Majority of Canadians oppose Trudeau’s Syrian refugee resettlement plan

A slim majority (54%) of Canadians oppose Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s refugee resettlement plan while 42% support it, according to a new poll.

The latest public opinion poll from the Angus Reid Institute conducted three days after the terrorist attacks that killed 129 in Paris found that those against it point to a lack of time to properly conduct security checks as the main reason for their disapproval.

Both support and opposition to the refugee resettlement plan show a slight increase compared to a similar poll in late October.


The majority (53%) of the opposed cite too-short timelines to ensure necessary security checks as the main reason for their disagreement, while just under one-third (29%) don’t think Canada should be taking in any Syrian refugees at all.

Even before the terrorist attacks in the French capital, slightly more than half (51%) of the Canadian public was against the Liberal government’s plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the first day of 2016, making it the second-most-opposed part of the Liberal agenda canvassed in that survey, behind a promise to spend $380 million on the arts.

While Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has written to the federal government to urge it to suspend the refugee resettlement plan in light of the Paris attacks, and the governors of more than two dozen US states now say they don’t want any Syrian refugees, it appears public opinion in Canada has not been particularly moved in the immediate aftermath of the violence in France.

“The recent attacks in Paris are a grim reminder of the death and destruction even a small number of malevolent individuals can inflict upon a peaceful country and its citizens,” Wall wrote in an open letter to PM Trudeau. “Surely, we do not want to be date-driven or numbers-driven in an endeavour that may affect the safety of our citizens and the security of our country.”

While opinion is largely unchanged, some interesting demographic shifts emerge, with support for the government’s plan now outpacing opposition in Atlantic Canada (50% support versus 46% oppose), a reversal from the October results (40% support versus 45% oppose).

While the east coast is warming up to the idea, the reverse is happening on the west coast.

In British Columbia, where the resettlement agenda enjoyed 50 per cent support in October (compared to 37% opposed), the plan is now supported by fewer people (47%) than oppose it (49%).

PM Trudeau has maintained that his government intends to stick to its Jan. 1, 2016 deadline for implementing the resettlement plan, despite calls from Wall and others to slow it down.

“We’re working very, very hard to bring in 25,000 refugees in a very short time frame responsibly, effectively and with security,” Trudeau told reporters at the APEC summit in Manila yesterday.

But Trudeau’s insistence on sticking to the deadline is turning out to be the main objection of the plan’s opponents, more than half (53%) of whom cite the short timeline as the most important reason for their opposition, while others are concerned with actual numbers or costs.

A significant core of Canadians continue to believe that accepting any refugees from Syria is the wrong thing to do.

The timeline argument is most persuasive to opponents of the plan who are over age 55, with nearly two-thirds (63%) saying they feel this way, compared to fewer than half of those in the younger two age groups (48% of the 35 – 54, and 47% of the 18 – 35, respectively).

Surprisingly, those under 55 are considerably more likely to oppose Canada taking in any Syrian refugees at all, with roughly one-third of opponents to the government’s plan in each under-55 age group choose this option (32% of the 35 – 54 and 35% of the 18-34, respectively), compared to roughly one-in-five (22%) of those over age 55.

This means that, while younger Canadians are more likely to support the plan overall, those in this age group who do oppose the plan are also the most likely to oppose any bringing any Syrian refugees to Canada under any timeline.

Meanwhile, a petition calling on PM Trudeau to extend the Syrian refugee resettlement deadline has garnered more than 75,000 signatures.

“Consider the Canadian Citizens and their security as well as the Economic burden that this would create,” the petition demands. “Consider all outcomes prior to admitting this many people in from a whole other culture. First and foremost it is your duty as our government to protect Canadians first.”

“Rushing this process undoubtedly compromise the safety and security of Canadian citizens, as well as permanent residents,” the petition warns.

The Angus Reid survey of 1,503 Canadian adults who are carry a margin of error of ± 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

[Photo Credit: UNHCR]