|Births and immigration in Canada from 1850 to 2000 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Teresa Smith, Postmedia News
Almost three-quarters of Canadians don't want the federal government to increase the number of immigrants it allows into the country every year, a new survey has found.
The Ipsos Reid poll on Canadian values, commissioned for Postmedia News and Global TV for Canada Day, also shows, however, that four in 10 people feel those immigrants are having a positive impact on the country.
Almost three-quarters of Canadians don't want the federal government to increase the number of immigrants it allows into the country every year, a new survey has found
"With immigration comes change, and people want to control the pace of change," said Ipsos Reid president Darrell Bricker. "There's a tolerance for immigrants once they get here, but Canadians do feel that there are an awful lot of immigrants coming in right now."
Bricker said the numbers also show Canadians continue to support multiculturalism, and have a strong tendency to just "live and let live."
Over the years, Canada has increased the number of immigrants it allows into the country.
In 1986, it accepted just 100,000; currently, it welcomes about 250,000 annually.
Bricker, whose book on the changing face of Canada is due out in early 2013, said Canadians don't seem to realize that there's been a "dramatic transition in immigration policy" since the 1960s.
Fifty years ago, the government was trying to convince Canadians to welcome the "poor and huddled masses and refugees" who made up most of the immigrant population at the time. Now, "we've moved very dramatically away from that," he said. "Now, it's about attracting people who are going to drive our economy."
It's the government's job to explain to Canadians how increasing immigration can help the economy, said Bricker.
Data from the 2011 census, released earlier this year, show a rapid decrease in fertility rates in Canada since the late 1960s and 1970s. Projections suggest that by 2031, immigration will account for more than 80 per cent of Canada's overall population growth.
"Without a sustained level of immigration or a substantial increase in fertility, Canada's population growth could, within 20 years, be close to zero," the census found.
Sweeping policy changes in the past few months have shifted Canada's immigration system in an attempt to attract the kind of people who can hit the ground running, economically speaking.
For example, the points-based selection system for federal skilled workers will soon give priority to young immigrants, those with strong language proficiency, and individuals who have already secured a job in Canada.
Economic immigrants - those chosen for their employment skills - now account for about 62 per cent of newcomers.
Meanwhile, on the refugee side, Bill C-31, the "Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act" - which passed into law last week - allows the government to deport so-called bogus refugees more quickly and crack down on human smugglers and illegal arrivals.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is "trying to demonstrate that this is a tightly controlled process that Canada needs for its economic future," said Bricker. But it seems that Canadians are going to need a little more convincing.
In response to the statement "Canada should let in more immigrants than it currently does," 28 per cent of respondents agreed, while 72 per cent said no.
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The numbers were steady across income brackets, but differed widely depending on age group. The younger the respondent, the more open he or she was to an increase in immigration: 38 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 thought the country could accept more immigrants, compared with one-quarter of those aged 35 to 54, and only 22 per cent among citizens over 55.
Openness to newcomers also went up with education levels.
Meanwhile, 36 per cent of respondents said immigration has had a negative impact on Canada, while 41 per cent felt the impact of newcomers had been positive.
Bricker said people in British Columbia and Ontario - the provinces with the most immigrants - had the darkest view of newcomers, with 38 per cent responding that immigration's impact on Canada has been negative. Saskatchewan and Manitoba were on the other end of the spectrum with 48 per cent saying immigration's effect had been positive.
The online poll sampled 1,101 Canadians between June 20 and 25. Weighting was employed to balance demographics. The estimated margin of error nationally was plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The margin or error increases for subsets such as provincial breakdowns.
© Postmedia News 2012