Conducted for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the national poll revealed that respondents didn’t make a distinction between “undocumented workers” and “workers without the proper work permits,” with nearly two-thirds of Canadians coming down hard on illegal immigrants because they did not follow the rules.
“Half say that they feel the same way about immigrants who have studied in Canada and have the potential to contribute to this country but who are now here illegally because their visas have run out,” said the poll summary. As well, a slight majority said immigrants who did not go through the proper application process should be deported despite the existence of family members already in the country.
Prof. Peter Showler, director of the Refugee Forum at the University of Ottawa, said it is a “very high Canadian value” to oppose queue-jumping by anyone in the country, including immigrants.
“We are a very civil society and we like the idea that people should play by the rules, and we don’t like it when there are rule-breakers and I think that has been a fairly consistent view,” said Mr. Showler. However, he added that Canadians are very “schizophrenic” on the issue and once personal details about an immigrant, who is about to be deported, become public through the media, they often become extremely supportive.
He said estimates on the number of illegal immigrants in Canada generally range from 35,000 to 120,000 — a relatively small percentage of the national population when compared to 13 million in the United States.
The federal government is releasing its latest survey as the heated debate over reasonable accommodation of minorities, which started in Quebec, spreads across the country, drawing in issues of multiculturalism and immigration. The Conservative government promised in the throne speech to bring in legislation forcing voters to show their faces when casting ballots.
Residents in Quebec, at 70%, were much more likely to mention “reasonable accommodation” than any other region in Canada, where no more than five per cent cited this response when asked to mention aspects of immigration in the news. The Quebec government is currently holding hearings into reasonable accommodation across the province.
In the poll, Canadians identified both the positive and negative aspects of immigration. The pro-immigration aspects were identified as giving a boost to the workforce by bringing in more labourers and highly skilled people while increasing cultural diversity.
“Negative aspects identified include the perception that there is a lack of integration in that immigrants are imposing their culture instead of adapting to ours, the desire of immigrants to have Canada accommodate them, the impact that immigration has on Canadian culture and the notion that immigrants groups tend to stay together and not mix with the rest of society,” said the poll report.
The survey also found that despite Canadians’ limited understanding of biometrics, three of five support their use once the effectiveness against the fraudulent use of identity documents is explained. “They say that the federal government’s main priority… should be maintaining security rather than protecting privacy,” said the report.
In fact, 80% of the respondents predicted by the year 2010 that every adult will have at least one biometric ID on file somewhere to verify their identity. Overall, just over half of Canadians said that there are about the right number of immigrants coming to Canada while 27% said there were too many.
The poll report, which was completed in May, involved 1,200 telephone interviews with adult Canadians and carries a margin of error of 2.8%, 19 times out of 20.
It was the first time the government had asked questions about deporting illegal immigrants in Canada. The poll cost about $40,000.