Seeing the Same Canada? Visible Minorities’ Views of the FederationNovember 18th, 2015
L’histoire du Canada est marquée par des visions divergentes du pays et par des différends régionaux sur le fonctionnement de la fédération. Ces tensions ont été perpétuées par un éventail d’identités et d’intérêts souvent conflictuels. La présente étude examine comment la population grandissante des minorités visibles du pays perçoit d’importants aspects de la fédération canadienne.
Antoine Bilodeau et ses coauteurs ont voulu déterminer si les résidents canadiens issus des minorités visibles au Québec, en Ontario, en Alberta et en Colombie-Britannique perçoivent le Canada de la même façon que la population majoritaire. Les membres des minorités visibles étant plus souvent victimes de discrimination et d’exclusion sociale, les auteurs se sont notamment interrogés sur l’intérêt de ce segment croissant de la population pour les revendications régionales de longue date et les demandes de réforme constitutionnelle qui structurent encore aujourd’hui plusieurs débats nationaux.
Ils ont ainsi découvert que par rapport à la population majoritaire, les membres des minorités visibles affichent globalement un sentiment de loyauté plus fort à l’égard du gouvernement fédéral que des gouvernements provinciaux, soutiennent plus fermement les politiques pancanadiennes et sont moins enclins à souscrire aux griefs historiques à l’encontre de la fédération. Pour ce qui est des deux visions concurrentes du pays, provinciale et nationale, ils adhèrent aussi plus fortement à une vision nationale du Canada.
Leur perception de la fédération varie toutefois selon leur province de résidence et leur lieu de naissance. C’est ainsi qu’en Ontario, l’opinion des membres des minorités visibles est presque identique à celle du reste de la population. En Alberta et en Colombie-Britannique, les membres des minorités visibles nés à l’étranger expriment moins de griefs à caractère régional, mais ceux qui sont nés au Canada perçoivent la fédération de façon très semblable à la population majoritaire.
La plus grande différence s’observe au Québec, où les membres des minorités visibles adhèrent beaucoup plus fortement à une vision nationale du pays, qu’ils soient nés au Canada ou à l’étranger, que la population majoritaire. Cette différence de perspective est particulièrement frappante entre les membres non francophones des minorités visibles et le reste des Québécois.
Ces conclusions indiquent que la politique de multiculturalisme du gouvernement fédéral constitue un modèle apprécié des membres des minorités visibles. Ce modèle obtient un appui particulièrement fort de leur part au Québec, dont les gouvernements n’ont jamais soutenu le multiculturalisme canadien et tardent à proposer une politique de rechange officielle.
Notions of “new” and “old” Canada have often been used to describe important changes to Canada’s political debates, the distribution of political power and demography. Preston Manning, in his 1992 book The New Canada, contrasted the Old Canada, obsessed with founding peoples, official multiculturalism and special status for Quebec, with the New Canada sought by members of the Reform Party he led, focusing on the “equality and uniqueness of all citizens and provinces” (Manning 1992, viii). The notion has been used to contrast the expanding economies of western Canada to the declining economies of eastern Canada (Bliss 2000). It has also been employed to compare the old, so-called “Laurentian elite” associated with the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto axis with the new entrepreneurial Canada found in western provinces and in the suburbs of large cities where many immigrants settle (Bricker and Ibbitson 2013).1
While these different conceptions can be criticized, there is no doubt that Canada has changed significantly over the last three decades. The centre of economic power has shifted westward. A country once known for its relative racial homogeneity (Mackay 2002) is now highly diverse. And whereas previous generations of Canadians witnessed political debates dominated by the country’s constitutional deliberations, a new generation of Canadians, including those from visible minority backgrounds, have not experienced any constitutional crisis in their lifetimes. How do these new Canadians conceive of Canada?2
In this study, we investigate whether the political views of visible minorities with regard to the Canadian federation are indicative of a shift toward a new Canada. We focus on the attitudes of visible minorities for three reasons. First, an overwhelming proportion of new immigrants in Canada are visible minorities and 96.5 percent of visible minorities in Canada are either first- or second-generation Canadians (Statistics Canada 2011).3 Second, Canada’s visible minority population has increased significantly since the 1960s. In 1981, the first year for which we have data, members of visible minorities made up 4.7 percent of the Canadian population; in 2011, the proportion was 19.1 percent (Statistics Canada 2008, 12; 2013, 14).4 Accordingly, the visible minority population is not only substantial but is also growing faster than the rest of the Canadian population. Third, the focus on visible minorities can also be justified because of the specific socio-economic challenges confronting many visible minorities, which in turn might lead them to have a different outlook on Canada’s political affairs (Reitz and Banerjee 2007; Soroka, Johnston and Banting 2007). Indeed, the classification “visible minorities” was formally created with the 1986 federal government Employment Equity Act to respond to serious problems related to discrimination in the workforce among people of non-Caucasian background (Public Service Commission of Canada 2011). Since then, the challenges of discrimination and marginalization have been confirmed in other spheres of life (see Reitz and Banerjee 2007; Nangia 2013). Canadians from visible minority backgrounds are far more likely than other Canadians to experience social exclusion (Reitz et al. 2009).
It is therefore reasonable to ask whether visible minorities have different preoccupations and priorities when it comes to political affairs, whether debates regarding the regional balance of powers and the constitution that have marked Canada’s contemporary history resonate with them, and hence whether they feel they belong to Canada and their province as much as other Canadians do. Perhaps more than any other Canadians, visible minorities may be at the vanguard of this “new Canada”; they may have different priorities and a different understanding of what Canada is and how it should be governed.
The key questions guiding this study are the following:
- Do visible minorities hold similar views to other Canadians with regard to Canada, its institutions and its national policies? In short, do they see the same Canada?
- Are there differences between visible minorities who immigrated to Canada and those born in Canada?
Literature Review and Hypotheses
Policy-makers and academics have paid close attention to visible minorities and new immigrants over the last two decades, exploring, among other issues, their rates of bilingualism (OCOL 2007), their earnings (Hum and Simpson 1999; Hou and Coulombe 2010), their political and social integration (Biles, Burnstein and Frideres 2008), their representation in Parliament (Black and Erickson 2006; Black 2000, 2011) and their electoral participation (Tossutti 2007; Gidengil and Roy 2015; Bilodeau 2013; Bilodeau and Turgeon 2015).
The literature on the political attitudes of visible minorities is more limited, although a number of studies have been published on the attitudes of immigrants. Reitz et al. (2009) explored the social and political attachments and identities of both recently arrived and more established new Canadians, the majority of whom were visible minorities. They found that new Canadians strongly identify with Canada and that this identification is not necessarily exclusive. Indeed, new Canadians identify with their minority ethnocultural group while also identifying with Canada. This finding is consistent with White, Bilodeau and Nevitte (2015), who found that immigrants express strong attachments to their countries of origin and to Canada, thereby exhibiting what we could call dual national loyalties.
