Canadian values poll question 'comes from a place of misunderstanding and of fear': immigrant advocate

Published on March 16, 2017

Syrian rchildren (left to right) Raghed Diab, Ibrahim Al Nasan, and Shahd Al Nasan play at the bubble room at the Discovery Centre.

©Jeff Harper/Metro

A Halifax immigrant advocate is questioning the question used in a recent poll on whether Atlantic Canadians support screening for potential immigrants.

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?”

Two thirds of 1,511 Atlantic Canadians asked by Corporate Research Associates (CRA) last month said they either completely or mostly support such screening. About a quarter said they completely or mostly oppose it.

“I think asking the question comes from a place of misunderstanding and of fear,” said Gerry Mills, executive director of Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS).

“Just asking the question, I think, instills in people that perhaps immigrants don’t share Canadian values.”

What are Canadian values?

“It’s not yet defined in a way that I can articulate at the moment,” said CRA chairman and CEO Don Mills (no relation to Gerry Mills).

Mills said his firm now plans to do further research to nail down a “core group of values that basically represent the opinion of a vast majority of Canadians.”

“We wanted to get the big picture snapshot early because then it would indicate whether or not it was even worth doing further research on, to tell you the truth,” he said.

Mills, who said he’s not a proponent of screening, said the results of the poll don’t show that Atlantic Canadians are opposed to immigration; he thinks they’re “very pro-immigrant.” But he said the results do show the need for a debate “on making sure that we do attract people that share our common values because those are worth protecting.”

“We could stick our head in the sand and not acknowledge that people feel this way,” he said. “Or we could address this issue openly and maybe help define, what is our point of view in terms of ensuring that we serve the interest of Canadians?”

Gerry Mills said in her experience, immigrants’ values are the same as Canadians’.

“They come to Canada, they value family, they value respect for elders, hard work, safety, security, education, they want a better life for their kids, they value freedom and community. I don’t think any Canadian would dispute the importance of any of these,” she said.

CRA says the poll is accurate to within 2.5 percentage points, 95 out of 100 times.