Canadians split on issue of immigration, survey finds

posted on August 31, 2018

By CBC News |

A new survey has found half of Canadians want to see the number of immigrants coming to Canada lowered.

The Angus Reid Institute found 49 per cent of surveyed Canadians want to see the federal government’s 2018 target of 310,000 immigrants reduced. In 2014, 36 per cent said it should be reduced.

In contrast, 31 per cent said the target should stay the same. Six per cent wanted to see more immigration.

“For the first time in a while, we are seeing Canadians more inclined to say that we should be decreasing the amount of immigration, and fewer Canadians saying that we should stick with the status quo, in that we should keep those numbers levels or actually increase them,” Angus Reid executive director Shachi Kurl told Renée Filippone, guest host of CBC’s The Early Edition.

“Against that backdrop, we’re actually seeing real immigration numbers rising.”

Refugees, irregular migrants

Kurl says Canadians have been polled on immigration since 1975 and it has always been a divisive issue.

The recent shift to preferring fewer immigrants, she surmised, could be because of an increase in irregular migration and Canada taking in refugees.

“For many Canadians, we see this as our finest moment and something to be very proud of,” she said. “For many other Canadians, that comes with a great deal of anxiety and not necessarily the ‘buy in’ that we assume is there.

“I think that all of that is combining to lead to this moment of pushback. The question is if this is a moment in time or is this a larger trend, we don’t know that yet.”

Something to ‘grapple’ with

Chris Friesen, director of settlement with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., said hearing mixed support for immigrants in Canada can be challenging and discouraging.

The society provides immigrants and refugees with language classes, housing and employment supports, among other services, as they integrate into Canada.

“I don’t think the public fully understands or comprehends the numbers,” Friesen said, arguing that higher immigration will be required to fill looming shortages in the labour market.

“This is something that we’re all going to have to grapple with as we feel the impact of accelerated retirement and declining birth rate.”

He says without further immigration to stimulate the economy, governments may have to increase taxes or reduce social services with an insufficient workforce.

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