The Modi Visit – Part 3:  Ties that bind – Perceptions of the Indo-Canadian community in Canada

THE story of Indian migration to Canada is one that begins on the west coast – in British Columbia – at the turn of the last century. It is a story – particularly the first half – of tenacity, discrimination and political disenfranchisement. Indeed, until 1947, the Government of Canada kept on its books the so-called continuous journey requirements that were instituted in 1908 to

make it virtually impossible for legal immigration from India.

Generations later, our views and laws regarding immigration from non-European countries have changed wholesale. The 2011 Canadian census shows there are 1.2 million Canadians of Indian heritage in this country – people who were born here or who immigrated.

Those surveyed were asked for their overall feelings towards the Indo-Canadian community as a whole:

* Almost half (46%) of Canadians reported they feel very (12%) or mostly positive (34%);

* Almost as many (42%) say they feel “neither positive nor negative”

* Only one-in-ten (10%) voiced very or mostly negative feelings towards the Indo-Canadian community.

INDIA POLL 8Views are fairly consistent across the main population segments. Notably, younger Canadians are more likely to express very positive views than middle-aged or older Canadians (17% 18-34 versus 7% 55+)

On a more personal level, roughly half of the Canadians surveyed indicated a personal relationship with one or more Canadians of Indian heritage: 17 per cent said they know at least one member of the community “well” and another one-in-three said they have one or more Indo-Canadian “acquaintances”. That leaves half of Canadians (48%) having no relationship with the community whatsoever.

There are some big differences in exposure across some key population groups. Most notably by region, seven-in-ten British Columbians and six-in-ten Albertans indicated a personal relationship with an Indo-Canadian, whereas most Canadians living east of these regions reported an absence of such a relationship (as high as three-quarters in Quebec).  Younger Canadians are over twice as likely to have a closer relationship with an Indo-Canadian, and the poll also shows greater exposure among Canadians with higher incomes and more formal education.

Personal relationships matter. Canadians who know one or more Indo-Canadians – well or as an acquaintance – are much more likely to have a favourable overall view of the community as a whole: two-thirds of those with a close relationship and half of those with an acquaintance report a positive overall feeling toward the Indo-Canadian community compared to less than four-in-ten of Canadians who have no relationship with the community.

Likewise, further analysis of the poll results shows, not surprisingly, that those Canadians with a positive overall disposition towards the Indo-Canadian community are much more enthusiastic about the economic opportunities India offers and about the prospects of free trade with that large and growing economy. Indeed, as noted earlier, this positively disposed group has a more “pro-India” disposition on the range of issues assessed in this poll.