The dual loyalties of immigrants in relation to Canada’s two orders of government have been less explored. An exception is research by Bilodeau, White and Nevitte (2010). They found that immigrants in Canada tend to develop the same political grievances and loyalties as the population of the province where they reside. This is particularly true when it comes to immigrants’ attachments to Canada and to their province, as well as their propensity to think that the federal government treats their province fairly or unfairly in comparison to other provinces. Bilodeau, White and Nevitte also found that immigrants in Quebec and Alberta, especially those from countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, are more likely to be drawn to the federal pole of loyalty than the provincial one. In short, immigrants tend to reproduce regional cleavages in political attitudes in Canada, although the regional differences are less pronounced than those observed among the rest of the population.
This study builds on the above research by exploring in greater depth the political attitudes of visible minorities in four provinces: Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. It expands the investigation in three ways. First, rather than comparing the political attitudes of immigrants and the Canadian-born population, it investigates the political attitudes of visible minorities in Canada; it then systematically distinguishes between visible minorities who were born in Canada and those who immigrated to Canada, something that Bilodeau, White and Nevitte (2010) did not do. Existing studies in Canada and elsewhere in the world often focus only on first-generation immigrants. Given that 96.5 percent of Canada’s visible minority population is either first- or second-generation (Statistics Canada 2011), by looking both at visible minorities born abroad and those born in Canada, we are able to draw a more complete picture of first- and second-generation visible minorities’ integration into regional and national political dynamics.
Second, the range of dimensions examined is broader. The investigation covers four dimensions of provincial and national political issues, including identity, regional grievances, evaluation of political institutions and opinions on national policies such as official bilingualism, multiculturalism and equalization programs. Our analysis therefore compares visible minorities and other Canadians on a total of 12 indicators (13 in Quebec).
Third, while the study by Bilodeau, White and Nevitte (2010) relied on a pooled set of data from the Canadian Election Studies, which covered many years and provided only small samples of immigrants in some of the provinces, the present study draws on 2014 data collected under the Provincial Diversity Project. The project was purposely designed to compare views toward provincial and national political institutions, and it provides a sample of several hundred visible minorities in each of the four provinces examined.
We used three hypotheses to explore the political attitudes of visible minorities and the majority population. First, it is possible that visible minorities (born abroad or born in Canada) have systematically different political views than the majority population in their respective province. Bilodeau, White and Nevitte (2010), for example, argued that immigrants might be inclined to internalize political outlooks that favour the federal pole of identity. More specifically, the authors point to the federal government’s official policy of multiculturalism as a pathway to political integration. By promoting an open and plural Canadian identity, that policy both legitimizes the retention of immigrants’ premigration identities and makes it easier to develop a sense of attachment to Canada. The authors also stress that the multicultural model might be even more attractive to immigrants who are members of visible minority groups. This logic, however, may reach beyond visible minorities born abroad; it could also apply to visible minorities born in Canada. The explicit celebration of Canada’s ethnocultural differences associated with the federal policy of multiculturalism might create outlooks among visible minorities that favour the federal government and its related institutions and national symbols, regardless of whether they were born in Canada or not. The attractiveness of flexible and non-mutually exclusive ethnocultural and national identifications might lead to a stronger identification with the federal government. It would not, then, be a matter of being an immigrant or not, but rather of being a member of an ethnocultural (and visible) minority group.
Second, it is possible that visible minorities born in Canada have more in common with other Canadians than with visible minorities born abroad. Such a finding could be explained by theories stressing the importance of political socialization during childhood and adolescence, especially through socialization agents such as schools and friends (Sears and Funk 1999). Hence, while most visible minorities born abroad arrived in Canada as adults5 and, as such, might not necessarily hold the same policy preferences and identities as other Canadians, visible minorities born in Canada have, through various public and private institutions, been politically socialized in a process that is much more similar to the one experienced by other Canadians. Accordingly, visible minorities born in Canada might be more likely than their immigrant counterparts to share majority views on key pillars of Canadian identity, how important the various regional grievances of their province of residence are or support for key national policies. The cleavage here would thus be between those who are born abroad and those who are born in Canada (whether visible minorities or not).
Third, it is possible that we will find no significant differences among the three groups of Canadians in each province. This could be explained by the fact that provincial-level norms and values have a strong influence on all categories of citizens, including recent immigrants. It has been demonstrated that people have a tendency to develop political views that are consistent with the local majority opinion that surrounds them (Huckfeldt et al. 1998). These findings are consistent with an important body of literature that emphasizes the malleability of political attitudes during adulthood and the possibility of political resocialization as a result of changing environments (Miller and Sears 1986; White et al. 2008). As argued by Bilodeau, White and Nevitte (2010, 519), exactly how this process of resocialization works is an unresolved question. One possibility is that the desire to fit in motivates newcomers to adopt the prevailing norms in the local environments in which they have settled (MacKuen and Brown 1987; Huckfeldt and Sprague 1987).
Why do these three potential outcomes matter? In part, they tell us about the way that different groups of Canadians take on key features of the Canadian political culture and speak to the endurance and malleability of that culture. Moreover, in light of the country’s history with constitutional crises and regional conflicts, changing patterns of support for, and identification with, different levels of government could make such crises and conflicts more or less likely to occur in the future. If the key distinction is between visible minorities and other Canadians, and if their differences stem from greater attachment and support for the Canadian government on the part of visible minorities, then we would expect this group as a whole to be less likely to take up the regional grievances that characterize provincial political cultures. If the key distinction is between those born in Canada and those born elsewhere, largely because of the shared political socialization of those born in Canada, then we might find that the attitudes of native-born visible minorities reflect the regional grievances of other Canadians, whereas the attitudes of immigrants do so much less. Each of these possibilities suggests that regional grievances, which are of course but one element we are exploring, may weaken over time but at different rates depending on the demographic composition of the province. If we see no significant differences across the groups, however, these features of Canadian political culture may well remain unchanged for the foreseeable future.
This study draws on data from the Provincial Diversity Project (PDP). The PDP seeks to provide a better understanding of unique provincial realities in Canada in terms of identity and attachment, views about federalism, attitudes toward ethnocultural diversity and immigration and views on social, economic and political issues.6 The PDP survey was conducted in January and February 2014 with a sample of just under 10,000 Canadians. Fieldwork for the online survey was conducted by Léger Marketing. This study relies on two separate samples. The first sample includes 6,400 Canadians interviewed in all 10 provinces, with samples of 1,000 respondents in each of Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia; 500 respondents in each of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan; and 400 respondents in Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. The second component includes a boosted sample of 400 visible minorities in each of Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.7
The data presented in the tables that follow are descriptive. However, to confirm that the observed differences between visible minorities and other Canadians in each of the four provinces are not simply the result of systematic differences in other sociodemographic characteristics, we also performed multivariate analyses to control for age, sex, education, income and employment status. The results of the statistical significance tests reported in the tables indicate whether the observed differences between (1) visible minorities born abroad and the majority population, and (2) visible minorities born in Canada and the majority population remain statistically significant when we control for such socio-demographic characteristics. By majority population, we mean Canadians born in Canada who are not members of a visible minority group.
