Racism, discrimination may be to blame for immigrants’ dissatisfaction with Canada: advocates

"Less opportunities than they expected," said Fo Niemi of CRARR, as a new OMNI-Leger poll finds more than half of immigrants surveyed having experienced or witnessed racism, affecting their immigration experiences. Alyssia Rubertucci reports.

More than one-third of recent immigrants to Canada say living here has been worse than expected, according to a new Leger poll done exclusively for OMNI News. 

Racism and discrimination may be playing a role.

“If they have not been able to progress, which the survey also shows, very likely discrimination has something to do with that,” said Fo Niemi, the executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR).

The Leger-OMNI poll, one of the largest polling samples of immigrants in recent years, surveyed 1,522 immigrants across Canada between Oct. 18 and 25. It is one of the few polls specifically surveying immigrants.

More than half of the respondents say they’ve experienced or witnessed racism and discrimination.

“I work with a lot of people who are immigrants and they have a lot of dreams about coming to Canada,” said Niemi. “And one of the dreams is that Canada is a society that’s fair, that’s based on equality, that does not have the kind of ethnic and religious strife that they live in their countries of origin.

“And when they come here, they will encounter discrimination, particularly in employment and in housing. This is where they start to feel a little bit less optimistic and less hopeful about society as a whole.”

Race is the most common form of discrimination, followed by language.

“They realize over time that perhaps it’s the skin colour, the race that holds them back, that makes them get less opportunities than they expected,” said Niemi.

“This is something that could be a fact, that it impedes integration and also satisfaction as newcomers. Because they feel that these are the barriers that they didn’t expect.”

A quarter of those polled say they’ve experienced or witnessed religious discrimination.

Immigrating ‘could be the best or the worst’: advocate

Conseil Migrant’s Carlos Rojas, an advocate for migrants’ rights for more than 20 years, says racial profiling needs to be addressed.

“When people see you, they act in different way,” said Rojas, the group’s director of operations and international affairs. “And I believe that for the people that are doing this act of racism, we need to educate them, we need to inform them. They need to understand why it is a problem.

“Canada needs immigrants to keep on working.”

The Leger-OMNI poll shows 65 per cent of Quebecers believe the right systems were in place when they arrived in the country. On the other hand, 58 per cent say Canada has not thought through a strategy on how to help immigrants integrate.

“Depending on when, the way in which people are helped when they arrive, the experience could be the best or the worst,” said Rojas. “So I think that for some people… it’s really difficult to insert themselves in the market.

“When you arrive here, the first years of your staying in Canada is overwhelming… I can tell you the amount of information that you have to handle and amount of things that you have to do is just overwhelming.”

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