Myths About Canada: We’re a Beacon of Tolerance
The first country to adopt multiculturalism as an official government policy in 1971, Canada is considered the proverbial cultural mosaic. But just how tolerant are we?
In a 2010 survey for the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, 27 per cent of Canadians felt that the number of immigrants and refugees arriving in Canada each year was a “critical threat” to Canadian interests.
When the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Research Centre surveyed 47 countries about their attitudes towards immigration in 2007, majorities in 44 nations—including Canada—felt that “we should restrict and control the entry of people into our country more than we do now.” Sixty-two per cent of Canadians concurred.
Moreover, 30 per cent of Canadians (and 41 per cent of people age 55-plus) told a 2010 survey by Angus Reid that multiculturalism has been bad for Canada. In the same survey, 33 per cent of respondents felt that Canadian society is intolerant towards Muslims, and 24 per cent believe we are intolerant towards immigrants from South Asia.
Jeffrey Reitz, a professor in Ethnic Immigration and Pluralism Studies at the University of Toronto, says there’s little truth behind the belief that Canadian multiculturalism means immigrants receive more favourable treatment here than they do in the United States, with its melting-pot approach. In his book, The Illusion of Difference, he compares the integration of immigrants in Canada and the States, and finds few differences in the attitudes towards newcomers.
While it may be comforting to believe we’re much more open and inclusive than those in other countries, “the evidence just doesn’t support that,” says Reitz.