbols of Canadian identity, such as the flag and the national anthem, have more appeal to Conservatives than to Liberal and NDP supporters (which has some irony, as the flag was procured by a Liberal government over Conservative opposition in the 1960s). Importantly, this is not because Conservatives are reverting toward tradition or turning away from diversity; it is rather because the attitudes of non-Conservatives are evolving more quickly. Today’s NDP supporters, in particular, embrace a very different image of the country than they did 20 years ago.

What is revealing, though, is the comparison between those who back today’s unified Conservative Party, with those who backed either of its preunification parties in the 1990s. The views of today’s Conservatives on multiculturalism and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are closer to those of yesterday’s Progressive Conservatives (that is to say, today’s Conservatives hold what would have been considered somewhat progressive views on these matters a few decades ago). But on two other symbols – the CBC and bilingualism – the conservative movement’s 1990s Reform Party heritage shines through. In fact, today’s Conservatives are even less likely than past Reform Party supporters to say that the CBC is very important to the Canadian identity – something which bodes well for the Conservative Party’s new Leader, Pierre Poilievre, and his promise to defund the public broadcaster.

The fact that the base of the united federal Conservative Party looks a little more like the old Reform Party on official bilingualism, however, presents a bit of a problem. Mr. Poilievre speaks French well, but today’s Conservatives are less likely than their Brian Mulroney-era predecessors to see bilingualism as important. This could make it difficult for Mr. Poilievre to make a breakthrough with voters in Quebec should francophones sense that the Conservative Party doesn’t see official bilingualism as an important part of the Canadian bargain.

These differences notwithstanding, we are emerging from a period of unparalleled, pandemic-induced strain with a sense of Canada that is much more unifying than divisive. Nine in 10 of us express at least some pride in being a Canadian. The strength of this pride is weaker in Quebec, but it is not absent. There are pockets of anger: Among those who are dissatisfied with the way the country is going, the proportion who are not proud of being a Canadian reaches 16 per cent; among supporters of the Bloc Québécois, who dream of living in a different country, it reaches 20 per cent. That still leaves most of us feeling that there is a lot to celebrate.

What is most important about these trends, though, is that our image of the country, and its demographic reality, are evolving in the same direction. Diversity has become more important to us as we have become more diverse. Canadians are not only adapting to change, they are embracing it.

As we look to the new year, Canadians can prepare to engage in arguments over very Canadian things, such as the appropriate size of the Canada Health Transfer. And there will be clashes over serious problems that affect people’s livelihoods, such as interest rates and carbon taxes. But most of us won’t be arguing about who belongs here. We will leave xenophobia to others. In Canada, we will be feeling our way forward toward xenophilia.

Michael Adams is the founder of the Environics Institute and the author of Unlikely Utopia: The Surprising Triumph of Canadian Multiculturalism. Andrew Parkin is the institute’s executive director.

Here’s how Syrian refugees who came to Canada say they’re doing — seven years later

Encouraging study:

Seven years after Canada opened its doors to Syrian refugees, that first cohort of newcomers say they feel good about their new lives, have remained friends with their sponsors and are hopeful for a better future.

However, many still struggle with finding gainful employment, according to a two-year research project by the Environics Institute.

For the newcomers and Canadians, the time between 2015 and 2016 was a defining moment of their lives and in this country’s history, as communities banded together and welcomed 25,000 Syrians within months during a national resettlement project.

“It was a feel-good thing. These people were coming over to Canada from a crisis. We were giving them a home. The government and private citizens were stepping up. They were settling in,” says Keith Neuman, research director of the study released Saturday.

“It was something that made a lot of Canadians feel good about their country, if you will. It’s kind of faded now in memory, but it hasn’t really soured.”

Researchers interviewed 305 Syrian refugees who came during that period about their lived experience and where they are today, seven years later. Participants, who responded to a callout, answered 125 questions in Arabic, English or French during in-depth interviews.

Almost nine in 10 described their current life in Canada in positive light, most particularly feeling safe and secure and being accepted by their local community in spite of different degrees of financial insecurity and challenges with employment.

While many said they appreciated the country’s rule of law and respect for human rights, the things they liked least in Canada included: the harsh weather (32 per cent), the initial challenges in adapting to a new culture and lifestyle (19 per cent), and being separated from families and friends (14 per cent).

An overwhelming 93 per cent of respondents said moving to Canada was the right thing to do, though six per cent expressed mixed feelings about the decision, while the remainder expressed clear regret or did not respond to the question.

“Canada is not a perfect country, but it’s a good country,” one participant told researchers. “You can do what you want in life; but you need to work hard, like anywhere, but here you have the tools for success.”

“I felt something I never felt back home. You’re free,” another was quoted as saying in the report. “Back in Syria, I had to iron my husband’s shirt every day, since I landed here, I never ironed a shirt once! People are all the same, there is no separation of classes.”

Although few arrived with a functional fluency in English or French, more than 60 per cent of those surveyed now rated their language fluency as excellent or good.

Half of the refugees interviewed were currently working, including three per cent reporting to be doing multiple jobs and seven per cent who were self-employed. Fifty-one per cent said their jobs fully or somewhat matched their past education, skills and experience.

Most people were employed in transportation, warehousing, retail, construction and accommodation and food services. Some were in professional, scientific and technical services.

Fourteen per cent of respondents reported their household income was “good enough and they were able to save from it,” while 63 per cent indicated it was “just enough.” The remaining quarter said they felt stretched or were having a rough time.

More than half of the survey participants said they feel a very strong sense of belonging to Canada, with most of the rest describing it as somewhat strong (35 per cent).

