March 6, 2018
Most Ontarians remain comfortable with current levels of immigration and with the province’s growing diversity, and there is increasing support for welcoming those fleeing conflicts. These are some of the main findings in the latest report from Mowat’s Portraits 2017 survey series.
At the same time, Ontarians cannot afford to get complacent. Our report also finds significantly weaker levels of support for immigration and diversity among those more worried about economic security, potentially weaker levels of support in some cases in 2017 than were displayed in polls fifteen years ago, and lower levels of openness towards some minority groups. These are signals that should be monitored in future surveys.
In its autumn 2016 cover story titled “Liberty Moves North,” The Economist highlighted how Canada appears to be bucking a number of alarming global trends. “In this depressing company of wall-builders, door-slammers and drawbridge-raisers,” the magazine argued, “Canada stands out as a heartening exception.”1
There are grounds to question whether this claim to exceptionalism is over-stated. A number of recent public opinion survey findings have suggested that Canadians are not quite as tolerant as the country’s official tag-line of “diversity is our strength” might suggest. Recent headlines from media coverage of these surveys include phrases such as “Canadians aren’t as accepting as we think”, “Canada is not immune to anti-immigration movements”, “Canadians divided when it comes to immigration” and “Canada’s immigration attitudes hardening.”2
Several specific incidents are equally alarming – most notably the shooting of worshippers at a Quebec City Mosque in early 2017. More generally, in recent years ethnic and religious minorities in Canada have spoken of an increase in hate-inspired incidents or, at the very least, an increased sense of apprehension on their part – suggesting that Canadians should not be so quick to assume that their society is so much more accepting of difference than others.3
This latest in the series of reports from the Mowat Centre’s Portraits 2017 survey examines trends in attitudes relating to immigration and ethnic, racial and religious diversity. It does so by comparing the results of the November 2017 survey of 2,000 Ontarians with those from surveys conducted in the early 2000s. While the findings on the whole are largely reassuring, several specific trends suggest that it cannot be taken for granted that our society is becoming more and more open and tolerant over time, particularly when underlying economic conditions cause a number of citizens to feel less optimistic about their own future.View PDF
The Portraits 2017 series analyzes survey data from a comprehensive study of public opinion in Ontario and Quebec. The survey focused on a wide range of subjects, including federalism, the economy, social programs, international trade, immigration and diversity, and relations with Indigenous peoples. The data provides valuable new evidence about whether and how citizens’ attitudes towards one another, to the federation and to Canada are evolving at a time of considerable change and uncertainty in the wider global political context.More
- “Liberty Moves North: Canada’s Example to the World,” The Economist (October 29, 2016); https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21709305-it-uniquely-fortunate-many-waysbut-canada-still-holds-lessons-other-western. [↩]
- Angus Reid, “Canadians Aren’t as Accepting as We Think — and We Can’t Ignore It, Writes Angus Reid,” CBC News (October 4, 2016); www.cbc.ca/news/canada/angus-reid-poll-canadian-values-immigration-1.3789223; Sean Willet, “U of T Research Shows Canada Is Not Immune to Anti-immigration Movements,” U of T News (February 8, 2017) https://www.utoronto.ca/news/u-t-research-shows-canada-not-immune-anti-immigration-movements; Kamila Hinkson and Kalina Laframboise, “Canadians Divided When it Comes to Immigration, Poll Suggests,” CBC News (March 13, 2017); http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/canadian-immigration-poll-quebec-1.4022664; The Canadian Press, “Canadians’ Attitudes Toward Immigration Hardening, Government Poll Shows,” The Globe and Mail (November 7, 2017); https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/canadians-immigration-attitudes-hardening-government-poll-suggests/article36864037/. [↩]
- See, for instance: Rachel Lau, “Hate Crimes Spike in Montreal After Quebec City Mosque Shooting,” Global News (January 31, 2017); https://globalnews.ca/news/3216639/hate-crimes-spike-in-montreal-after-quebec-city-mosque-shooting/; Saada Branker, “Minority Groups Are Seeing One of Their Greatest Fears Come True — They’re Becoming Targets at Home,” CBC News (Dec 21, 2016); http://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/minority-targets-in-canada-1.3905882. [↩]