How people feel about immigration levels can affect the support immigrants receive during resettlement their experiences in housing.
There’s been a big increase in Canadians thinking the country allows too many immigrants, a change from a year ago. In June 2023, Canada’s population hit 40 million, growing by over a million (2.7%) in a year, mostly due to temporary and permanent migration.
Canadians used to be more positive about immigrants, ranking as the most welcoming country in 2019. However, something shifted in 2023.
After reaching the 40 million mark, the government planned to welcome 485,000 new permanent residents in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025 and 2026. This announcement followed a survey showing more Canadians now believe there are too many immigrants, a big change from a year ago when support for immigration was high.
Though more Canadians still disagree (51%) than agree (44%) that immigration is too high, the gap has shrunk from 42% to 7% in the past year, the largest change in opinion since 1977.
Worries about the number of newcomers are highest in Ontario and British Columbia. A survey in September 2023, with over 2,000 participants, showed increasing concerns about immigration levels, especially related to the housing crisis.
Apart from worries about immigration levels, people’s views on immigrants themselves haven’t changed much. Most still believe newcomers make their communities better.
One major concern is that people think immigrants are adding to the housing crisis by making homes less available and affordable. Research suggests negative feelings about immigrants arise when there’s competition for resources, like jobs and housing.
Media coverage in September 2023, especially about the housing crisis and blaming international students, might have influenced people’s views on immigration levels.
But the housing issue in Canada has deep roots, involving zoning laws, developer interests, and housing policies. Simply reducing migration isn’t a solution, and it’s not the right thing to do morally, as argued by other experts.
Leaders and policymakers should pay attention to how the public feels about immigration levels while working on a strong and diverse immigration system. Recent research shows people still have positive feelings towards immigrants and their contributions, but concerns about integrating immigrants are growing, partly due to the housing crisis.
If blame continues on immigrants for the housing crisis, attitudes towards immigrants themselves, not just immigration levels, might harden. How people feel about immigration levels can affect the support immigrants receive during resettlement, their experiences in housing and job markets, and how warmly they’re welcomed by communities.
To maintain support for immigration, leaders need to address concerns about competition for resources like housing and jobs. This requires not only making smart policy decisions to fix the housing shortage but also ensuring fair media coverage and portrayal of immigrants. This article was written by Keith Neuman, a Senior Associate at the Environics Institute for Survey Research.