Syrian Refugee Resettlement: tight timelines are key driver of opposition to Ottawa’s New Year plan

Syrian Refugee Resettlement: tight timelines are key driver of opposition to Ottawa’s New Year plan

Canadians polarized on issue in general, with just over half rejecting plan to accept 25,000 refugees by Jan. 1 2016

November 18, 2015 – In the ongoing debate among Canadians regarding the Trudeau government’s
plan to re-settle 25,000 Syrian refugees by January 1, 2016, a clear concern over timelines is emerging – and driving opposition.

The latest public opinion poll frompolling canada the Angus Reid Institute – conducted three days after the terrorist attacks that killed 129 in Paris – finds this country divided over the government’s arrangement, as those against it point to a lack of time to properly conduct security checks as the main reason for their disapproval.

Key Findings:

  • Just over half (54%) of Canadians oppose the refugee resettlement plan, while 42 per cent support it
  • Among those opposed, the majority (53%) cite too-short timelines to ensure necessary security checks as the main reason for their disagreement, while just under one-third (29%) don’t think Canada should be taking in any Syrian refugees at all

Half oppose the government’s plan

Even before the terrorist attacks in the French capital, fully half of the Canadian public was against the Liberal government’s plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the first day of 2016. Indeed, it was also the second-most-opposed part of the Liberal agenda canvassed in that survey (after a promise to spend $380 million on the arts).

While Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has written to the federal government to urge it to suspend the refugee resettlement plan in light of the Paris attacks, and the governors of more than two dozen U.S. states now say they don’t want any Syrian refugees, it appears public opinion in Canada has not been particularly moved in the immediate aftermath of the violence in France:

canada polling

Larger – though statistically insignificant – numbers now say they either “strongly support” or “strongly oppose,” the plan. Of note – those choosing strong opposition do so two-to-one over those who profess strong support.

While opinion is largely unchanged, some interesting demographic shifts emerge:

  • Support for the government’s plan now outpaces opposition in Atlantic Canada (50% support versus 46% oppose), a reversal from the October results (40% support versus 45% oppose)
  • The opposite switch has occurred in British Columbia, where the resettlement agenda enjoyed 50 per cent support in October (compared to 37% opposed). It is now supported by fewer people (47%) than oppose it (49%)

canada polling

Opposition driven by looming deadlines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has maintained that his government intends to stick to its Jan. 1, 2016 deadline for implementing the resettlement plan, despite calls from Wall and others to slow it down.

This is a sticking point among opponents of the plan, more than half (53%) of whom cite the short timeline as the most important reason for their opposition, while others are concerned with actual numbers or costs. There also remains a significant core of Canadians who believe accepting refugees from Syria is the wrong thing to do:

canada poll

The timeline argument is most persuasive to opponents of the plan who are over age 55. Nearly two-thirds of this group (63%) say they feel this way, compared to fewer than half of those in the younger two age groups (48% of the 35 – 54, and 47% of the 18 – 35, respectively).

By contrast, these two age groups under 55 are considerably more likely to oppose Canada taking in any Syrian refugees at all. Roughly one-third of opponents to the government’s plan in each under-55 age group choose this option (32% of the 35 – 54 and 35% of the 18-34, respectively), compared to roughly one-in-five (22%) of those over age 55.

Thus, while younger Canadians are more likely to support the plan overall, those in this age group who do oppose the plan are also the most likely to oppose any plan – large or small, short timeline or long – for bringing Syrian refugees to Canada.

Click here for the full report including tables and methodology

Click here for the questionnaire used in this survey

Shachi Kurl, Senior Vice President: 604.908.1693