Canadians ignorant about number of immigrants and refugees admitted annualy
When asked the question, during Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s 2013-14 annual tracking survey, 43 per cent of the Canadian adults polled wouldn’t even hazard a guess. Fully one third thought the number was less than 100,000 a year.
In fact, for the past decade, Canada has opened its doors to about 250,000 immigrants and refugees a year. (Only nine per cent of those surveyed suggested a number remotely close to that.)
Ignorance of the facts, however, didn’t stop most of the 3,016 participants polled by Harris/Decima from answering when asked whether there were too many, too few or about the right number of immigrants coming to Canada every year.
Twenty-six per cent said there were too many, 10 per cent said too few and 52 per cent said the number was about right. The rest said they didn’t know.
After they were told the actual number admitted each year, the number who said there were too many jumped to 36 per cent. Nine per cent said too few immigrants were admitted, while 48 per cent thought the number was about right.
When asked if Canada should increase, decrease or maintain its immigration intake over the next five years, nearly half favoured the status quo, about one-third advocated a decrease and 15 per cent wanted immigration levels to rise.
Luc Turgeon, a University of Ottawa political scientist who has studied public attitudes toward immigration, said he wasn’t surprised by the widespread ignorance of actual immigration levels.
“In numerous countries it has been proven that people have no idea how many immigrants their countries are letting in,” he said.
Turgeon said the Conservative federal government has “sent a number of signals” to reassure its base that it’s keeping a close eye on people admitted to Canada.
Those signals include tightening the rules for refugees, making it more difficult for refugees to access publicly funded health care and hinting that changes are in the works to the live-in caregiver program.
“They’ve done enough, in terms of reforms, to show their base that nobody’s going to have a free ride if they come to Canada,” Turgeon said.
Over the past couple of decades, Canadians have generally become more accepting of immigration, Turgeon said.
In the 1980s, when Canada was only admitting about 150,000 immigrants and refugees a year, significant proportions of Canadians were in favour of reducing the number.
Though annual admissions have increased by about 100,000 since then, half of Canadians consistently say the country is admitting about the right number of immigrants.
In fact, said Turgeon, Canada is one of the few countries in the world where attitudes toward immigration have remained generally positive over the past 15 years. In Europe, but contrast, attitudes have become “incredibly more negative,” he said.
“One of the key factors is that we’ve always made an economic case for immigration. People really buy into it.”
The 2013-14 tracking survey found that nearly 80 per cent of Canadians agree immigration is necessary if Canada is to sustain its economic growth.
However, when asked if Canada should be helping unemployed Canadians rather than looking for skilled immigrants to fill jobs, the same number — 80 per cent — agree, including 51 per cent who express strong agreement.
Just over three-quarters of those surveyed were born in Canada, while 23 per cent were born in other countries.