Most Canadians believe bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees has had no affect on the terrorism threat in Canada, according to a federal government survey.
In November 2016, respondents were asked whether the threat level would change over the next six months, and more than 50 per cent of them felt it would remain the same. A further 4 per cent said they believed it would fall, with 40 per cent expecting it to increase.
It is further evidence of the positive attitude towards Syrian refugees who have come to Canada in the face of a general negativity in the western world towards accepting refugees.
The same respondents were also asked of their level of concern about the possibility of terrorists striking in the country. Some 21 per cent said they were very concerned, while 55 per cent scored their concern at 6 or more.
This suggests that while Canadians are concerned about the threat of terrorism, the bringing in of Syrian refugees does not make them any more concerned.
The survey was carried out by the Harris/Decima agency on behalf of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, with the results having just been released.
Similar questions were asked in two separate waves, one in November 2015 (before the majority of the refugees had arrived) and the other in January 2016 (after the main batch of Syrians were in the country).
The terrorism-related questions were not asked in the second survey wave, but overall the attitude of Canadians towards Syrians improved between November and January.
For example, 16 per cent of Canadians said they strongly agreed that accepting refugees posed a security risk in November; by January, this proportion had shrunk to 11 per cent.
When asked about the factors that should be considered when accepting refugees, security and municipal resources dominated the responses.
Some 49 per cent said security screening was most important in November. This number has fallen to 39 per cent in January, when more (29 per cent versus 22 per cent) were concerned about the pressure being put on individual communities.
This result aligns with reports of some major teething problems with accepting so many people in such a short space of time.
Elsewhere in the survey, 21 per cent said they strongly opposed the Canadian government’s drive to bring in 25,000 Syrians in November. This figure fell to 11 per cent of those asked come January.
Indeed, the number saying they supported the refugee pledge (answering 6 or above) went from 51 per cent in November to 60 per cent in January. This indicates Canadians warmed to the Syrians after they had arrived.
Canadians’ global reputation for acceptance and tolerance was supported in other areas of the survey.
Respondents’ answers were overwhelmingly positive to questions surrounding the country’s traditions, moral duty and responsibility for welcoming refugees.
A dominant 71 per cent answered positively in November when asked if accepting refugees was a Canadian tradition. This number rose to 77 per cent in January.
Furthermore, 66 per cent in November and 71 per cent in January said they agreed Canada had a responsibility to do its bit for Syrians in crisis.
The recent British referendum result and the gathering support for Donald Trump in the USA give these results an important comparison.
Canadians practically laughed off the idea that Syrian refugees would take jobs from Canadians, with 72 per cent in November and 73 per cent in January disagreeing with the survey statement.
It was not all goodwill. When asked if they would personally assist in helping Syrian refugees, 58 per cent said no in November. This number dropped to 50 per cent in January, further reflecting the warming of sentiment after the refugees had arrived.
Each phone survey had about 1,500 respondents from across the Canadian provinces and territories and from all parts of the social spectrum.
The IRCC spent $83,500 to carry it out. It was originally commissioned by the previous Conservative government without the terrorism-related questions.
The Liberals repurposed the questions after they came to power in November.
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