Canadian and Provincial Identities
The Canadian federation was founded in 1867 on a “will to live together” and a “will to live apart” among Canadians of different provinces (LaSelva 1996). These competing desires for togetherness and separateness have not been shared equally by all Canadians, or by their governments, in all parts of the country or at all times. Provincial and federal governments have struggled with one another since the nineteenth century for powers and for the loyalty of their citizens. Scholars have therefore talked of competing processes of “nation-building” and “province-building” (Black and Cairns 1966; Telford 2003). Previous survey data have consistently shown that views about the federation, as well as the strength of provincial identities, vary across the country (Centre for Research and Information on Canada 2005; Matthews and Mendelsohn 2010).
To capture these dual loyalties, the PDP asked Canadians to assess the strength of their attachment to Canada and to their province on a 0-to-10 scale, where 0 indicates that they are “not attached at all” and 10 indicates they are “very strongly attached.”8 The data in table 1 indicate for the majority population a clear distinction between the strong attachment to Canada in Ontario (8.6), Alberta (8.9) and BC (8.6) and the comparatively weaker scores in Quebec (6.0). By contrast, the findings indicate consistent levels of provincial attachment across Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and BC. The PDP also asked respondents to select the political community with which they identified most strongly. This question was adapted from the question used by Juan Linz and Luis Moreno to explore national identities in other multinational states such as Spain and the UK (see Moreno 2006). In Quebec, for example, the PDP asked people whether they thought of themselves as Quebecer only, more Quebecer than Canadian, equally Quebecer and Canadian, more Canadian than Quebecer or Canadian only. The responses indicate that in Quebec the majority of the population (52 percent) think of themselves either as Quebecers only or as more Quebecer than Canadian. In comparison, in the other three provinces, exclusive or relatively stronger provincial identifications are much more rare. These findings are consistent with previous research (Matthews and Mendelsohn 2010). Do we observe similar attachments and identities among visible minorities? The answer depends on the province in which they live.
In Ontario, visible minorities, regardless of whether they are born abroad or in Canada, express attachments to Canada that are on average of equal strength to those observed among the rest of the population in the province. In Alberta (− 0.7) and British Columbia (− 0.7), visible minorities born abroad are somewhat less attached to Canada than the rest of the population, which contradicts our expectations as well as the results of Bilodeau, White and Nevitte (2010), who found that immigrants were more attached to Canada than the rest of the Canadian population. This weaker attachment to Canada is not, however, transmitted to the subsequent generation, and visible minorities born in Canada converge with the rest of the population in Alberta and British Columbia. In Quebec, however, we find the opposite pattern: visible minorities, both those born abroad (+ 1.7) and those born in Canada (+ 1.5), are more attached to the country than the rest of the population.
On provincial attachments, visible minorities do not differ from the rest of the population in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Differences between visible minorities and the rest of the population are only apparent in Quebec, where visible minorities born abroad (− 1.7) and those born in Canada (− 1.6) are less attached to Quebec than other Quebecers.
Quebec also stands out in terms of visible minorities’ federal and provincial identities. In Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, there are no discernible differences between visible minorities and the rest of the population. In Quebec, however, visible minorities born abroad are 36 points less likely than other Quebecers to identify more strongly with the province than the country. Quite importantly, this difference persists among visible minorities born in Canada, where the difference is 30 points.
Whereas some of our results with respect to identities and attachments in Alberta and British Columbia contradict both our expectations and previous findings, our results for Quebec are quite consistent with those of Bilodeau, White and Nevitte (2010). In general, visible minorities tend to resemble the population of the province where they reside, except in Quebec where federal identities and attachments are stronger and provincial links are weaker than they are among other Quebecers. Are these exceptional findings for Quebec also observed for regional grievances?
That regionalism is a central feature of Canadian politics is an unsurprising fact given the country’s geographic size and federal institutional structure. But the political expression of that regionalism finds different outlets. Provinces, and the wider regions in which they exist, are thought to have distinct political cultures and policy preferences (Henderson 2004; Wiseman 2007). Historically, provinces such as Quebec and those west of Ontario have expressed strong grievances against the functioning of federal institutions as a whole or have objected to specific federal politics such as the National Energy Program (see McRoberts 1997; Janigan 2012). At times, such grievances are expressed as a desire for more influence on the decisions of the federal government, for a greater share of financial resources from the federal government or more generally for more respect from the federal government and the rest of the country.
This stable feature of Canadian politics sits alongside considerable economic and political changes in influence among provinces. First, the development of natural resources in western Canada, most notably oil in Alberta, and the decline of the manufacturing sector in Ontario and Quebec have contributed to a shift in economic power westward. Similarly, for the first time, since 2009-10 Ontario has been a “have-not” province — i.e., it receives equalization payments. Meanwhile, some provinces known as traditional beneficiaries of Canada’s equalization program, such as Newfoundland and Labrador, have become “have” provinces. Second, while Canadian federal cabinets were once dominated by politicians from Quebec and Ontario, politicians from western Canada are now more numerous. In light of these major structural changes in the relative power distribution across provinces, it is worth exploring how Canadians of different regions evaluate the relative influence of their province on the national affairs of the country and to assess whether visible minorities adopt the regional grievances of the province where they settle.
We rely on three distinct indicators. The first concerns the perception that some provinces exert less than their fair share of influence on the decisions made by the federal government. The PDP asked Canadians whether they thought their province had “less” than its fair share, “more” than its fair share or “about its fair share” of influence on the decisions made by the federal government. Table 2 reports the proportion of the majority population who believe their province exerts “less” than its fair share of influence. Higher figures here would imply greater alienation. We might expect the figure to be high in Quebec, given the political events of the last 30 years, and it is, at 64 percent; but this is second to British Columbia, where two thirds of respondents (67 percent) feel their province has less than its fair share of influence. In Alberta, the figure is less than half of those surveyed (45 percent), while in Ontario only one-third of respondents believe their province has less than its fair share of influence.
This grievance is not as strongly expressed by visible minorities in three of the four provinces examined. In Quebec (− 30), but also in Alberta (− 20) and in British Columbia (− 38), visible minorities born abroad are less likely than the rest of the population to express the view that their province has less than its fair share of influence. In both Alberta and British Columbia, however, this finding does not extend to visible minorities born in Canada, who are almost as likely as the rest of the provincial population to express the view that their province has less than its fair share of influence over the decisions made by the federal government. In Quebec, in sharp contrast, visible minorities born in Canada (− 22) continue to be less likely than the rest of the province to express this grievance.
Another interpretation of regional grievance focuses on the distribution of financial resources within the federation. Respondents in the PDP were asked whether their province was receiving “more than,” “less than” or “about its fair share” of money from the federal government. We find less variation across provinces within the majority population for this indicator, with figures ranging from 47 percent in Ontario to 58 percent in British Columbia expressing the view that their province receives less than its fair share of money from the federal government. The findings for visible minorities broadly replicate those observed for views on provincial influence within the federation. In Quebec (− 17), Alberta (− 14), and British Columbia (− 20), visible minorities born abroad are significantly less likely than the rest of the population to express the view that their province is receiving less than its fair share of money from federal government.9 Moreover, visible minorities born in Canada appear to converge with the rest of the population in Alberta and British Columbia, whereas in Quebec they remain less likely than the rest of the population to express the view that their province receives less than its fair share of money from the federal government; surprisingly, the gap is even larger among visible minorities born in Canada than among those born abroad (− 27 versus − 17).
