Immigration has never been higher, and Canadians have never been more pleased with it

The National Post

Tristin Hopper The National Post Oct 31, 2022  

As immigration surges to its highest levels in Canadian history, a new poll finds that Canada remains one of the most pro-immigration countries on Earth.

According to a telephone survey of 2,000 Canadians conducted by the Environics Institute, record-high numbers of Canadians agree with the notion that Canada “needs more immigrants.” This is in tandem with record low numbers of Canadians who report a belief that “immigration levels are too high.”

Environics surveyors found that 58 per cent of respondents agreed with the notion that “Canada needs more immigrants to increase its population.” This was an almost 180-degree turn from the sentiments of 30 years ago; the report cited a similar poll from 1993 in which 77 per cent of respondents said they didn’t want immigrants growing the population.

A similar phenomenon seemed to characterize the Canadian notion that immigration levels were too high. Environics cited historical poll data from 1977 to show that 61 per cent of Canadians favoured curbing immigration rates. In their latest survey, that was down to just 27 per cent.

The poll, which comes out roughly every year, was commissioned by the Century Initiative, a group with the explicit goal of growing Canada’s population to 100 million by 2100.

Nevertheless, it’s in keeping with other poll data showing that Canadians are generally pleased with immigration.

In 2019, the Angus Reid Institute conducted a particularly comprehensive survey of Canadian sentiments on immigration. Although the figures weren’t as decisive as those found by Environics, Angus Reid found that Canadians generally saw immigration as critical to the economy, and weren’t inclined to see immigrants as threats to their own jobs.

On the statement “Canada’s economic growth is in peril without immigration,” 61 per cent of respondents agreed. On the statement “new immigrants take too many jobs away from Canadians,” 71 per cent expressed disagreement.

Although, Angus Reid also found that most of the Canadians they surveyed couldn’t name the country’s rate of immigration, or even where Canadian immigrants were coming from. Most respondents believed that the Arab world was the single largest source of new immigration to Canada, when the actual largest source (by a quite a margin) is South Asia.

The Environics poll comes out just as Canada reaches immigration levels not seen since the early 20th century, when mass immigration from Europe was used to homestead the prairies. Last year, Canada brought in 401,000 new permanent residents; the equivalent to adding an extra Halifax in just 12 months.

According to recent projections by Stats Canada, should these trends continue, by 2041 the country will have 50 million people, half of whom are either immigrants or the children of one. Just last week, new census data showed that 23 per cent of those counted are either landed immigrants or permanent residents.

Canada is unique among Western countries for having almost no anti-immigration sentiment in its national political discourse. During the most recent Conservative leadership race, for instance, every candidate expressed either accord with current immigration rates, or a belief that they should probably be higher (and two of those candidates were immigrants themselves).

One key contributor to this may be the fact that Canada is particularly choosy with who it lets in. Beginning in 1967, Canada pioneered the world’s first “points-based” immigration system specifically designed to prioritize newcomers based on their ability to contribute to the economy and integrate into Canadian society.