Study: Canadians are more supportive of immigration than ever

Edana Robitaille
Published: October 29, 2022

The Environics Institute of Canada, in partnership with the Century Initiative, has released survey data on Canadian’s opinions on immigration. The Environics Institute is a research agency that conducts public opinion surveys and collects data on Canadian issues such as the government or economy. Century Initiative is a registered charity run by business leaders and academics that advocates for the population of Canada to reach 100,000,000 by 2100.

The overall finding of the survey is that more Canadians than ever are in favour of increased immigration. Nearly 70% of Canadians were found to disagree or strongly disagree when asked if Canada’s immigration levels were too high.

This is the most support shown for immigration in the survey’s 45-year history and comes as the 2021 census data shows that immigrants make up 23% of Canada’s total population, or 8.3 million people. It projects that this number will increase to 34% by 2041.

Data was collected through telephone interviews conducted with 2,000 Canadians between September 6 and 30, 2022. A sample of this size drawn from the population produces results accurate to within plus or minus 2.2 percentage points in 19 out of 20 samples.

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In all responses, as in previous years, the study found that support for immigration and immigrants is often related to an individual’s political leanings. Since 2021, overall support for elevated levels of immigration has increased among supporters of the federal Liberal Party (79%, up 4), NDP (85%, up 4) and Green Party (84%, up 19). Conversely, 43% of Conservative supporters believe that immigration levels are too high, but this is still a drop of 1% over the 2021 study.

Support for immigration despite pandemic difficulties

The data comes at a time when Canada is dealing with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, a historic labour shortage and a record one million job vacancies. In response, Canada has been raising targets within the Immigration Levels Plan. The current plan has a target between nearly 432,000 and 451,000 new immigrants in Canada by 2024. A new plan is expected by November 1.

Over 50% of surveyed Canadians believe that Canada needs more immigrants to increase its population. The most notable changes over the 2021 data show that people in Manitoba and Saskatchewan have shifted their views, with a 15-point increase over the previous year. Alberta and Ontario are both also up three points.

Atlantic Canada, which has tripled its number of immigrants in the past five years, showed less support for immigration than in the past, dropping nine points.

There is also a prevailing feeling that immigrants are essential for economic growth in Canada. By increasing the population through immigration, Canada also increases its tax base.

The recent census reported that two thirds of new immigrants to Canada are of working age, which means that the majority of new immigrants to Canada will be contributing income tax to the economy and supporting systems such as healthcare and education.

Canadians believe in accepting more refugees

Most respondents were positive regarding Canada’s commitment to providing a safe haven for refugees, particularly for those who are fleeing conflict zones. However, the survey shows that some have concerns over refugees' ability to integrate into Canadian society and the impact this has on the country’s culture and identity. This was particularly notable in Quebec, which strives to enforce economic immigration policies that promote its unique francophone culture and identity.

However, when asked if Canada accepts too many immigrants from racialized countries, the results show that a growing majority of Canadians, Quebec included, reject that idea.

There is still some belief among Canadians, 37% agree or strongly agree, that some refugees are not legitimate or “real” refugees. As with all other questions, the percentage of respondents who adhere to this belief is higher among supporters of the Conservatives or Bloc Quebecois. Regionally, Alberta has the largest number of people who believe this, but Atlantic Canadians are increasingly in agreement as well, up eight points from the 2021 survey.

Still, the survey indicates that Canada as a whole rejects the idea that there are too many racial minority immigrants in Canada. Those who agree with that statement are generally over 60 years old or do not hold a high school diploma.

This is a major change from the overall data in the 1990s when public opinion on the issue was divided almost evenly.

Overall, there was little change in opinion about accepting refugees from conflict zones when specific countries were mentioned. Some respondents were given the example of conflict zones such as Ukraine and others were asked about conflict zones such as Afghanistan. The results show a slight, but not substantial difference in support for Ukrainian refugees over those from Afghanistan.

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