Those who were privately sponsored by community organizations and church groups have developed enduring relationships with their supporters, with three quarters of those surveyed saying they remain in touch years later.

Among the many aspirations of the Syrian immigrants were: owning a home (42 per cent); completing more education and training to improve their lives (39 per cent); sponsoring other family members to Canada (24 per cent) and ensuring their children finish higher education (22 per cent).

Canada’s Syrian refugee resettlement project was unique and there have been many takeaways for similar operations in the future, says Jobran Khanji, the research project’s community outreach lead.

“Different governments mobilized. Community agencies mobilized and the civic society mobilized. Your average Canadians came together in a crisis situation within weeks and months to support the families who were the first to arrive in Canada,” said Khanji, himself a Syrian immigrant from Damascus.

“It’s a great demonstration of what can be done when everybody mobilizes.”

Nabiha Atallah of the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia said she was not surprised by the survey findings but said she was encouraged most Syrians felt welcomed and that they belonged.

Nova Scotia welcomed about 1,500 of the Syrian refugees. Most of them were among the most vulnerable, with many children, sponsored by the government. Yet, they were eager to start working right away.

“It has taken the five or six years. Language is not an easy thing to learn as an adult when some of the people did not even have much of formal education,” Atallah said.

“One of the important things of this report is for the community to see that their response was really effective, because we see that most of the people in this study said they felt they belong and they’re part of the community. That’s great confirmation for the general population.”

Chris Friesen of Immigrant Services Society of B.C. says the report was reflective of the experience of the clients served in the province that resettled more than 3,000 Syrians.

It’s important to track the well-being of the Syrians over time to identify areas of needs and take those lessons to other humanitarian operations, he said.

“We’ve really taken some of the approaches and experiences in Operation Syrian refugees forward,” said Friesen, referring to the resettlement of displaced Afghans and Ukrainians. “That’s encouraging. We’re not repeating it, but we’re building upon it.”

Source: Here’s how Syrian refugees who came to Canada say they’re doing — seven years later

Link to report: Final Report

Adams and Parkin: Surveys show Canadian are less polarized and angry than Americans

Of note:

We are living in an era of populism and polarization. Our politics is divided and angry. And if anything is changing, it is changing for the worse. Or so we are often told.

As usual, the U.S. sets the tone. Our recent surveys — run on both sides of the border — bring this into focus. Compared to 1986, in the midst of Reagan era, Americans today are much less likely to be satisfied both with opportunities to get ahead in their country, and with their system of government. Republicans, in particular, are losing faith in the American dream and in their democracy.

Perhaps surprisingly, over the same period of time, there has been no noticeable change of opinion in Canada. Not everyone here is satisfied with opportunities to advance, or with our system of government. But, on average, Canadians are no more dissatisfied than they were in the mid-1980s. Certainly Conservative party supporters are more dissatisfied now that the Liberals are in power. But this is offset by growing satisfaction among Liberals.

A big shift has occurred in Canada, however, when it comes to social programs. In the mid-1980s, Canadians were almost twice as likely as Americans to be satisfied with social services for the poor and the elderly in their country. Today, there is no difference — while satisfaction in the U.S. has remained low, satisfaction in Canada has fallen sharply. And it has fallen among partisans on both the left and the right of the political spectrum.

This hardly fits the narrative of the rise of populism. Yes, there is evidence of growing dissatisfaction in Canada, but the focus of this dissatisfaction is our failure to better protect the most vulnerable in our society. 

If this seems too rosy, consider opinions on two other questions. In 1986, about 3-in-4 people in both Canada and the United States agreed that government should reduce the income gap between the rich and the poor, and that government should do much more to make sure racial minorities are treated fairly. Since then, agreement on both questions has declined in the U.S. In Canada, there has been no change.

True, there are signs of polarization in both countries, as the gap in agreement between the those on the left and right has widened. But the gap today between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. is about twice as wide as that in Canada between Conservatives and Liberals. On these questions, the opinions of Canadian Conservatives resemble those of American independents much more that those of their Republican “cousins.”

Then there is the notable absence of division in Canada between the views of racialized and non-racialized citizens. Predictably, in the U.S., African-Americans are much more likely than whites to call on government to act to promote both economic and racial equality; the gap emerges because white Americans are much less likely to favour these actions. 

Not so here, where equally large majorities of white and racialized Canadians call for government to act to reduce inequalities. 

Canadians must avoid looking upon these findings with smugness. Public opinion aside, we struggle to confront racism in our society. If Canadians have grown less satisfied with social services, it is a sign not only of social solidary, but also of the failure of our governments to deliver.

Pointing out that we are less polarized or angry than our American neighbours may be reassuring, but it does little to solve the problems we face. However, we at least can tackle these problems with an awareness that our history, society, culture and institutions are our own, with plenty of weaknesses, but also with undeniable strengths.

Source: Surveys show Canadian are less polarized and angry than Americans

Yakabuski: Le Canada, champion mondial d’immigration

Good observations on the contrast between Quebec and the rest of Canada:

Le ministre fédéral de l’Immigration, des Réfugiés et de la Citoyenneté, Sean Fraser, s’apprête à dévoiler de nouvelles cibles en matière d’immigration pour 2023, 2024 et 2025. Et tout indique que l’annonce que M. Fraser fera mardi prochain prévoira une nouvelle hausse du nombre de résidents permanents par rapport aux dernières cibles, celles-là annoncées il y a un an à peine. Alors que le Québec promet de plafonner ses seuils d’immigration autour de 50 000 nouveaux résidents permanents par année, le reste du Canada, lui, s’apprêterait à bientôt accueillir plus de huit fois ce nombre. Nul besoin d’être économiste ou démographe pour anticiper les conséquences à court et à long termes de ces positions discordantes.

Déjà, le Québec voit sa part d’immigrants fondre comme peau de chagrin d’année en année. Destination de 19,2 % des immigrants arrivés au Canada entre 2006 et 2011, le Québec n’accueillait plus que 15,3 % des immigrants entrés au pays entre 2016 et 2021. Les données provenant du dernier recensement publiées cette semaine par Statistique Canada témoignent de l’énorme transformation démographique que connaît le Canada anglais, et ce, même en dehors de ses plus grandes métropoles.

À Hamilton et à Winnipeg, deux villes ayant une population semblable à celle de Québec, la proportion d’immigrants s’élève maintenant à plus de 25 % ; dans la Vieille Capitale, à peine 6,7 % des résidents sont nés en dehors du Canada. Dans la ville de Saguenay, une proportion famélique de la population est issue de l’immigration, soit 1,3 %, alors qu’à Red Deer et à Lethbridge, des villes albertaines de tailles semblables, les proportions sont de 16,9 % et de 14,4 %, respectivement.

Les chiffres frappent encore davantage l’imagination lorsque l’on tient compte des enfants des immigrants. Dans la grande région de Toronto, par exemple, presque 80 % des résidents sont immigrants de première ou de deuxième générations, selon une analyse des données du recensement effectuée par le démographe Doug Norris, de la firme torontoise Environics. À Montréal, environ 46 % des résidents sont immigrants ou enfants d’immigrants. Bien qu’il s’agisse d’une proportion passablement élevée, c’est moins qu’à Vancouver (73 %), qu’à Calgary (55 %) ou qu’à Edmonton (50 %).

Selon les résultats d’un sondage publié cette semaine par Environics, et effectué pour le compte de L’Initiative du siècle, les Canadiens sont plus favorables que jamais à l’immigration. Ceci n’est pas surprenant ; plus de 40 % des Canadiens sont immigrants ou enfants d’immigrants. On peut s’attendre à ce que ces gens aient un parti pris en faveur de l’immigration.

Mais le consensus canadien en matière d’immigration s’étend bien au-delà des communautés culturelles du pays. « Alors même que le pays accueille plus de 400 000 nouveaux arrivants par année, sept Canadiens sur dix soutiennent les seuils actuels d’immigration — la plus forte majorité en 45 ans de sondages Environics, a fait remarquer Lisa Lalande, présidente de L’Initiative du siècle, un organisme qui prône une politique d’immigration ayant pour but d’augmenter la population canadienne à 100 millions de personnes en l’an 2100. Malgré la rhétorique chargée sur l’immigration durant la campagne électorale provinciale, les Québécois appuient tout autant l’accueil des immigrants et des réfugiés que les Canadiens ailleurs au pays. »

Or, le sondage d’Environics fut mené en septembre, alors que la Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) promettait de maintenir les seuils d’immigration à 50 000 dans la province. Donc, l’expression « les seuils actuels d’immigration » n’a pas le même sens ici qu’ailleurs au Canada. Au Québec, ces seuils sont plutôt modestes ; dans le reste du Canada, ils sont très élevés.

Les 50 000 résidents permanents que le Québec s’engage à accueillir chaque année équivalent à environ 0,6 % de la population, et cette proportion est appelée à diminuer au fur et à mesure que la population augmentera. Les seuils d’immigration ailleurs au Canada s’élèvent à environ 1,2 % de la population par année, alors que cette population augmente à un rythme beaucoup plus rapide qu’au Québec. Au lieu de 400 000 nouveaux arrivants par an, c’est près de 500 000 immigrants que le reste du Canada pourrait bientôt en accueillir. Et des voix s’élèvent pour qu’Ottawa fasse preuve d’encore plus d’ambition en matière d’immigration.

« Bien que les chiffres absolus semblent élevés, ils doivent en fait être plus élevés encore en raison des défis démographiques du Canada, ont insisté pour dire l’ex-ministre libéral de l’Innovation, Navdeep Bains, et son ancien chef de cabinet, Elder Marques, dans un article publié la semaine dernière dans le National Post. Au début du XXe siècle, un Canada beaucoup plus petit accueillait autant d’immigrants que le Canada le fait aujourd’hui… Un Canada plus grand, plus riche et plus outillé nous attend si nous sommes prêts à faire le saut. »

Source: Le Canada, champion mondial d’immigration

One in Five Canadians Is Now an Immigrant, and the Nation Approves

NYT on Canada being an exception:

Immigrants now make up a record portion of Canada’s population.

It’s bigger than the one that resulted from the aggressive promotion of European settlement on Indigenous land on the prairies during the early 20th century and bigger than the one that took place after World War II when a wave of immigrants reshaped urban Canada.

And according to polling data, most Canadians like it that way, though more tension over immigration could be on the horizon. At a time when immigration has become an increasingly divisive political issue in many Western countries, particularly the United States, indications are that most Canadians are welcoming newcomers even as their numbers rise.

“There is growing recognition that immigration is important in terms of the economy and that immigrants, the country kind of needs them,” Keith Neuman, a senior associate at the Environics Institute for Survey Research, a nonprofit polling firm, told me.

Census data released this week, revealed by Statistics Canada, said that immigrants made up 23 percent of Canada’s population this year, the highest proportion since Confederation in 1867.

If current patterns in immigration remain and Canada’s birthrate continues to be lower than what is necessary to maintain current population, the census agency estimates that immigrants may form 29 to 34 percent of the population 19 years from now.

To accompany the Statistics Canada announcement, the Environics Institute released a survey of Canadians’ attitude toward immigration. The survey, which dates back in various forms to the 1970s, found a record level of support: 69 percent of people it contacted disagreed when asked if Canada was taking in too many immigrants. Fifty-eight percent said they wanted more immigration to increase Canada’s population.

That positive view of immigration, the survey found, even extended to Quebec despite its adoption of a law banning the wearing of religious symbols by public employees and officials at work, a move that many have seen as targeting Muslim immigrants.

Mr. Neuman and Amyn B. Sajoo, a lecturer at Simon Fraser University School for International Studies who writes extensively about immigration and citizenship, shared some thoughts about the source of the country’s good will toward immigration.

Perhaps at the top of their lists is that geographic isolation from places experiencing high levels of emigration means that the country can be selective about who comes here. There has never been a period when most refugee claimants walked into the country, despite all of the attention once paid to asylum seekers coming into Quebec from New York State. On the whole, Canada chooses who can come.

Then 60 percent of the 431,645 immigrants who became permanent residents of Canada last year fell into the “economic” category. They qualify for that status by being either highly educated, willing and financially able to start a business, possessing a needed job skill or committing to make a substantial investment in an existing business in Canada.

“We filter who can come in as refugees and immigrants,” Dr. Sajoo said. “Therefore, the public has more confidence in the system.”

On top of that, Dr. Sajoo noted the strong approval for Canada’s official multiculturalism policy. In the Environics Institute survey, an overwhelming 90 percent of the respondents said that it was an important part of the Canadian identity.

“More than ever, Canadians are accepting the idea that we’re better off in a pluralist, democratic space,” he said. “That we’re not just an Anglo-French demographic.” The growing awareness of Indigenous issues since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Dr. Sajoo added, has also increased this sentiment.

While the Environics Institute survey found that Conservative voters make up the largest number of people who think there is too much immigration, Pierre Poilievre, the leader of the Conservative Party, has focused on wooing immigrants and regularly reminds voters that his wife, Anaida, emigrated to Canada from Venezuela with her family at the age of 8.

But before Canadians become too self-satisfied about their openness to immigration, Dr. Sajoo said that one finding in the survey suggests the country is not fully immune to some of the political sentiment growing in other nations.

Respondents were almost evenly divided when asked if there are too many immigrants “not adopting Canadian values.” Forty-nine percent rejected that statement, 46 percent agreed with it.

“There is a flattering, fairy tale narrative that we’re wonderful and all is good,” Dr. Sajoo said. “But there is not at all enough attention to that 50/50 split on Canadian values,” he added, saying it “suggests that populism and populist rhetoric, supremacist rhetoric is coming across the border and also developing locally.” 

Source: One in Five Canadians Is Now an Immigrant, and the Nation Approves

Yakabuski: We cannot take Canadians’ positive views on immigration for granted 

Rare mainstream media commentary questioning the current orthodoxy regarding increased immigration and public support. Have wondered for some time whether housing, healthcare and other pressures will lead to a tipping point but as the latest Environics survey, no sign yet:

Canadians are global outliers in holding almost unfailingly positive attitudes about immigration.

Across the world, particularly in countries that have seen large and sudden waves of migrants in recent years, public opinion has turned harshly negative toward newcomers. The opposite has happened here, even in Quebec. Despite big increases in the number of immigrants this country accepts annually, fewer and fewer Canadians think our immigration levels are too high.

That is the finding made by the Environics Institute for Survey Research, which has been polling Canadians on this issue since 1977. Back then, more than 60 per cent of respondents thought the country was accepting too many immigrants. Now, only 27 per cent feel that way.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. Canada has had the luxury of selecting immigrants in an orderly fashion. We even “choose” most of our refugees based on applications made outside Canada. And the Canada-U.S. border is an oasis of calm compared to the U.S.-Mexico border, notwithstanding the steady stream of asylum seekers arriving via Roxham Road in Quebec in recent years.

There is another, perhaps even more salient, explanation for why Canadians are so bullish on immigration. Fully 44 per cent of us are first- or second-generation immigrants, according to 2021 census data compiled by Environics chief demographer Doug Norris.

In the Greater Toronto Area, the proportion of first- and second-generation newcomers is 79.6 per cent. In Vancouver, it is 72.5 per cent. Even in most of the country’s smaller urban centres, outside of Quebec, about half of residents are now immigrants or the children of immigrants.

You are much more likely to view immigration positively if you are an immigrant yourself or the child of one. Immigrants account for more – much more – of the population here than in any other developed country except for Australia. And the proportion is set to rise sharply – to as much as 34 per cent of Canada’s population in 2041, from 2021′s record level of 23 per cent, according to Statscan’s projections.

What’s not to like? Well, for a country that is already experiencing a severe housing-affordability crisis and a major infrastructure deficit, welcoming around 450,000 new permanent residents on an annual basis, on top of tens of thousands of temporary foreign workers and international students, involves significant challenges.

Unfortunately, there are few signs that policymakers in Ottawa have thought through how the country can accommodate this influx without further straining our already strained health-care and education systems. While immigration can offer a partial solution to severe shortages of nurses and teachers – if provinces move more rapidly to recognize their credentials – overall it creates more consumers than providers of health-care and education services.

In a study prepared last year for Quebec’s immigration ministry, economist Pierre Fortin threw cold water on the idea – advanced in 2016 by Ottawa’s Advisory Committee on Economic Growth – that higher immigration levels could help resolve intractable labour shortages that have only grown worse since then.

“Resorting to immigration can relieve worker shortages at the individual firm level, though the great administrative complexity and the long wait times often render this process ineffective; but, unfortunately, at the macroeconomic level, the [council’s] idea that immigration can reduce labour shortages because it increases the working-age population is nothing more than a big fallacy of composition,” Prof. Fortin wrote. “This idea is based on incomplete logic that ‘forgets’ that immigration ends up increasing the demand for labour and not only the supply of labour.”

Next week, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser is expected to announce Ottawa’s revised immigration targets for 2023, 2024 and 2025. That announcement needs to be followed by a more elaborate strategy than Canada has seen to date to enhance the country’s capacity to integrate ever-increasing numbers of newcomers. Otherwise, we are only asking for trouble down the road.

Canada has been spared the backlash against immigration experienced in other countries, in part because few politicians see any mileage in stoking resentment toward newcomers. That is likely to remain true as long as our multicultural suburbs continue to determine electoral outcomes. But no one should take it for granted.

With the country’s emergency rooms running beyond capacity, its housing shortage leaving too many people on the sidelines and its public infrastructure in a steady state of disrepair, it would be a mistake to assume that attitudes here toward immigration will always remain so positive.

Source: We cannot take Canadians’ positive views on immigration for granted

Adams, Neuman: Canadians need to keep talking about racism [to facilitate change in social norms]

On the importance of social norms and how discussion and conversation needed influence social norms change:

Combatting racism is now firmly on the public agenda in Canada, reflecting an evolving acknowledgment of the systemic mistreatment of racialized people. This evolution has accelerated in response to important events, including the horrific murder of American George Floyd and the continuing discoveries of unmarked graves at former Indian Residential Schools. But progress in eradicating racism in our country has been slow and at best uneven. Many Canadians are frustrated by what they see as all talk and no action.

What is holding us back? Efforts to eradicate systemic bias in our institutions, including our local police departments, have shown little progress given how deeply it is ingrained. Many organizations have made considerable investments in diversity and inclusion training to educate people and make them aware of their unconscious biases, but studies have shown this training has not had a lasting impact. This shouldn’t be surprising, as it is next to impossible to change people’s deeply held attitudes and values, at least in the short term.

Where else can we turn? One avenue yet to be explored is in changing the social norms that allow racism to promulgate and flourish.

Social norms are widely held, yet mostly unspoken, expectations about what is, and is not, acceptable to say and do in particular situations. Such norms exert a powerful influence over how people act in public and in social situations, apart from what they may think or feel.

Social norms play a key role in the dynamics of racism and prejudice because they establish the boundaries around which people act toward those they see as “the other.” While internally held attitudes, beliefs and stereotyping are stubbornly resistant to short-term change, the way individuals choose to express themselves can be easily influenced by social pressure. Over time, norms can change – in some cases through efforts to positively shape our collective behaviour.

Take, for example, the successful campaign to change norms around tobacco use in public. Just over a generation ago, smoking in public was common, even cool. Today, the behaviour has become effectively “denormalized” as inconsiderate and self-defeating. While a significant minority of the population continues to smoke in private, few dare to do so in the presence of others because they correctly understand it would not be tolerated.

The concept of social norms is not new, but it has been missing from the scope of anti-racism initiatives in Canada and elsewhere. With this in mind, the Environics Institute recently conducted a national survey of Canadians that measured social norms in relation to common types of micro-aggressions directed at people who are Indigenous and/or Black.

Our research reveals that a significant majority of Canadians acknowledge the reality of racism in their communities and social circles. Regardless of their racial background, many of those surveyed say they have personally witnessed, or know others who have witnessed, racist behaviour directed against Indigenous or Black people. This racism has taken many forms, from insensitive jokes or racist gestures in public and private spaces, to derogatory comments on social media or even broad claims that racism simply doesn’t exist.

Most of those surveyed personally believe these types of behaviours are morally wrong. At the same time, our research demonstrated that the current social norms acting to inhibit these racist actions are not especially strong. The survey revealed that Canadians may believe such actions are morally wrong, but often feel unsure about what others around them think and whether they would also disapprove of what is going on in that situation. They may also be unclear about whether the social norms are sufficiently encouraging to support someone who steps up to intervene when witnessing a racist act in public, such as harassment on a bus.

What the research tells us, in essence, is that racist behaviour persists, despite growing disapproval, in large part because Canada’s social norms – the unspoken rules about what is and is not acceptable in public – governing respectful treatment of racialized people are not strong enough to discourage transgressors.

What does this mean for tackling racism? The research tells us that a major obstacle to reducing racism is the absence of social pressures that are strong enough to compel us to treat others with respect (even when we harbour prejudicial opinions about them) and to speak up when transgressions occur. Many Canadians are caught in a form of limbo when confronted with someone acting in a racist manner, not knowing if others around them recognize what is taking place or agree about what it means and what to do about it.

This is why it is so important that we keep talking about racism. The more public conversations we have on this subject, the more people may recognize a shared understanding of what is acceptable and what is no longer tolerated. Each of us needs to think individually about racism and take responsibility for our own behaviour, but this is not enough. We need to engage with others on this issue, in order to create a shared understanding of what we expect from each other in how we live together and treat one another.

Canadian institutions also need to demonstrate leadership in establishing social norms and expectations, and in cultivating spaces that prioritize respect for all. Social norms are often well entrenched but can and do change. Here lies a new opportunity to focus our efforts and realize a more just society.

Keith Neuman is a senior associate with the non-profit Environics Institute for Survey Research. Michael Adams is the institute’s founder and president.

Source: Canadians need to keep talking about racism

Canada’s racist social norms — and how we can change them

Significant survey along with some suggestions, learning from previous shifts such as attitudes on smoking and LGBTQ2+:

In a Facebook group, a white woman responds to a post about new government funding for clean water at an Indigenous reserve, complaining that Indigenous people already get too much support and should do a better job of looking after themselves.

At a bar, a man of European descent joins a discussion about police treatment of Black people and insists that racism and racial profiling happens in other countries, but not in Canada.

Why is it that some people make these kinds of perceivably racist and offensive remarks publicly even as others who might share the views hold their tongue? Whether someone makes such comments out of ignorance, prejudice or insensitivity, people tend to conduct themselves in accordance with what’s socially acceptable.

“Thirty years ago, smoking in public was acceptable. It was cool. It was just part of the framework. And there was an actual long-term public health campaign, if you will, in essence, to de-normalize smoking in public. It’s a complex intervention that, over time, was quite successful,” says Keith Neuman of the Environics Institute, author of the Canadian Social Norms and Racism study.

“That’s where we’d like to go with racism. Anti-racism initiatives may benefit by focusing more on social norms, which are more easily changed than ingrained attitudes and prejudices.”

Researchers did a national online survey and asked 6,601 participants to respond to a range of vignettes of racist or anti-racist actions directed at Indigenous or Black people. The data was weighted to ensure national representation by province, gender, age and education.

Each respondent was presented with a randomized selection of six of the 12 scenarios — three involving each community — that include responding to a white person who was: 

  • Speaking up when someone tells an insensitive joke;
  • Appropriating Indigenous or Black attire; 
  • Asking where an Indigenous or Black person came from;
  • Claiming racism doesn’t exist in Canada;
  • Intervening when an Indigenous or Black person is hassled in public;
  • Making a derogatory comment on Facebook; or
  • Making a racial gesture at a hockey game.

The respondents were then asked if they had witnessed such events or knew someone else who had; if they believed what the person did was right or wrong; how many people in their social circle would say what that person did was right or wrong; and how likely they thought it that others would intervene.

Many of the respondents said they have either personally seen or know someone who has seen the racist actions directed at Indigenous Peoples, with the most common witnessing someone claiming racism doesn’t exist against Indigenous Peoples (49 per cent); followed by derogatory comments on Facebook (38 per cent); telling insensitive jokes (35 per cent); others hassling an Indigenous person (22 per cent); and making a racial gesture like “a vigorous tomahawk gesture with a loud whooping cry” at a sports event (21 per cent).

In their response to the vignettes directed at Black racism, 79 per cent of participants have witnessed or know someone who has seen a Black person being asked where they came from; claiming racism doesn’t exist against Blacks (45 per cent); telling an insensitive joke (38 per cent); hassling a Black person (31 per cent); appropriating Black attire (30 per cent); and making derogatory comments on Facebook (21 per cent).

Based on participants’ responses, researchers came up with an index that represents how acceptable the specific demeanour or behaviour was in the general population.

The indexes range on a scale from zero to 100 — from the most to least socially acceptable. That means the behaviour with the low score has the greater consensus of social approval or disapproval.

The study found that social norms are somewhat stronger in situations where people witness someone stepping up and intervening when a person acts in a racist manner toward an Indigenous or Black person, such as telling an insensitive joke or harassing someone in public. 

Expressing racism through social media posts and claiming racism doesn’t exist in Canada were both deemed socially unacceptable, under the index, while appropriating Indigenous or Black attire was believed to be uncommon and not a big social transgression.

Neuman, director of the research project, said the study showed most respondents were aware that the conduct in these vignettes were wrong but uncertain what others would think or respond to the situation.

“There are unspoken rules how people behave with others. People know whether certain things are OK or not OK to do. When people choose to say a racist thing, it matters whether they think it’s OK or not OK with the people they are with,” Neuman explained.

“This is an important part of racism in society. This is the first time we look racism in Canada from the perspective of what is acceptable or not acceptable in your social circles. So lots of people think these racist actions are wrong, but they’re really not certain what the people around them think. So these norms are not very strong and that helps explain why this kind of behaviour is still so prevalent.”

Neuman hopes the findings of the study will serve as the benchmark to measure how the social norms of racism evolve as what’s tolerated and accepted in society does change with time, as in the cases of antismoking and the recognition of the LGBTQ2+ community after the Supreme Court 2004 ruling over gay marriage.

Government policies and social norms should go hand in hand in encouraging or hindering the manifestation of unacceptable behaviour, he added.

“The likelihood of encountering people who are smoking in public spaces is very low today. It’s not because there are laws and enforcement, but it’s because people who smoke picked up on the fact that it’s not OK to do that. It’s the way social norms work and there’s very strong norms against something like smoking,” he said.

“If you go back 20 years, the attitudes, treatments and norms around LGBTQ people have changed tremendously. Canadian opinions about gay marriage and LGBTQ people changed because there’s something legitimate about it by the state. It caused people to subsume their personal prejudice and discomfort.”

Neuman said similar successes could be found in developing social norms about what’s acceptable and what’s not with racism through modelling and trendsetting.

Advertising and educational campaigns that reinforce positive norms and denounce negative norms could help develop a collective sense of what’s acceptable, he added.

“What you’re trying to do is to communicate that some kinds of behaviours are OK and others aren’t. But you need to understand what the norms are to begin with, You have to do diagnosis to figure out what they are and how strong they are,” he said.

“It may be a situation where everybody has the same personal belief that something is wrong. By making everybody aware of how everybody thinks, it strengthens that norm.”

Source: Canada’s racist social norms — and how we can change them

Parkin, Triandafyllidou, Aytac: Newcomers to Canada are supportive of Indigenous Peoples and reconciliation

Particularly relevant on National Indigenous Peoples Day and current high levels of immigration:

Public education about Canada’s treatment of Indigenous Peoples is an important component of the process of reconciliation.

