Saira Peesker, CTVNews.ca
Date: Tuesday Oct. 18, 2011 5:49 PM ET
Most Canadians support ongoing high levels of immigration -- but those who don't are more likely to be immigrants, Conservatives, women or the elderly, according to a study released Tuesday.
The study, released by Montreal's Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP), found that overall, Canada remains a consistently welcoming place for newcomers, with support for high levels of immigration unaffected by dips in the economy, international terrorism or other events linked to specific ethnic groups.
Over the past 20 years, Canada has accepted about 250,000 "permanent immigrants" annually, author Jeffrey Reitz, an immigration and ethnic studies professor at the University of Toronto. In 2010, the country posted its highest figures in 50 years: more than 280,000 people.
"This support has been consistently high over the past 15 to 20 years when immigration levels have also been high," states a release issued by the IRPP. "It is particularly strong among more educated Canadians, the young, the fully employed and men."
About 58 per cent of people in the country support current levels of immigration, stated the report, titled "Pro-immigration Canada: Social and Economic Roots of Popular Views."
Atlantic Canada, Quebec and the Prairies outshone the rest of Canada, with more than 62 per cent support.
"There's majority support in every region," Reitz told CTVNews.ca on Tuesday. "It used to be thought that Alberta was a bit reluctant on immigration, but whatever was the case in the past is no longer true."
Both Ontario and British Columbia showed lower than average levels of support, but people in those provinces' most immigrant-rich cities, Toronto and Vancouver, showed enthusiasm for immigration that was above average.
"Where there are more immigrants, people are a bit cool to the idea of adding even more immigrants," Reitz explained. "The question asked wasn't ‘Do we like immigration?' It was ‘How do you feel about changing the levels of immigration?' If you're in an area where there's a lot of immigration, your view to adding more might be a bit restrained."
Between one third and one half of the country's newcomers settle in Toronto.
The study looked at trends in public attitudes and data from an Environics survey conducted last November, which asked Canadians questions how much immigration they are comfortable with, and to explain the conditions under which immigrants are most likely to succeed.
It found Canadians see newcomers as both an economic benefit and a cultural one, noting multiculturalism remains one of the country's main sources of national pride.
"Few see immigration as one of Canada's most significant problems," states the study. "The survey data show that support for multiculturalism is rooted in a broader, socially progressive agenda that includes issues such as gay rights and gun control, which themselves reinforce pro-immigration attitudes. Nevertheless, many Canadians would like immigrants to blend into society rather than form separate communities."
The study found Canadians see acceptance of immigrants as distinct from our neighbours to the south, providing a national identity in a country often looking to set itself apart.
Indeed, when compared to the United States, where there is a fence along large parts of the southern border and a proposal for one on its north, the lack of debate on the merits of immigration in Canada speaks volumes.
"In the party leaders' debate preceding the May 2011 election, a voter posed a question on immigration and multiculturalism. Each of the four prime ministerial candidates attempted to adopt the most pro-immigration position," states the report.
"All Canadian political parties espouse pro-immigration policies, and the public rarely asks them to defend these policies.
"Canada is an exception to the negative attitude toward immigration that prevails in most other industrialized countries, an attitude that has received much attention, particularly in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and France."
"Canadians were more likely to see immigration as an opportunity than as a problem."
Read more: http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Canada/20111018/canadians-still-support-high-immigration-levels-111018/#ixzz1bBBTRhtu