With Glowing Hearts, We See Thee Arrive

Some are raising questions about Canada's historically successful immigration model. Are the concerns about newcomers justified?

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Canada is unique among industrial countries, in that immigration is actually popular.

Internationally, people look to Canada and its welcoming, multicultural approach to immigration as a success story.

Immigration sociologist Jeffrey Reitz, professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, wants to understand whether this perception of success is based on material benefits for immigrants and their communities. If so, he also wants to decode the secret behind this success.

“Canada has made a huge investment in immigration. Immigration has had a huge impact in Toronto, right here in the university, but all across the city,” says Reitz. “The success of our immigration experiment, if you like, is really going to be the story of the future of the country.”

In this research, Reitz pays attention to differences between public opinion and social reality. Public opinion polls show that Canadians are concerned that Muslim immigrants do not want to integrate, but in reality this is not the case, says Reitz.

Far from becoming isolated, Muslim immigrants are integrating into the mainstream just as well as other groups have in the past. Given this open willingness to integrate, Reitz believes that programs specifically directed at assimilation may backfire.

Reitz credits Canadian support services available to immigrants for this successful integration. It helps that the majority of Canadians don’t view immigration as a burden; for humanitarian and economic reasons, immigrants are welcomed into their new communities.

Hopefully these insights will help more immigrants come to think of Canada as home.

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Jeffrey Reitz is the R.F. Harney Professor and Director of the Ethnic, Immigration and Pluralism Studies Program at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, and Professor and former Chair in the University’s Department of Sociology. He has published extensively on immigration and inter-group relations in Canada from comparative perspectives. His most recent book is Multiculturalism and Social Cohesion: Potentials and Challenges of Diversity (2009); recent journal articles have appeared in the International Migration Review, Ethnic and Racial Studies, the Journal of International Migration and Integration, Social Science Research, and Patterns of Prejudice. Professor Reitz also publishes frequently on immigration and multiculturalism policy issues, and is a Research Fellow with the Institute for Research on Public Policy in Montreal. During 2012-2014 he was a Marie Curie International Fellow at l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris.