More Canadians Are Questioning the Benefits of Immigration

Most respondents in Alberta and Ontario perceive immigration negatively and call for the deportation of illegal immigrants.

More Canadians are questioning whether immigration is benefitting the country, with Albertans and Ontarians voicing concern over the role of illegal immigrants in Canadian society, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

The online survey of a representative sample of 1,007 Canadian adults also found that half of respondents would not allow the Tamil migrants who arrived in Canada a few weeks ago to stay in the country as refugees.

Overall, 46 per cent of respondents (+5 since August 2009) say immigration is having a negative effect in Canada, while 34 per cent (-3) believe it is having a positive effect. Albertans (56%) and Ontarians (55%) are more likely to view immigration in a negative light than respondents in all other provinces.

Legal and Illegal Immigration

About two-in-five Canadians (38%) believe the number of legal immigrants who are allowed to relocate in Canada should decrease. A similar proportion (39%) would keep the current levels, and 16 per cent call for more immigrants to be allowed into Canada. Ontario (42%) and Quebec (40%) hold the highest level of support for decreasing legal immigration.

A plurality of respondents (44%) think the illegal immigrants who currently reside in Canada take jobs away from Canadian workers, while a smaller proportion (38%) believe they are employed in jobs that Canadian workers do not want. More than half of Ontarians (52%) think illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from Canadians.

Almost half of Canadians (47%) believe illegal immigrants should be required to leave their jobs and be deported from Canada, while 23 per cent would allow them to stay in Canada and eventually apply for citizenship. Almost one-in-five (17%) would allow these illegal immigrants to work in Canada on a temporary basis, but would not give them a chance to become citizens.

Ontarians (53%) and Albertans (52%) hold the highest level of support for the deportation of illegal immigrants, while British Columbians are at the other end of the spectrum on this question (39%).

The Tamil Ship

There has been little change in the way Canadians feel about the ship carrying about 490 Tamil migrants from Sri Lanka that arrived in British Columbia a few weeks ago. Half of respondents (50%) think the passengers and crew should be deported to their country of origin, even if the refugee claims are legitimate and there is no discernible link between the migrants and any terrorist organization. One third of Canadians (32%) would allow the passengers and crew to stay in Canada as refugees.


On questions related to immigration, the views of Canadians appear to be hardening. Alberta, which was particularly unconvinced on the benefits of immigration in the August 2009 survey, has now been joined by Ontario. The two provinces are home to a population that is perceiving immigration negatively, and where a majority calls for the deportation of illegal immigrants. Ontarians also reject the claim that illegal immigrants are simply performing the tasks that Canadians don’t want to carry out.

Quebecers still see some benefits to immigration, and are more likely than all other Canadians to assume that illegal immigrants are not taking jobs away from Canadian workers. Still, Quebecers choose a decrease in legal immigration over an increase by a 4-to-1 margin.

British Columbia holds the highest proportion of respondents that regard immigration in a positive light. BC is also the only province where a plurality would allow the Tamil migrants to stay as refugees.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)

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