Our third indicator focuses on whether people believe their province is treated with the respect it deserves. Respect is something less tangible than financial resources, measured by perceptions rather than transfer payments from the federal government to provincial governments, such as health and social transfers. On this dimension, the interprovincial variations within the majority population more closely approximate those on the matter of provincial influence within the federation, with one-third of Quebecers feeling that their province gets the respect is deserves and almost two-thirds of Ontarians feeling the same way. In Alberta and BC, just under half of the majority population agrees that their province is treated with respect.
Visible minorities born abroad are substantially more likely than the rest of the population to express the view that their province is treated with respect. The gaps are sizable: 33 points in Quebec, 31 points in Alberta and 29 points in British Columbia. Furthermore, there is evidence that this regional grievance is also not as widely held by visible minorities born in Canada. Indeed, in Quebec (+ 26) and also in Alberta (+ 15), visible minorities born in Canada are more likely than the rest of the population in their province to express the view that their province is treated with the respect it deserves in Canada.10
Overall, our findings on regional grievances demonstrate that, while visible minorities born abroad are less likely to internalize regional grievances, this is generally not the case for visible minorities born in Canada, the overwhelming majority of whom are second-generation Canadians. As such, our data challenge the notion that, in the long run, the changing demography of Canada is likely to attenuate regional grievances. The one exception is Quebec, where neither visible minorities born abroad nor those born in Canada share the same level of regional grievances.
Evaluation of Federal and Provincial Institutions
Across advanced industrial democracies, much has been made of a growing discontent with political institutions (Norris 1999). However, the trend has not been the same everywhere, and there are considerable cross-national variations, with differences in the expectations that voters have of their politicians, but also differences in their evaluations of institutional performance. It is therefore reasonable to determine whether political expectations and institutional evaluations vary across the provinces, and whether they are shared by visible minorities.
The PDP asked Canadians how much confidence they had in the House of Commons and in the legislature of their province on a 0-to-10 scale, where 10 means a great deal of confidence and 0 means no confidence at all. While there are only modest regional variations in terms of levels of confidence in both federal and provincial political institutions within the majority population, three key findings emerge from table 3. First, although at the time of our survey Quebecers were within weeks of voting the Parti Québécois out of government after less than two years in power, confidence in the provincial legislature was highest in that province. Second, even though the gap is not large, only in Quebec was confidence in the provincial legislature higher than confidence in the House of Commons, echoing attitudes toward national identity explored above. This could also be explained by the fact that the Conservative majority in the House of Commons in the winter 2014 had less support in Quebec than in the other three provinces examined in this study. And third, the majority population in British Columbia expresses the lowest levels of confidence in both the House of Commons and their provincial legislature.
In all four provinces, visible minorities born abroad express higher levels of confidence in the House of Commons than the rest of the population in their province. This is consistent with research reporting greater levels of confidence in political institutions among immigrants than among the local population (Bilodeau and Nevitte 2003). Only in Quebec, however, do visible minorities born in Canada also express a higher level of confidence in the House of Commons than the rest of the population (+ 0.6). Quebec also stands out with regard to confidence in the provincial legislature. While in Ontario (+ 1.5), Alberta (+ 1.2) and British Columbia (+ 1.6), visible minorities born abroad exhibit higher levels of confidence in the provincial legislature than the rest of the population in those provinces, there are no discernible differences between visible minorities and the rest of the population in Quebec.
Beyond the levels of confidence, we can track views about which government should do what. Whether provinces or the federal government should play a more influential role in the affairs of this country has been a critical debate, especially in Quebec,11 where provincial governments have often demanded, and occasionally obtained, more responsibilities over matters such as immigration, labour market training and cultural affairs (see McEwen 2006; Béland and Lecours 2008). To address this matter, the PDP asked respondents whether the provincial governments should take control of some jurisdictions reserved for the federal government, whether the federal government should take control of some jurisdictions reserved for the provincial government or whether things should stay as they are.
Not surprisingly, Quebec is where the largest proportion of the majority population expresses the view that the provincial government should take over some of the responsibilities of the federal government, with about two Quebecers out of three calling for such a change. But Quebec is not the only province where a majority thinks that the province should take over some of the responsibilities of the federal government; in British Columbia, the proportion was 53 percent.12 On this matter, there is no consistent cleavage across the provinces between visible minorities and the majority population. In British Columbia, visible minorities born in Canada are less likely than the rest of the population in the province to ask for more powers for the provincial government (− 16), and surprisingly the opposite is observed for visible minorities born abroad and living in Ontario (+ 17). Consistent with our other findings, the only clear cleavage once again concerns Quebec. Visible minorities in Quebec, both those born abroad (− 33) and those born in Canada (− 35), are substantially less likely than other Quebecers to think the provincial government should take control of some of the responsibilities held by the federal government.
Finally, the PDP asked Quebecers whether they supported or opposed Quebec sovereignty, meaning that Quebec would no longer be part of Canada. Our data indicate that at the time of our survey, 48 percent of Quebecers were either “very” or “somewhat” supportive of Quebec becoming a sovereign country.13 In light of the above findings (and multiple polls published over the years), it comes as no surprise that visible minorities in Quebec — born abroad (− 22) or born in Canada (− 30) — are less supportive of Quebec sovereignty than others in the province.
Support for National Policies
Although the transformation of Quebec identity, values and symbols in the wake of the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s was significant, from the 1950s onward the British definition of Canada that had long been at the heart of Anglo-Canadian identity gradually faded (see Igartua 2006) and was replaced by a pan-Canadian identity that stresses the bilingual and multicultural nature of the country. This shift coincided with the emergence of the Canadian welfare state and other policies designed to develop a sense of national solidarity, such as the country’s equalization program. To what extent do visible minorities in Canada support the policies that have been at the heart of the process of redefinition of the Canadian identity during the postwar period? The study investigated whether visible minorities support three policies that have been central to Canada’s postwar nation-building: official bilingualism, the policy of multiculturalism and the federal equalization program. Those policies are also associated with an activist role for the federal government and, at times, are the object of significant provincial opposition. For instance, Quebec intellectuals and politicians have long objected to the policy of official multiculturalism, arguing that it constituted a rejection of Quebec’s unique status and culture in Canada (see Gagnon and Iacovino 2007; Rocher and White 2014).
First, the PDP asked Canadians whether they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed or strongly disagreed with the following statement: “It is important to maintain French and English as the two official languages of Canada.” As reported in table 4, the majority population in Quebec is almost unanimous on the importance of preserving French and English as the official languages of Canada, with 93 percent either strongly agreeing or agreeing with the statement. But the majority population in other provinces also expresses strong support for official bilingualism. In effect, the majority in Ontario (70 percent), Alberta (59 percent) and British Columbia (61 percent) agree with the statement. The evidence also suggests that visible minorities in all four provinces are as supportive of the policy of official bilingualism as the rest of the population; this holds equally for those born in Canada and those born abroad.
