For a long time, the sense of belonging to a country, especially for immigrants, has been a reliable measure of social integration, national identification, and the feeling of accepting or “at home” in Canada.
In line with this, Canada Statistics’ 2020 General Social Survey (GSS) sheds light on the Canadian provinces and territories. Where immigrants are more likely to express a strong sense of belonging to the country.
The survey reveals that immigrants residing in Ontario and the Atlantic Canadian provinces have a very strong sense of belonging to Canada. Conversely, the opposite trend appeared among immigrants who settled in British Columbia and Alberta.
Here we’ll analyze 2020 GSS and seek to understand the factors contributing to the variation of belonging among Canadian immigrants.
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What elements affect an immigrant’s feeling of belonging?
Immigrants primarily shape their sense of belonging to Canada based on different factors. Such as positive post-migration experiences that involve feeling accepted in the country and having access to opportunities for success.
Furthermore, survey indicates additional factors that could contribute to the “cross-provincial variation” in the sense of belonging, including the following:
Feelings of Acceptance and Experiences of Discrimination
The varying sizes of different ethnic groups among a province’s immigrant population can lead to differing encounters. With “exclusionary experiences” for immigrants in certain regions, while others may feel the opposite—embraced by their community. As these experiences range from exclusion to acceptance, discrimination emerges as another crucial factor influencing an immigrant’s likelihood of reporting a strong sense of belonging in their home province.
Immigrant Socio-demographic Factors
Various socio-demographic factors can impact an immigrant’s sense of belonging in Canada. Including the number of years since immigration, their age when they arrived, and their immigration admission category.
Over time, variations in the settlement patterns of immigrants have led to disparities in the socio-demographic makeup of immigrant communities in each province. These differences in composition may have consequences for the variations in immigrants’ sense of belonging to Canada across provinces.
Structural Factors and Context
Significant provincial disparities exist across Canada regarding what this survey defines as “structural factors”. Encompassing employment opportunities, educational prospects, and economic diversity. All of which play a crucial role in shaping the acculturation and integration of immigrants.
In simpler terms, the sense that one can make a meaningful economic contribution to the new society and provide financial security for themselves and their families often plays a pivotal role in an immigrant’s feeling of belonging in their new home.
Additionally, “structural factors” also encompass the socio-economic conditions within the provinces. Such as median household income and the percentage of unemployed individuals.
Immigrant Demographics Across Regions
Another set of influencing factors falls under the category of “immigrant demographics.” Each province in Canada has a distinct proportion of recent immigrants within its total population.
For example, in 2021, “the percentage of recent immigrants ranged from 14% in British Columbia and Ontario to 30% or more in Saskatchewan and the Atlantic provinces.”
This survey suggests that a region’s immigrant demographic makeup is significant for immigrants’ sense of belonging to Canada. Because this sentiment tends to be “less pronounced among recent immigrants compared to those who have been in Canada for a longer period.” As indicated by the survey authors, this implies that immigrants’ sense of belonging to Canada tends to strengthen with time. Consequently, provinces with a higher concentration of long-term immigrants may have a stronger regional average for immigrant sense of belonging.
Findings from the 2020 General Social Survey
In broad terms, immigrants residing in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces tend to express a strong sense of belonging to Canada. In contrast, this sentiment is less prevalent among immigrants in British Columbia and Alberta.
Interestingly, the difference in the sense of belonging to Canada between immigrants in Alberta and those in Ontario can largely be attributed to Alberta’s immigrant composition. Put differently, this study suggests that. “If these factors were equal, the proportion of immigrants in Alberta reporting a very strong sense of belonging to Canada would be similar to that in Ontario.”
Conversely, the variance in the reported sense of belonging between immigrants in Ontario and those in British Columbia cannot be solely explained by the factors mentioned above. According to this study, “even after accounting for the factors listed earlier, immigrants in British Columbia were approximately 11 percentage points less likely to report a very strong sense of belonging to Canada compared to immigrants in Ontario.”