Canadian immigrants more likely to report a strong sense of belonging in Ontario and Atlantic Canada: Report
Sense of belonging to a country, particularly as an immigrant, has long been a trusted method for measuring “social integration, national identification and feelings of acceptance/feelings that one is ‘at home’ in Canada.”
Appropriately, the 2020 General Social Survey (GSS) conducted by Statistics Canada (StatsCan) provides some insight into the Canadian provinces and territories where immigrants are most likely to report that they feel a strong sense of belonging to this country.
According to the survey, immigrants in Ontario and the Atlantic-Canadian provinces (Nova Scotia (NS), Prince Edward Island (PEI), Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) and New Brunswick (NB)) displayed a higher “likelihood of reporting a very strong sense of belonging to Canada.” Meanwhile, the inverse was found to be true for immigrants who settled in British Columbia and Alberta.
What follows will provide a detailed review of the 2020 GSS and an understanding of why there is variance in the reported sense of belonging among Canadian immigrants.
What factors influence an immigrant’s sense of belonging?
Immigrants largely form their sense of belonging to Canada based on factors including post-migration experiences that provide positive feedback from their surroundings, such as if they feel accepted in this country and if they feel like they have good opportunities for success.
Additionally, this survey suggests that other factors that may impact “cross-provincial variation” in sense of belonging among immigrants include the following:
Sociodemographic factors that may influence an immigrant’s sense of belonging in Canada include the number of years since immigration, the individual’s age at the time of immigration, their immigration admission category and population group they are immigrating into.
Long-term differences in the settlement patterns of immigrants have contributed to differences in the sociodemographic composition of the immigrant population in each province. For reasons discussed below, these compositional differences may have implications for cross-provincial variation in immigrants’ sense of belonging to Canada.
Immigrant Composition in Each Region
Another group of factors at play fall under the category of “immigrant composition.” Each province in Canada has a different proportion of their total population that is made up of recent immigrants.
For instance, in 2021, “the share of recent immigrants ranged from 14% of immigrants in British Columbia and Ontario to 30% (or more) of immigrants residing in Saskatchewan and the Atlantic provinces.”
Note: This survey suggests that a region’s immigrant composition is impactful for the immigrant sense of belonging to Canada because such sentiment is usually “weaker among recent immigrants than among longer-term immigrants.” According to the authors of the survey, this implies that immigrants’ sense of belonging to Canada increases with time. Therefore, the regional average for immigrant sense of belonging may be stronger in the provinces with more long-term immigrants.
Feelings of Acceptance/Instances of Discrimination
Due to variance in the size of the different ethnic groups within a province’s immigrant population, immigrants in some regions are more likely to face and be subject to “exclusionary experiences”, while others may feel the opposite (welcomed by their community). Since both exist on opposite poles, discrimination is considered another key factor in how likely an immigrant is to report a strong sense of belonging in their home province.
There is significant provincial difference/variation across Canada with respect to what this survey calls “structural factors”, including employment, educational opportunities and economic diversity, “which all influence the acculturation and incorporation of immigrants.”
In other words, the feeling that one can economically contribute to the new society, as well as “secure material well-being for themselves and their families”, can often contribute to an immigrant’s sense of belonging in their new home.
“Structural factors” also refer to socioeconomic conditions in the provinces (median household income and percentage of unemployed individuals).
Results of the 2020 General Social Survey
Ultimately, the data from StatsCan’s 2020 GSS indicates some notable variance in the reported sense of belonging among immigrants in Canada, which can partly be attributed to the factors indicated above.
The table below indicates the percentage “predicted probability of immigrants reporting a very strong sense of belonging to Canada by province of residence.”
Note: Scores closer to 100 indicate a higher sense of belonging to Canada
Generally speaking, immigrants living in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces (PEI, NS, NL and NB) report a strong sense of belonging to Canada, whereas this sentiment was weaker among immigrants in British Columbia and Alberta.
Interestingly, the difference in sense of belonging to Canada between Alberta-based immigrants and those living in Ontario is largely a function of Alberta’s immigrant composition. In other words, this study suggests that “if these factors were equal, the proportion of immigrants in Alberta who reported a very strong sense of belonging to Canada would be similar to that in Ontario.”
Meanwhile, the difference in the reported sense of belonging between immigrants in Ontario and those living in British Columbia was not merely explained by the above factors. According to this study, “even after [accounting for the factors listed above], immigrants in British Columbia were about 11 percentage points less likely to report a very strong sense of belonging to Canada than immigrants in Ontario.”