Second, the PDP asked respondents whether Canada’s multiculturalism policy has a positive impact, a negative impact or no impact at all on Canadian identity. It is striking to observe that only about one-quarter to one-third of Canadians of the majority population believe the policy has a positive effect on Canadian identity. Indeed, the most common answer in Ontario (37 percent), Alberta (40 percent) and British Columbia (36 percent) is that the policy of multiculturalism has a negative impact on Canadian identity. In Quebec, the most common answer among the majority population is that the policy of multiculturalism has no impact on Canadian identity (42 percent).14
Most visible minorities in our sample come from the very ethnocultural backgrounds that Canada’s multicultural policy is meant to protect and promote. It is therefore reasonable to expect that visible minorities might express stronger support for the policy than other Canadians. The size of the differences between visible minorities and the rest of the population where they reside varies marginally across the four provinces, but the pattern is the same in all four provinces, namely that visible minorities (born abroad or in Canada) are substantially more likely than the rest of the population to think that the policy of multiculturalism has a positive impact on Canadian identity.
Third, the PDP asked Canadians whether they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed or strongly disagreed with the following statement: “The federal equalization program transfers money from the richer provinces to the poorer provinces to ensure that all Canadians can have public services of similar quality. I believe this is a good program.” Among the majority population, about four respondents out of five in Quebec (80 percent), Ontario (79 percent) and British Columbia (84 percent) either strongly agree or agree with the statement. The positive opinion of the equalization program is not as widespread in Alberta than in other provinces, but there is nevertheless a clear majority of Albertans (64 percent) who support it.
No clear pattern of difference is observed among visible minorities. In Ontario and Alberta, the proportion of visible minorities who support the equalization program is essentially the same as that among the rest of the population. In British Columbia, visible minorities are less supportive of the equalization program than the rest of the population, and the pattern holds both for visible minorities born abroad (− 6) and those born in Canada (− 11). In Quebec, visible minorities are more supportive of the equalization program than the rest of the population, and this holds both for visible minorities born abroad (+ 10) and those born in Canada (+ 5).
Seeing the Same Canada? Overview of the Findings
The above findings reveal, as others have before (Andersen 2010; McGrane and Berdahl 2013), a significant amount of regional variation in the ways Canadians relate to Canada, whether captured as the balance between federal and provincial identities, regional grievances, evaluations of federal and provincial institutions, or national policies. Regional variations are likely not presented to their full extent, as this study focuses on only four provinces, but Quebec nevertheless stands out as the province where political views most often diverge from those of Canadians in other parts of the country. The central questions asked in this study, however, are whether visible minorities have views about Canada that are distinct from those of the majority population of the province where they reside; and whether visible minorities born in Canada hold views that are more similar to those of the majority population than visible minorities born abroad. Table 5 presents a synthesis of the main findings presented in the preceding tables.
Ontario is the only province where we did not observe systematic differences between visible minorities and the majority population. While these results are consistent with our third hypothesis, which stressed that the strength of local norms is likely to contribute to more similar attitudes across groups in a given province, it could also be argued that such similar views are the result of different processes. In short, such findings could reflect not so much the fact that visible minorities, especially those born abroad, adopt the dominant values of Ontario, but simply that Ontarians have views that are similar to those of visible minorities across Canada — that is, more federally oriented views.
In Alberta and British Columbia, there is evidence of cleavages in political views between visible minorities born abroad and the majority population, indicating that visible minorities are more federally oriented in their political views and loyalties. These cleavages, however, are not as numerous as in Quebec (see below). In both western provinces, visible minorities born abroad exhibit more federally oriented views on five indicators. Interestingly, they are the same indicators in both provinces: all three concerning regional grievances, as well as confidence in the House of Commons and assessments of the impact of the multiculturalism policy on Canadian identity. Visible minorities born in Canada, however, appear to be more federally oriented than the majority population for only 2 indicators out of 12. These findings lend some support for the second hypothesis, which stated that we should expect variations between visible minorities born outside Canada and other Canadians, including visible minorities born in Canada. The evidence from Alberta and British Columbia suggests that early-life socialization exerts a powerful influence on political views and loyalties: the attitudes of visible minorities born and socialized in Canada are far more similar to the rest of the population in those provinces.
Visible minorities in Quebec stand out the most, with different (and more federally oriented) views from the majority population in the province on 11 of 13 indicators. Although the differences in political views are generally larger for visible minorities who were born abroad, the analyses also indicate systematic differences between visible minorities born in Canada and other Quebecers. The Quebec findings thus lend clear and strong support for our first hypothesis, which stressed differences between visible minorities and other Canadians, potentially as a result of the attractiveness of Canada’s multiculturalism model for visible minorities, especially in the context of a battle for immigrants’ loyalty in light of two distinct nation-building projects. At the same time, as demonstrated in the next section, our findings also lend some support to the second hypotheses: it turns out that visible minorities who speak French at home, and hence had a potentially distinct socialization experience, have significantly different views than those who speak English or another language at home.
Linguistic Integration and Visible Minorities in Quebec
The gaps in political views and loyalties between visible minorities and the majority population are primarily a Quebec-specific phenomenon, measured both by the number of cleavages observed and by the persistence of these cleavages among visible minorities born in Canada. This raises the question: Why? In their examination of immigrants’ views of Canada and their province, Bilodeau, White and Nevitte (2010) tentatively suggested that the distinctive patterns of political integration among foreign-born Canadians in the province of Quebec were partly a result of linguistic differences: immigrants who spoke French at home exhibited views that were quite similar to the domestically born population in Quebec; immigrants who spoke another language at home exhibited views that were quite different and more oriented toward the federal pole of political loyalties. Others have highlighted a link between Quebec immigrants’ and ethnocultural minorities’ views of Canada and Quebec and their use of French or another language at home or in their daily lives. Lavoie and Serré (2002), for instance, found that the more extensive was the use of French among ethnocultural minorities in Quebec, the greater was their likelihood of voting for the Parti Québécois and supporting Quebec sovereignty, although never at levels similar to the rest of the population. The final section of this study explores whether visible minorities’ views of Canada in Quebec relate to the language they most often use at home.
We compare the political views and loyalties of three linguistic groups of visible minorities to those of the majority population in Quebec: (1) those who speak French at home (N = 240), (2) those who speak English at home (N = 97) and (3) those who speak another language at home (N = 156). Because of the smaller samples, we do not distinguish between visible minorities born abroad and those born in Canada. The multivariate analysis, however, controls for the immigration status of respondents. We will now refer to these three groups as visible minorities who are francophone, anglophone, and allophone. Table 6 presents the findings.
With regard to attachments and identities, the findings highlight a connection between language and views about Canada. Anglophone visible minorities are most different from other Quebecers, followed by allophones and francophones. Attachment to Canada is 2.5 points stronger among visible minority anglophones than among the majority population, 1.9 points stronger among visible minority allophones and only 1.1 points stronger among visible minority francophones. Conversely, attachment to Quebec is 3.1 points weaker among visible minority anglophones, 1.5 points weaker among visible minority allophones and only 1.0 point weaker among visible minority francophones. There is a similar pattern with respect to provincial and Canadian identities.
