11 de abril de 2018

idi euaWith recent reports of the rise of populism and anti-immigrant sentiment around the world, it’s important to know: are Canadians more or less supportive of newcomers and ethnic and religious diversity today than a decade ago?

MARGARET EATON

With recent reports of the rise of populism and anti-immigrant sentiment around the world, it’s important to know: are Canadians more or less supportive of newcomers and ethnic and religious diversity today than a decade ago?

Just last month, the Mowat Centre released the results of their survey, Portraits 2017: Immigration & Diversity. Comparing results of 2,000 Ontarians from November 2017 to polls from the early 2000s, the survey looked at trends and changes in attitudes to immigration and ethnic diversity. The results were fascinating, and provided a snapshot of the current mood.

Happily, the survey reports, “Most Ontarians remain comfortable with current levels of immigration and with the province’s growing diversity” with an increased support for opening up our doors to those fleeing conflicts. In fact, three in five Ontarians believe the total number of immigrants coming to Canada “should be kept the same as it is now, or should be increased.”

Four in five affirm that young Canadians are fortunate to grow up with people from different races and religions, with the same statistic being true for Ontarians who believe Canada must “make sure that people from different races and cultures feel welcome.”

Overcoming weaker levels of support toward immigration

But it’s not all good news. The sentiments on immigration and diversity are not shared among those who expressed concern about their economic wellbeing, with weaker levels of support for openness toward some minority groups in 2017 than the early 2000s. In fact, in 2003, 47 per cent of Ontarians agreed that immigration is “causing too many changes in Canadian society.” In 2017, this percentage has grown to 56 per cent. And while there is increased support to welcome more people fleeing conflict, 50 per cent disagree. Approximately half of Ontarians agree that many people claiming to be refugees are not, in fact, refugees.

In today’s age of populist politics and strong anti-immigration rhetoric affecting Western democracies, Canada has been — to date — an altruistic outlier bucking the trend. Diversity is our strength and we’ve always welcomed the economic boon and cultural advantage that newcomers have brought to our country. But are Canadians immunized from this toxic shift in social values? If not, how do we respond to rising discrimination and extreme populist sentiments?

Under Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen’s leadership, nearly one million immigrants will settle in Canada between 2018 and 2020. It’s expected that 310,000 new residents will settle in Canada this year. That number will jump to 330,000 in 2019 and 340,000 in 2020. A few weeks ago, I was at a breakfast meeting hosted by the Canadian Club Toronto. There was a panel discussion with the Century Initiative on their push to grow Canada’s population to 100 million by 2100. Such a bold and ambitious long-term plan may be exactly what we need for future prosperity in our economy, and deter the low birth rates and aging population shift. Now is not the time for Ontarians and Canadians to be succumbing to fear. Welcoming immigrants and people with refugee status is ingrained in our national identity.

The findings in Mowat Centre’s survey are positive and reassuring overall, but openness and tolerance can be a fleeting thing, especially under uncertain economic conditions that cause some to feel less financially secure and hopeful for their own future. In the survey, one’s own sense of security in the economy and labour market was the biggest factor in the difference of attitudes toward immigration and diversity. Negative and false rhetoric about how immigrants are taking our jobs or changing our social norms can sway public opinion — and it’s been happening too often lately.

Let’s not lose sight of values of openness and tolerance

The province of Ontario — and more specifically Greater Toronto Area — receives the highest number of newcomers in the country, and immigrants today contribute significantly to our growing economy and workforce. But the truth remains that our employers still experience skills shortages and too many newcomers are unable to find employment that matches their education, skills and professional experience.

Now more than ever, we must champion the talent that immigrant professionals bring to this region and country, and not lose sight of our values of openness and tolerance that makes us uniquely Canadian. I hope you will join me.

Fonte: Canadian Immigrant – 11/04/2018