New Brunswick

2/3 of Atlantic Canadians support 'values' screening of immigrants, poll suggests

A recent survey suggests two-thirds of Atlantic Canadians would support screening potential immigrants for "Canadian values," but the company doing the survey didn't define the values.

Vague survey 'plays with fire,' says director of New Brunswick Multicultural Council

A Canadian passport is displayed in Ottawa on Thursday, July 23, 2015. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

A recent survey of Atlantic Canadians suggests two-thirds would support screening potential immigrants for "Canadian values."

Sixty-eight per cent of the 1,511 adults who took part in the survey said they completely supported or mostly supported "values" screening of potential immigrants, and 26 per cent mostly or fully opposed the idea.

Six per cent said they did not know or had no opinion.

But the survey conducted in all four Atlantic provinces did not define Canadian values — a problem for the president of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council, who says it leaves a lot to interpretation.

Mike Timani said he worries the survey opens the door to asking who will be allowed to enter the country. He said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, known as IRCC, should continue doing its job without Canada picking up on U.S. trends that would curb immigration.

"We should stay away from that," he said. "As long as immigration, IRCC continue to do their due diligence the way it's supposed to be done, I think that's the way to go.

"And we've been successful with that."

Intentionally vague

Corporate Research Associates conducted the telephone survey between Feb. 2 and March 1. The question was: Do you completely support, mostly support, mostly oppose, or completely oppose the federal government screening potential immigrants for Canadian values before allowing them entry into the country?

(Submitted/CRA Survey)

Don Mills, the chairman and CEO of the polling company, said the question was intentionally vague to allow respondents to define Canadian values on their own.

But there is a general understanding, Mills said, of what Canadian values are. As an example, he mentioned equality in the treatment of people.

Mills said populist movements have surfaced across the Western world and are especially visible now in the United States and France.

People are "concerned about the values that they perceive to be important," he said.

Corporate Research wanted to find out if Canadians felt the same way.

"Now we know it's an issue for Atlantic Canadians at least, and we can go to the next step of trying to define what they believe are the core Canadians values that need to be part of that process," he said.

"And we don't want to be surprised by what Canadians are thinking at this moment because obviously we need to respond as a country to these kinds of concerns."

Immigration politics

Mills said his company had not considered surveying people about whether they were unhappy with the immigration process in Canada.

Mike Timani worries the survey opens the door to asking who will be allowed to enter the country in the future, based on immigration policies now used in the United States and other countries. (CBC)

But Timani said he would have preferred if the survey asked a direct question rather than a vague one. That, at least, could be used to address potential problems, he said.

He said many countries are dealing with different issues right now, some of them related to immigration.

But these issues are not related to Canadian politics, so "we don't want to compare Canada to that" or shift to acting the same way, he said.

Immigrants are screened already "because at the end of the day, safety is important to all of us," Timani said.

"Every year we bring hundreds of thousands of people into Canada, and we don't have that issue."

The survey company said the results were accurate to within plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 95 times out of 100.