The evidence with respect to regional grievances and institutional evaluations also suggests a link between language and views about Canada. On all three regional grievance indicators, visible minority anglophones are most different from the majority population, visible minority francophones are most similar, and visible minority allophones lie somewhere in between. The same holds for three of the four institutional evaluations (confidence in the provincial legislature, more powers for the province and support for Quebec sovereignty).
The only dimension where we do not observe a link between language and views about Canada is support for national policies. Although visible minority anglophones are the least supportive of official bilingualism, assessments of multiculturalism are more positive among all three visible minority groups than the rest of the Quebec population. On the equalization program, there is no consistent pattern of differences.
On three of the four dimensions, the views of visible minority francophones are most similar to those of other Quebecers, whereas visible minority anglophones hold views that are the most different from those of other Quebecers. Visible minority allophones fall somewhere in between. These findings suggest that linguistic practices may lead to different socialization experiences in the province. Yet although the linguistic practices of visible minorities contribute to our understanding of the gaps in political views and loyalties between visible minorities and the majority population in Quebec, this explanation is not sufficient. On a significant number of indicators, even visible minority francophones exhibit political views and loyalties that are more federally oriented than those of the majority population (on 10 of the 13 indicators). More work is therefore needed to understand this unique Quebec phenomenon.
Throughout its history, the Canadian federation has been continuously marked by the expression of dual loyalties to the federal and provincial governments and by grievances against the working of its institutions and certain policies. Populations of different provinces have held, to different degrees, distinct visions of the federation and have proposed different narratives with regard to the place of their province within Canada. In this study, we explored how visible minorities, one of the fastest growing subgroups of the Canadian population, perceive the Canadian federation. More specifically, looking at visible minorities in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, we examined how the vision of the Canadian federation held by visible minorities compares to that of the majority population in each province. Our investigation aimed not only to understand how visible minorities imagine Canada but also to determine to what extent provincial narratives across the federation are internalized by visible minorities.
In Alberta and British Columbia, the findings suggest that although first-generation immigrants from visible minority backgrounds do not consistently share the dominant regional grievances of those provinces, socialization mechanisms lead subsequent generations to internalize the same political narrative shared by the majority population in these provinces. In contrast, in Ontario, visible minorities appear to share the dominant provincial narrative regardless of whether they are first-generation Canadians or not. On the one hand, this finding can be interpreted as reflecting the quick internalization in the province of the dominant narrative by visible minorities. On the other hand, and perhaps more likely, it is simply a by-product of the fact that Ontarians, like first-generation visible minorities across Canada, express political views that are more federally oriented. As for why first-generation visible minorities throughout Canada are more likely to be federally oriented, Bilodeau, White and Nevitte (2010) have suggested that visible minorities might be attracted to the federal government’s multicultural model, which legitimizes the maintenance of ethnocultural identities and therefore might lead to a perception that the federal government is more open to plural identities. It can also be argued that it reflects the fact that first-generation immigrants’ loyalty is to Canada and that, contrary to the second generation, they have not been socialized in an environment conducive to the adoption of regional grievances.
This conclusion speaks directly to concerns about the long-term perpetuation of provincial political cultures. It remains a possibility that increasing exchanges, travel and access to information technology might lead to greater cultural convergence across the Canadian provinces. However, our findings suggest that immigration and the settlement of visible minorities across Canada are unlikely to contribute to the weakening of the unique provincial cultures with regard to political views and loyalties. Canada’s “small worlds” (Elkins and Simeon 1980) will not shed their distinctiveness because of immigration. Visible minorities, especially those born in Canada, clearly internalize the predominant political state of mind of the provinces where they reside.
The above conclusion does not fully apply to Quebec, however. Visible minorities in Quebec express a vision of the Canadian federation that is systematically more federally oriented than the vision expressed by other Quebecers. It is true that first-generation visible minorities in Alberta and British Columbia express more federally oriented political views than the majority population in these provinces. In Quebec, however, the number of dimensions for which visible minorities are more federally oriented extends to almost all of the indicators, and integration into the dominant political narrative of the province also proves difficult for subsequent generations of visible minorities born and socialized in Canada.
Canadians concerned with national unity might be comforted by the Quebec findings. However, these findings raise concerns about the possibility of growing tensions between majority and minority groups in Quebec, who do not appear to be marching in sync when it comes to their understanding of the federation and identification with Quebec and Canada. The past decade in Quebec has been marked by symptomatic episodes of an apparent malaise of Quebecers with ethno-religious diversity (e.g., the reasonable accommodation crisis and the Charter of Values proposed by the PQ government in the fall of 2013 — see Bill 60). Regardless of what prompted these episodes, the continued divergence between visible minorities and the majority population regarding their predominant vision and narrative of Canada is unlikely to help appease such tensions in the province.
Moreover, such a malaise is also likely to be accentuated by the linguistic divide that lies behind the cleavage in political views and loyalties. Visible minorities in Quebec differ in their linguistic practices, and our study and a few others indicate a link between the linguistic practices of visible minorities and their political views and loyalties. The cleavages with the majority population in political views and loyalties are especially large for visible minority anglophones and allophones, whereas they are smaller among visible minority francophones. The debates about language policies in Quebec are therefore unlikely to fade away as the stakes are not solely demographic — they are political as well.
If the attractiveness of the federal model appears to exert an influence over visible minorities in Alberta and British Columbia, it might be enhanced in Quebec because of the alternative narrative proposed by the Quebec government. The Quebec government has never officially supported the federal multicultural model and has instead proposed a model of interculturalism that has yet to be stated formally in an official policy and remains unfamiliar to most Quebecers (Gagnon and Iacovino 2007). Our findings thus lend support for those arguing for the Quebec government to adopt an official policy of interculturalism (Rocher and White 2014). A formal policy positioning of the Quebec government on matters of ethnocultural diversity would stand as a symbolic gesture recognizing the contribution of diversity within Quebec society and would promote increased interaction between minorities and the broader population. By so doing, the government could favour a rapprochement between the narrative adopted by visible minorities in Quebec and the dominant one found in Quebec and hence appease some of the tensions that have marked Quebec society over the last few years.
Our final observation concerns an exception to the patterns for all four provinces just discussed. Visible minorities in all four provinces are substantially more prone to see a positive impact of the policy of multiculturalism on Canadian identity than the majority population. This finding is not necessarily surprising considering that, more than any other issue examined in this study, the policy of multiculturalism speaks to the contribution of ethnocultural minorities to the construction of Canadian identity. Moreover, as we argued, the federal government’s multiculturalism policy might be the pivot around which the more federally oriented narrative of visible minorities is structured. Should the growing presence of visible minorities have one significant and consistent impact, it may well be to further strengthen acceptance of the country’s multicultural heritage — in the process further strengthening this pillar of Canadian identity.
