30 Jun 2017

The Silent Majority and the Issue of Canadian Values

During the recent federal Conservative party leaders’ race, the issue of screening immigrants for Canadian values was front and center for one of the candidates in that race. While it caused a lot of controversy in the media and among pundits, public opinion input on this issue was lacking. As a consequence, our company decided to find out what the majority opinion was on this issue in Atlantic Canada. Our company was criticized from some corners for daring to ask if Atlantic Canadians supported or opposed screening potential immigrants to Canada for Canadian values before allowing entry into the country. We felt this was a pertinent issue given what has been happening in other countries. Indeed, the recent elections in the United States and France, as well as the decision of the UK to leave the European Union were at least partially the consequence of concerns around the issue of immigration. Were there similar concerns in Canada?

In our initial research in February, a clear majority of the population (68%) in Atlantic Canada supported the screening of prospective immigrants for Canadian values. While it is perhaps not politically correct to voice such opinions publicly, it is important to acknowledge that the silent majority indeed has concerns about who is being allowed entry into Canada. We could perhaps ignore that concern or we could try to better understand the basis for these concerns in order to address such concerns. We chose to try to better understand what core Canadian values best defined us as Canadians.

While most Canadians are likely to think of themselves as being unique from those living in other countries, it has always been difficult to define that uniqueness. For example, how are we different from Americans? Or are we indeed different?

Our research began with an open-ended question to identify, in their own words, what Atlantic Canadians considered to be core Canadian values. Not unexpectedly, there were a variety of values identified beginning with the value of acceptance and inclusion, being honest and respectful of others, fairness and equality, as well as respecting the law.

Based on our own secondary research, we identified nine common values that were most commonly mentioned when discussing core Canadian values. Based on the open-ended responses from our research, we concluded that there were no obvious values missing from that list.

The results of our recent research were more than encouraging. Of the nine values evaluated, the vast majority of Atlantic Canadians overwhelmingly agreed that each of the nine were core Canadian values. In combination, these values demonstrate that Canada is an inclusive society, one supporting freedom of speech, concerned about ensuring the well-being of those with disabilities and those economically disadvantaged, respectful of cultural differences, religiously tolerant and supportive of gender equality. In addition, democracy, freedom of assembly, and bilingualism were identified as being core Canadian values by a clear majority of Atlantic Canadians.

There was relatively little variation in opinion across Atlantic Canada in terms of the level of agreement with each of the nine values evaluated. Even on the often contentious issue of bilingualism, eight-in-ten Atlantic Canadians agree that bilingualism is a core Canadian value.

We hope that this research will contribute to the debate to better define what it is to be a Canadian. Our research has clearly demonstrated, if nothing else, that Canada is an inclusive society, one built on fairness and equality, along with all the freedoms normally associated with a democracy. As Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary of Confederation, this is indeed cause for celebration.

Data Source: Atlantic Quarterly May 2017 telephone survey of 1,511 Atlantic Canadians. A sample of this size provides a 95% level of statistical confidence with a +/-2.5% margin of error.

Don Mills, Chairman and CEO
Corporate Research Associates Inc.

Amanda Bates