Released last December, a new study, entitled Perceptions of shared values in Canadian society among the immigrant population, compares the proportions of Canadian-born people and immigrants who believed that Canadians share values to a significant extent.
These values represent the democratic norms or standards that provide a basis for social inclusion in a diverse society, providing a subjective assessment about how immigrants view Canadian society with regard to values that enable their integration.
The 2020 General Social Survey (GSS) includes a series of questions about people’s perceptions of shared values in Canadian society.
The questions are related to human rights, respect for the law, gender equality, linguistic duality, ethnic and cultural diversity and respect for Indigenous cultures. Respondents were asked to rate how strongly they shared those values on a scale between “not at all” to “a great extent.”
Nearly double the proportion of immigrants as Canadian-born people believed that Canadians share values on ethnic and cultural diversity (47 per cent of immigrants compared with 24 per cent of Canadian-born people), linguistic duality (42 per cent compared with 23 per cent) and respect for Indigenous cultures (37 per cent compared with 18 per cent ) to a great extent.
Over three-fifths of immigrants (62 per cent) and two-fifths of Canadian-born people (40 per cent) said that Canadians share values on respect for the law to a great extent. Half of immigrants (50 per cent) and under one-third (30 per cent) of Canadian-born people had a similar perception of the extent to which Canadians share values on gender equality. Two-thirds of immigrants (67 per cent) believed that Canadians share values on human rights to a great extent, compared with over half of Canadian-born people (55 per cent).
The study found that a larger proportion of immigrants than Canadian-born people believed that Canadians share values to a great extent across all provinces.
The only exceptions to this case were for perceptions of shared values on human rights and linguistic duality in the Atlantic provinces where the differences between immigrants and Canadian-born people were statistically non-significant. For most values, the differences between the perceptions of immigrants and Canadian-born people were smaller in the Atlantic provinces and larger in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Differences between recent and establishes immigrants
Recent immigrants had particularly favourable perceptions, but smaller proportions of established immigrants believed that Canadians share values to a great extent. Still, those who have been landed immigrants in Canada for 20 years or more had more favourable perceptions of shared values than Canadian-born people.
Immigrants who arrived in Canada as adolescents or adults had more favourable perceptions of shared values than Canadian-born people. Immigrants who came to Canada as children had perceptions similar to those of people born in Canada.
South Asian, Southeast Asian and Black immigrants believed that Canadians shared values on ethnic and cultural diversity to a great extent. Immigrants from all selected population groups had consistently more favourable perceptions of shared values compared with all Canadian-born people.
Specifically noteworthy were perceptions of shared values on ethnic and cultural diversity. About three-fifths of South Asian, Southeast Asian and Black immigrants and half of Chinese, Arab and West Asian and Latin American immigrants believed that Canadians shared values on ethnic and cultural diversity to a great extent, while one-third of White immigrants and one-quarter of all Canadian-born people.
Among recent immigrants, perceptions of shared values seems to be grounded on comparing conditions found in their home country. This viewpoint appears to be less prominent for long-term immigrants and people who arrived in Canada as children. All in all, immigrants’ perceptions of shared values appear to become less favourable over time and with greater exposure to Canadian society at younger ages.
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