Knowing the history can better help citizens understand current challenges and equip them with the tools to work respectfully with Indigenous Peoples to build a better future, in keeping with the section on “education for reconciliation” in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report

Much of this public education occurs in schools, through the media and even via discussions among friends and within families. But new immigrants to Canada might miss some of this socialization (depending on their age of arrival) because they’ll have less exposure to Canadian schools and media in their formative years. 

This could affect their attitudes to Indigenous Peoples and support for the process of reconciliation itself. Given that one in five Canadians was born abroad, this would pose a significant political risk. 

Alternatively, it’s possible that, despite less exposure to Canadian schools and media, immigrants might be more supportive of Indigenous Peoples because they could be more aware of the legacies of colonialism worldwide, more open to learn about their new country or more conscious of their responsibility as newcomers to learn Canadian history.

Supportive of Indigenous Peoples

The question of how immigrants perceive Indigenous Peoples in Canada, and vice versa, is therefore relevant but rarely explored. 

But data from the Confederation of Tomorrow 2021 survey, conducted by the Environics Institute and including sufficiently large samples of both immigrants and Indigenous Peoples, allows us to examine these issues.

Specifically, we can explore perceptions of immigrants towards Indigenous Peoples and reconciliation, and look at responses to three questions: 

  1. How familiar do you feel you are with the history of Indian Residential Schools in Canada?
  2. In your opinion, have governments in Canada gone too far or have they not gone far enough in trying to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples?
  3. Do you believe that individual Canadians do, or do not, have a role to play in efforts to bring about reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people? 

The survey results generally show that, despite less familiarity or certainty about these issues among new immigrants compared to those born in Canada, they are more likely to support Indigenous Peoples.

Gap in knowledge

The survey shows a big gap between how familiar Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous people — both immigrants to Canada and non-immigrants — are with the history of Indian Residential schools.

The findings suggest first-generation immigrants are less likely than non-Indigenous Canadians to say they’re “very familiar” with this history, and are more likely to express no opinion.

These results indicate that first-generation immigrants don’t know as much as other Canadians about the history of Indian Schools in Canada. It is notable, however, that second-generation Canadians are more likely than third-generation Canadians to feel “very familiar” with the history of Indian Residential Schools.

A graph shows how familiar immigrants to Canada feel they are with the history of Indian Residential Schools in Canada compared to Indigenous Peoples.
A graph shows how familiar newcomers to Canada feel they are with the history of Indian Residential Schools in Canada compared to Indigenous Peoples. Author provided, Author provided

This lesser familiarity among first-generation immigrants, however, does not translate into lower support for efforts to advance reconciliation. 

Government response

This support is evident when they were asked about whether governments have gone too far, or not far enough, to advance reconciliation. 

The most striking difference — not surprisingly — is that Indigenous Peoples are much more likely than non-Indigenous Canadians to say that governments have failed to go far enough to advance reconciliation. 

But first-generation immigrants are just as likely to hold this view than second- or third-generation Canadians. First-generation immigrants are also less likely to say that governments have gone too far in their efforts to promote reconciliation — a result that’s significant when controlling for education (which is an important step since first-generation immigrants are more likely to be university-educated than the rest of the population). 

First-generation immigrants are also less likely to take a definitive position either way, and are more likely to say “neither” or “cannot say.”

A graph shows whether Canadians believe governments have gone far enough in trying to advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
A graph shows whether Canadians believe governments have gone far enough in trying to advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. Author provided, Author provided

The role of Canadians

Similarly, Indigenous Peoples are unsurprisingly the most likely to say that individual Canadians have a role to play in reconciliation. 

But first-generation immigrants are just as likely as second- or third-generation Canadians to hold this view (although first-generation immigrants are also more likely to have no opinion on this question). 

A graph shows whether individual Canadians have a role to play to bring about reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples.
A graph shows whether individual Canadians have a role to play to bring about reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples. Author provided, Author provided

These results are encouraging because they suggest that even if immigrants aren’t socialized in Canada at a young age, that’s not an obstacle to building understanding and support for reconciliation. 

Indigenous support for immigration

Interestingly, the survey also allows us to explore the other side of the relationship between immigrants and Indigenous Peoples in Canada, namely support among Indigenous Peoples for immigration. 

This is a potentially contentious issue. On the one hand, diverse sources of immigration in the post-Second World War period have already disrupted the narrative of Canada as a nation of two founding peoples (British and French). That in turn suggests a view of Canada that is not only multicultural but multi-national, and inclusive of Indigenous Peoples and nations. 

In this sense, the interests of immigrants and Indigenous Peoples could be aligned. But at the same time, the ongoing arrival of newcomers can be seen as a continuation of the settler/colonization process. 

Thoughts on immigration

We can explore this issue by referring to a question in the survey asking Canadians whether they agree or disagree that “overall, there is too much immigration to Canada.” 

The results show that there are significant differences in attitudes about immigration between the general population and Indigenous Peoples. Thirty per cent of Indigenous peoples “strongly agree” with the statement, the highest proportion among all groups. 

A graph shows whether Canadians and Indigenous people believe there is too much immigration to Canada.
A graph shows whether Canadians and Indigenous people believe there is too much immigration to Canada.Author provided, Author provided

However, this general difference about immigration levels is driven in large part by the difference in views between Indigenous Peoples and first-generation immigrants. While Indigenous Peoples, compared to first-generation immigrants, are more likely to strongly agree than strongly disagree that there is too much immigration to Canada, there are no statistically significant differences between Indigenous Peoples and second- or third-generation Canadians.

