Canadian Attitudes to Minorities and Support for Welfare: The Different Worlds of Immigrants and Indigenous Peoples
Studies of the ‘progressive’s dilemma’ in Canada have tended to paint a rosy picture, concluding that high levels of immigration do not significantly erode social solidarity. However, this happy conclusion is subject to an important qualification: there are dramatic differences in public attitudes towards immigrants and indigenous people, often called Aboriginals. This paper analyses these differences by examining the relationship between perceptions of welfare dependence and support for redistribution, focusing on both groups. It finds that Canadians who believe that immigrants rely heavily on welfare are less likely to support social assistance as such, but are more likely to support redistribution and the welfare state generally. It appears that a perception that immigrants are in growing economic trouble tends to nudge Canadians towards, not away from, supporting redistribution. The same is not true for Aboriginal peoples. Here we find the toxic effects found in some other countries; people who believe that Aboriginal peoples are heavily dependent on welfare tend to reduce their support not only for social assistance but for a redistributive state as a whole, a corrosive impact with important regional dimensions. The presentation will discuss two competing explanations for this pattern: one rooted in norms of reciprocity and one rooted in conflicting national identities.
Keith Banting is Professor of Political Studies and Policy Studies at the Queen's University, Canada. He is the Queen’s Research Chair in Public Policy and a professor in the Department of Political Studies and the School of Policy Studies. His research interests focus on public policy in Canada and other contemporary democracies. He has had a long-standing interest in the politics of social policy, and has more recently extended his research agenda to include ethnic diversity, immigration and multiculturalism.