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Canadians see family reunification as biggest priority in 2020

1 Sep 2020

A new survey finds Canadians are still positive about immigration but want to see family reunification as a priority over economic-class and refugee-class immigration.

Canadians generally agree that immigration is positive for long-term economic recovery but want to see family members given the priority for immigration.

Coronavirus has slashed immigration numbers, especially in family-class sponsorship and refugee resettlement. Family sponsorship was down 78 percent in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the same period last year. Refugee levels were the hardest hit, down 85 percent, and economic-class immigration was down 52 percent.

About 36 percent of the respondents in a recent survey by the Association of Canadian Studies said that the family members of people already in Canada should be given priority in 2020.  In 2016, that figure was only 30 percent.

Support for prioritizing economic-class immigration stayed the same at 27 percent between 2016 and 2020. The refugee class saw significant drop-in support from 29 percent in 2016 to 16 percent in 2020.

Compared to other regions, Alberta was the most supportive of family reunification with 44 percent saying it should be the first priority.  Not far behind was Atlantic Canada (42 percent), and Ontario (36 percent). Manitoba and Saskatchewan were joined together for the results reporting the lowest amount of support compared to other regions at 28 percent, though this was still the highest share compared to other immigration classes.

These results were collected from 1,531 Canadians over the age of 18 between July 31 and August 2. Using the 2016 Census data, they were also weighted according to gender, age, mother tongue, region, education level, and presence of children in the household to help ensure a representative sample of the population.

Critics are saying the Canadian government is not doing enough for family reunification during the pandemic, as many family members are separated due to processing delays.  A petition, led by Member of Parliament Jenny Kwan, got over 6,000 signatures calling for the creation of a Special Temporary Resident Visa to allow spouses and their children to reunite with their Canadian partners. Though the petition got more than enough support to be tabled, it won’t go before Parliament until after House resumes on September 23rd.

When the 2020-2022 immigration levels plan was announced in March, before the coronavirus outbreak, family class immigration was locked in at targets of 91,000 new immigrants per year. Economic-class and refugee-class levels were each scheduled to increase year after year.

Canadian attitudes still positive toward immigration

Most Canadians feel positive toward immigration, a sentiment that spans across all age groups but is most prevalent among younger generations.

Most Canadians say that immigration will help Canada’s long-term economic recovery. About 61 per said immigration will help, 22 percent said it would hurt the economic recovery, and 18 percent said they did not know. Respondents from Atlantic Canada were most likely to say that immigrants would help the economy (67 percent). The Prairie Provinces were the least likely to respond that immigrants would help the economy in the long term, but the share of people who responded favorably (52 percent) was larger than those who said the opposite (26 percent) and those who did not know (22 percent).

Canada’s government is also looking to immigration for post-coronavirus economic recovery. Recently, Canadian ministers of immigration met to discuss the future of immigration after coronavirus, discussing the importance of international students and attracting immigrants to rural Canadian communities.