This suggests that the key factor influencing attitudes towards immigration might not be Indigenous identity, but being born in Canada.

Nonetheless, this finding is important because it’s a reminder to proponents of more immigration that they should be open to and engage with Indigenous Peoples’ perspectives on this issue. Immigration, as a policy objective, should be pursued with an eye on how it might be perceived by those who were displaced by the earlier arrival of settlers.

Source: Newcomers to Canada are supportive of Indigenous Peoples and reconciliation

Who voted for the People’s Party of Canada? Anti-vaxxers and those opposed to vaccine mandates

Preliminary analysis. Will be interesting to see what others come up with such as the Canada Election Study. As it is likely that COVID and vaccination will not be a top issue (we hope!) in the next election, likely the PPC will focus on immigration and other related issues, and their advocacy for more restrictive policies:

At first glance, the 2021 federal election appears to have changed very little. Each party was returned to the House of Commons with about as many seats as it had previously held. 

Beneath the surface, however, some shifts occurred. Most notably, while the People’s Party of Canada failed to win any seats, its share of the popular vote grew to five per cent — more than double what it earned two years earlier.

The PPC’s support is small yet not easily dismissed. The 841,000 votes it earned makes it the fifth most popular party in the country, well ahead of the Greens (who have appeared on the ballot, addressing the prominent issue of climate change, for decades). The People’s Party won three times more votes than the Reform Party did when it first fielded candidates in 1988, one election prior to its breakthrough in 1993.

Understanding exactly what to make of the PPC’s growing support is especially important for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. If PPC voters are former Conservative supporters disappointed with the party’s attempt to appeal to middle-of-the-road, suburban Canadians, it signals a serious dilemma — each voter the Conservatives gain by moving to the centre could be matched by a right-leaning voter lost to the PPC.

PPC voters bemoan ‘loss of freedom’

What, then, do we know about PPC voters? At first glance, our fall 2021 survey shows PPC voters have the profile many would expect. They’re dissatisfied with the way things are going in our country today, feel the economy is getting weaker, think there are too many immigrants coming to Canada who don’t adopt the country’s values and hold a favourable opinion of the United States.

Yet these opinions do not really set them apart. Most Conservative Party supporters also hold these views. What does distinguish current PPC voters is their views on the COVID-19 pandemic, and specifically on the issue of vaccination, vaccine mandates and vaccine passports. 

Our survey, conducted during the 2021 election campaign, asked Canadians to identify the most important problem facing the country today. 

Both Liberal and Conservative Party supporters were most likely to mention the COVID-19 pandemic in general. Climate change was most likely to be mentioned as the most important problem by NDP, Bloc Québécois and Green Party supporters. 

But for PPC supporters, the No. 1 issue was the loss of freedom stemming from vaccine mandates — a concern barely mentioned by anyone who supported other parties. 

A more rigorous analysis of the survey results, which tests the significance of different factors while holding others constant, confirms the importance of vaccination issues to current PPC voters. 

Someone who singled out “loss of freedom” during the pandemic as the most important issue facing the country had a 59 per cent chance of supporting the PPC, compared to only a five per cent chance for someone who mentioned any other issue. 

Similarly, someone who singled out “COVID-19 vaccination issues” as the most important issue facing the country had a 44 per cent chance of supporting the PPC, compared to a six per cent chance for someone who mentioned any other issue. 

Immigration not a decisive factor

This last example, furthermore, likely underestimates the impact of PPC voters’ irritation with vaccination requirements. It can be assumed that the very few number of Liberals who also singled out “COVID-19 vaccination issues” as the most important issue probably had something very different in mind — perhaps frustration with those who won’t get vaccinated — than their PPC counterparts. 

Nonetheless, the main point is clear: voters concerned about the push to be vaccinated and what they perceive as a loss of freedom during the pandemic were much more likely to vote PPC than voters concerned about anything else. 

Equally important is the finding that PPC voters stand out much less for their attitudes on immigration. The impact of immigration views on someone’s likelihood of supporting the PPC is barely significant, in stark contrast to their opinions on vaccination.

This does not mean that PPC voters are strong supporters of immigration; rather, it means simply that their views on the subject do not differentiate supporters of the PPC from supporters of some other parties — notably, the Conservatives. 

Incidentally, it should be noted these findings apply only to Canadians indicating they intended to vote for the PPC, not to the party’s leadership, organizers or funders who may regard closing our borders to newcomers as more of a priority.

A message for Conservatives

Nonetheless, the fact that the growth in PPC support is tied to the unusual issue of vaccination against COVID-19 is no guarantee that the party’s popularity will fade once the pandemic ends. Other issues may come along to take its place. 

But it does send a cautionary note to Conservatives who might be wondering what the party can do to bring PPC voters back into the fold. Rejecting new policies on climate change or social diversity is unlikely to help so long as PPC supporters continue to be motivated largely by a single issue — their opposition to vaccines. 

As the election outcome itself showed, showing flexibility on vaccine mandates in order to win back defectors to the PPC risks putting more distance between the Conservative Party and the mainstream of Canadian public opinion

In short, PPC voters were not simply typical Conservative supporters leaning furthest to the right on a range of issues that include government spending, taxation, climate change and immigration. They were, on average, a unique cluster of voters who have rejected the overwhelming public consensus on the need to be vaccinated to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The growth potential for the Conservative Party lies not in chasing the small number of voters angered by vaccine mandates, but in appealing to the much larger pool of voters whose top priorities include bringing the pandemic to an end and refocusing attention on the fight against climate change.