Appendix A: The Provincial Diversity Project
Respondents received an e-mail invitation to participate in the survey. Each invitation e-mail contained a unique link (URL) that could only be used once. This ensured that no respondent could answer the survey more than once or share the link with friends. Respondents were all members of the Léger Internet panel of more than 400,000 people currently living in Canada who were recruited randomly over the phone (61 percent) or through various other means (see table A1). Léger’s annual recruitment rate for the panel is approximately 15,000 new members a year, while about 10,000 to 12,000 panellists are removed from the panel or opt out each year. Panellists are rewarded for their participation over time with a series of financial incentives. No specific response rate can be calculated for an online survey because, unlike telephone surveys, it is not possible to evaluate whether people refused to participate or did not read or receive the invitation. For the general sample and the youth sample, a total of 76,700 invitations were sent and 8,350 respondents completed the survey, or about 11 percent of people who were invited to participate. We cannot distinguish the response rates for the general sample and the youth sample. For the visible minority sample, 13,549 invitations were sent and 1,600 respondents completed the survey, or about 12 percent of the people who were invited.
Appendix B. Survey Questions
Attachment to Canada and the province
On a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 means not attached at all and 10 means very strongly attached, how attached do you feel to the following?
- Your province (name of province)
Canadian and provincial identities
Do you consider yourself to be
- Canadian only
- Canadian first but also (e.g., Quebecer)
- Equally Canadian and (e.g., Quebecer)
- (e.g., Quebecer) first but also Canadian
- (e.g., Quebecer) only
Share of influence over federal government
In your opinion, how much influence does your province (name of province) have on important decisions made by the federal government? Is it more than its fair share, less than its fair share, or about its fair share?
Share of money from federal government
Thinking about the money the federal government spends on different programs and on transfers to the provinces, do you think your province (name of province) receives more than its fair share, less than its fair share, or about its fair share?
Province treated with respect in Canada
Is your province (name of province) treated with the respect it deserves in Canada or not? Yes or no?
Confidence in the House of Commons and provincial legislature
How much confidence do you have in the following institutions, on a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 means “no confidence at all” and 10 means “a great deal of confidence”?
- The House of Commons
- The provincial legislature of your province (name of province)
Increased provincial powers
Which of the following statements best represents your view of how governments should work in Canada?
- The government of your province (name of province) should take charge of many of the things the federal government does right now.
- The federal government should take charge of many of the things the government of your province (name of province) does right now.
- Things should be left pretty much as they are.
Support for Quebec sovereignty (Quebec only)
Are you very supportive, somewhat supportive, somewhat opposed or very opposed to Quebec sovereignty, meaning Quebec would no longer be part of Canada?
Please tell us whether you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the following statement.
- It is important to preserve French and English as Canada’s two official languages.
Do you think the policy of multiculturalism of the Government of Canada has a positive, negative or not much of an impact on national identity?
Please tell us whether you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the following statement.
- The federal equalization program transfers money from the richer provinces to the poorer provinces to ensure that all Canadians can have public services of similar quality. I believe this is a good program.
- In 2003, the Globe and Mail and the Centre for Research and Information on Canada commissioned a survey on the “New Canada” to document changing values in Canada on issues such as diversity, identity and discrimination. For a good overview of some of the results, see Parkin and Mendelsohn (2003).
- Visible minorities refer to persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or nonwhite in colour (Statistics Canada 2011).
- While visible minorities made up 12.4 percent of immigrants who arrived before 1971, between 2006 and 2011 they accounted for 78.0 percent of new immigrants (Statistics Canada 2013, 15).
- The rapid rise in Canada’s visible minority population can be explained by two factors. The first one is the adoption, in 1967, of a universal point system to assess immigrants, irrespective of the candidates’ origin (Triadafilopoulos 2012). The second factor is the rapid increase in the number of immigrants in the last two decades. Whereas Canada accepted on average 90,000 immigrants per year in the early 1980s, immigration levels averaged 220,000 per year in the 1990s and 241,000 per year in the 2000s (Hou and Picot 2014).
- Of those who immigrated to Canada between 2006 and 2011, 61.9 percent were over 25 years old and 19.2 percent were under 14 years old (Statistics Canada 2013, 13).
- The PDP was led by Antoine Bilodeau, with Luc Turgeon, Ailsa Henderson and Stephen White. It was conducted with the support of Léger Marketing, Concordia University, the Secrétariat aux affaires intergouvernementales canadiennes du gouvernement du Québec, the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, Elections Canada, the Institute for Research on Public Policy and the Canada Research Chair in Quebec and Canadian Studies at the Université du Québec à Montréal.
- Appendix A presents the sample distribution in each of the four Canadian provinces for visible minorities born abroad, visible minorities born in Canada and majority population. The PDP also includes an oversample of young Canadians aged 18 to 34 (N = 1900). We do not rely on this component for the purposes of this study. See appendix A for more information on the PDP. The data for the analyses that follow are weighted to be representative of the sociodemographic characteristics (sex, age, education and mother tongue) of each province using the 2011 National Household Survey as the point of reference.
- Appendix B presents the complete wording for all the questions used in this study.
- Gaps are also observed for visible minorities in Ontario, but they did not remain statistically significant after we controlled for socio-demographic variables.
- Gaps are observed for visible minorities in Ontario, but they did not remain statistically significant after we controlled for socio-demographic variables.
- During the postwar negotiations around the patriation of the constitution and the subsequent debates about the Meech and Charlottetown accords, one of Quebec’s key demands was that the federal government withdraw from areas Quebec viewed as belonging to the provinces. For a good overview of Quebec’s historical demands for reform of the Canadian federation, see Secrétariat aux affaires intergouvernementales canadiennes (2001).
- While in Quebec and British Columbia the most popular view is for increased power for the provincial government, in both Ontario and Alberta the most popular view is for the status quo. Results not presented.
- If this proportion appears high in comparison with other polls published during the same period, it is important to emphasize that the PDP question did not ask whether people would vote yes or no in a referendum on Quebec sovereignty, but instead asked respondents whether they supported Quebec sovereignty.
- Table 4 only presents the “positive effect” responses.
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Visible minority immigrants more likely than majority population to embrace national vision of Canada
Montreal – In Canada’s four largest provinces, visible minority immigrants embrace a national vision of the federation more strongly than the majority population, according to a new study by the Institute for Research on Public Policy.
Antoine Bilodeau and his colleagues based their research on data from the Provincial Diversity Project survey, with a sample of some 10,000 respondents, conducted in 2014. They find that visible minority immigrants have a stronger sense of loyalty to the federal government than to provincial governments, express greater support for Canada’s national policies and are less inclined to endorse historical grievances about the Canadian federation.
“The extent to which visible minorities hold distinctive views about the Canadian federation depends on the province they live in and whether or not they were born in Canada,” says Bilodeau. In Ontario, visible minorities’ views are almost indistinguishable from those of the majority population. In Alberta and British Columbia, visible minorities born abroad hold somewhat weaker regional grievances than the majority population. However, those born in Canada see the federation in similar terms as the majority population.
