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This article was published 13/3/2015 (2087 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Canadians are becoming less welcoming of newcomers — especially of visible minorities, a new national survey has found.

The EKOS poll, conducted March 4 to 10, shows a country that’s becoming more fearful and less compassionate, say Winnipeggers who help immigrants and refugees.

"I’m horrified by these numbers and find them extremely disheartening," said Dorota Blumczynska, the executive director of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba. The survey found 46 per cent of Canadians say too many immigrants are coming — up from 25 per cent in 2005. Forty-one per cent said too many immigrants are visible minorities — up from 18 per cent in 2005.

The shift toward a less-welcoming landscape is no surprise to the head of Canada’s largest private sponsor of refugees.

"These are frightening times, and Canadians feel it," said Tom Denton, executive director of Hospitality House Refugee Ministry. "Political instability across the planet and daily appalling news from abroad is engendering fear of ‘the other,’ not just in Canada but everywhere."

"The Harper government has picked up on this and is using it to justify a more hard-edged legislative program and policies in the immigration area, in citizenship rules and in the criminal-justice system," Denton said. "Kindness and compassion are the victims. We’re not as nice as we used to be."

The president of the Manitoba Islamic Association said he hopes the shift away from accepting visible minorities doesn’t continue.

Louise Simbandumwe says the federal government is 'engaging in negative and misleading rhetoric about immigrants.'


Louise Simbandumwe says the federal government is 'engaging in negative and misleading rhetoric about immigrants.'

"A racism-free society is an ideal we should all strive for," said Idris Elbakri. "I think national and local leaders have a responsibility to set a tone that is welcoming and embracing," he said. "Focusing on cultural differences and magnifying them distorts the immigrant’s experience and puts it in a negative light," said Elbakri, who hasn’t felt that negativity here in Winnipeg since the Palestinian man and his family came to Canada.

"Manitoba is wonderful that way. My family and I have always felt welcomed and embraced by our neighbours, schools, at work... Our children have travelled overseas several times, and we also lived for some time overseas, but I can see it in their eyes when we come back that Canada is home to them. My hope is that this continues to be the case and our political leaders will not strike a tone that will shatter this for them."

Elbakri said unless you’re an indigenous Canadian, you have newcomer roots.

"People need to remember that, other than the aboriginal peoples of Canada, we are all visibly of an immigrant heritage."

The Conservatives are responsible for the growth in anti-immigrant attitudes, said Blumczynska.

"The federal government has undermined decades of effort of creating a multicultural, egalitarian society," she said. "They’ve done that by pitting communities against each other and essentially by taking newcomers and pigeon-holing them and saying that the safety and security of Canada relies only on sameness — on people who look like us and act like us."

Manitoba’s senior Tory MP, Shelly Glover, declined to comment on the poll results, deferring to Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney.

Kenney and other members of the Harper government are responsible for the shift in attitudes toward newcomers, said Louise Simbandumwe, a volunteer with the Immigration Matters Coalition.

"They have defended their regressive immigration and refugee policies by engaging in negative and misleading rhetoric about immigrants," she said. "Government ministers have repeatedly referred to newcomers as ‘bogus refugees’, ‘immigration queue jumpers’, ‘marriage fraudsters’ and ‘foreign criminals’," she said. Using that type of language over and over reinforces negative stereotypes of newcomers that can contribute to intolerance and racism, she said.


Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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