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Immigrants shape Canadian elections

How migration shaped Canada’s election and will test the Liberals

October 31, 2015. 2:22 pm • Section: ImmigrationPoliticsThe Search

Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulcair had different strategies for reaching immigrant voters. "The Tories do very well among Chinese immigrants and not well at all among South Asians," says the U of T's Peter Loewen. The Conservatives scored a higher percentage among immigrant than non-immigrant voters.
Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulcair had different strategies for reaching immigrant voters. “The Tories do very well among Chinese immigrants and not well at all among South Asians,” says the U of T’s Peter Loewen. The Conservatives scored a higher percentage among immigrant than non-immigrant voters.

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The federal election will be remembered for the way it ignited over an issue that directly affects only a handful of migrant women – those who feel it necessary towear the niqab during Canada’s citizenship ceremony.

The symbolic controversy – which decimated the NDP but left the Liberals unscathed despite their shared defence of religious freedom – was one of many hot migration-related subjects that peppered the campaign won by Justin Trudeau.

In a country in which one of five people are born outside the country – rising to one of two in Toronto and Vancouver – matters of migration are deeply embedded in electoral politics, especially in urban centres.

Before examining how Trudeau will handle related refugee issues, family reunification programs, rising housing costs and immigrant intake, it’s worth analyzing the ways migration realities played out in election 2015.

Migration politics is as multifaceted as Canada’s population.

While some commentators, for instance, judged the Conservative’s anti-niqab stance as “anti-immigrant,” they were making a common mistake. There is no single “immigrant community” in Canada.

The country’s foreign-born population is diverse and fragmented. Hailing from more than 100 countries, immigrants have no shortage of competing interests. And the Conservatives have learned how to attract a solid chunk of immigrants’ votes.

RELATED: Migrant crisis calls for a reality check

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Pakistani-Canadian woman urges media to oppose niqab

Even though the Conservatives often appeared to be scapegoating Canada’s one million Muslims, Stephen Harper recognized it is not only the majority of Canadians who are appalled by the patriarchal niqab, but also many Muslims.

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