The greatest difference between visible minorities and the majority population is in Quebec, where visible minorities born abroad and those born in Canada express considerably stronger support for a national vision of the federation. The differences in outlook between non-French speaking members of visible minority groups and the majority Quebec population are particularly striking, the authors note.
They conclude that the federal government’s multiculturalism policy offers a model that appeals to members of visible minority groups, and that the growing presence of visible minorities may further strengthen “this pillar of Canadian identity.”
Seeing the Same Canada? Visible Minorities’ Views of the Federation, by Antoine Bilodeau, Luc Turgeon, Stephen E. White and Ailsa Henderson, can be downloaded from the Institute’s website (irpp.org).
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Les minorités visibles et la fédération canadienne
Lors de la récente élection fédérale, un nombre record de 47 députés issus de minorités visibles ont été élus, ce qui représente une augmentation de 9 % à 14 % depuis les élections de 2011. Et bien que cette proportion reste encore en deçà des 19 % de la population de minorités visibles au Canada, le résultat constitue un bond majeur dans leur représentation politique à Ottawa. Il nous amène à nous questionner sur l’influence de ce segment de la population, toujours en pleine croissance, sur les dynamiques politiques au sein de la fédération canadienne.
À l’heure actuelle, la presque totalité des membres des minorités visibles (96,5 %) est née à l’extérieur du Canada ou née au Canada de parents immigrés. Cette population étant aussi plus jeune que la moyenne canadienne, une forte proportion parmi elle n’a pas vécu les nombreuses querelles constitutionnelles, de la commission royale d’enquête sur le bilinguisme et le biculturalisme en 1963 au référendum de 1995.
Notre étude intitulée Seeing the Same Canada? Visible Minorities’ Views of the Federation, que vient de publier l’Institut de recherche en politiques publiques, explore les attitudes de ces personnes à l’égard du fonctionnement de la fédération canadienne. Nous nous sommes posé les questions suivantes : les membres des minorités visibles ont-ils la même vision des dynamiques fédérales-provinciales qui ont marqué l’histoire politique canadienne que la population majoritaire de leur province de résidence ? Embrassent-ils les revendications régionales historiques des provinces où ils vivent, ou expriment-ils un plus grand sentiment de loyauté envers le gouvernement fédéral et les institutions centrales ?
Bien que les relations entre le Québec et le Canada aient été au cœur des conflits ayant trait à la vision de la fédération canadienne, d’autres provinces – tout particulièrement celles de l‘Ouest – ont aussi exprimé de nombreux désaccords au cours de leur histoire quant au fonctionnement des institutions fédérales. Notre étude examine les attitudes des minorités visibles à cet égard au Québec, en Ontario, en Alberta et en Colombie-Britannique, en comparant trois groupes : les membres des minorités visibles qui sont nés à l’extérieur du Canada, ceux qui sont nés ici et, enfin, la population majoritaire (c’est-à-dire les personnes qui sont nées au Canada mais n’appartiennent pas à une minorité visible).
L’étude est fondée sur les données du Projet sur la diversité provinciale, un sondage réalisé en hiver 2014 auprès de 10 000 répondants. Nous explorons quatre dimensions des dynamiques fédérales-provinciales, soit le sentiment identitaire à l’égard du Canada et de la province de résidence, les conflits régionaux, les relations avec les institutions politiques fédérales et provinciales, et les politiques pancanadiennes (bilinguisme, multiculturalisme, péréquation).
En ce qui concerne les griefs à caractère régional, notre étude fait état de différences de perception importantes entre les personnes nées à l’extérieur du Canada et la population majoritaire dans trois des quatre provinces, l’Ontario constituant l’exception. Dans la mesure où ces revendications sont moins prononcées en Ontario, le résultat n’est pas surprenant. En Alberta et en Colombie-Britannique, les membres des minorités visibles nés à l’étranger n’expriment pas avec la même force que la population majoritaire ces griefs à l’égard du fonctionnement de la fédération. Mais pour ce qui est des autres dimensions examinées, les personnes nées à l’étranger affichent des attitudes généralement semblables à celles du reste de la population. De plus, les membres des minorités visibles nés au Canada dans ces deux provinces ont une vision de la fédération canadienne généralement identique à celle de la population majoritaire. Notre étude démontre donc qu’en Ontario, en Alberta et en Colombie-Britannique, la croissance rapide de la population de minorités visibles est peu susceptible de mener à long terme à une transformation radicale de la culture politique en matière de fédéralisme et de politiques pancanadiennes.
La réalité québécoise est tout autre. Pour ce qui est de la quasi-totalité des dimensions examinées, nous observons que les membres des minorités visibles sont davantage orientés vers le fédéral que la population majoritaire. De plus, il n’y a pas de différences entre les personnes nées au Canada et celles nées à l’étranger, qu’il s’agisse de leur attachement au Canada et à la province, des griefs à l’égard du fonctionnement de la fédération, de la confiance envers les institutions ou de l’appui aux politiques fédérales. La situation au Québec est donc unique en raison du nombre de clivages entre les minorités visibles et la population majoritaire, de l’ampleur de ces clivages et de leur présence autant chez les membres des minorités visibles nés à l’étranger que ceux nés au pays – ce qui n’est pas le cas dans les deux provinces de l’Ouest.
La réalité québécoise révèle aussi un important clivage linguistique. Ainsi, les membres des minorités visibles qui parlent une autre langue que le français à la maison adhèrent beaucoup plus fortement à une vision nationale du Canada que la population majoritaire, et ils soutiennent cette vision bien davantage que les membres des minorités visibles qui parlent français à la maison. Ces données montrent l’importance que revêt l’intégration linguistique dans le processus de socialisation politique au Québec.
Les Canadiens soucieux de l’unité nationale se réjouiront sans doute des résultats de notre étude, qui indiquent un sentiment de loyauté plus fort à l’égard de la fédération chez les minorités visibles au Québec. On peut cependant se demander quelle sera l’incidence de telles différences sur le climat social et politique au Québec. À ce chapitre, notre étude fournit des arguments à ceux qui considèrent que le Québec doit absolument se doter d’une véritable politique de l’interculturalisme afin de favoriser le rapprochement entre la population majoritaire et les minorités ethnoculturelles.
Une dernière différence importante s’observe partout au Canada entre les membres des minorités visibles, qu’ils soient nés à l’étranger ou au Canada, et la population majoritaire. Dans toutes les provinces, ceux-ci sont beaucoup plus susceptibles d’approuver la politique canadienne de multiculturalisme. Ainsi la croissance de ce segment de la population au Canada viendrait consolider l’appui à cette politique du gouvernement fédéral, qui s’impose de plus en plus, pour de nombreux Canadiens et Canadiennes, comme un pilier de l’identité canadienne.
Antoine Bilodeau est professeur agrégé de science politique à l’Université Concordia. Luc Turgeon est professeur agrégé à l’École d’études politiques de l’Université d’Ottawa. Stephen E. White est professeur adjoint de science politique à l’Université Carleton. Ailsa Henderson est professeure de science politique à l’Université d’Edinburgh. Ce texte a paru dans Options politiques, le 26 novembre 2015.