Study highlights attitudes of second-generation immigrants

They like multiculturalism but don't all agree on the issue of religion

FREDERICTON, NB, May 30 /CNW/ - A cross-Canada study of second-generation immigrants shows broad support for the concept of multiculturalism. There are, however, differences of opinion when the matter of religion comes up: significant numbers of evangelical Christians felt they were being discriminated against, and overall, people felt that if there was one religion that was being treated unfairly, it was Islam.

The study was led by Peter Beyer, a professor of religious studies at the University of Ottawa. He presented the results this past weekend at the 2011 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Beyer's study involved 36 focus groups of young adults (ages 18-30) who were second-generation immigrants. He wanted to measure attitudes to multiculturalism and religious freedom.

Beyer found there was approval for the idea of multiculturalism. When he asked the groups what they thought of Canadian culture, most said Canadian culture either did not exist, or were unsure how to define it.

The exception was Quebec, where everyone was clear about there being a Quebec culture. In fact, Beyer said some of the second-generation immigrants interviewed felt very strongly about the issue and were devout sovereigntists.

Opinions on religion were sharper.

Most young, second-generation immigrants interviewed were in favour of acceptance of religious diversity, but many people said there were limits. "There's a sense," said Beyer, "that if you let this go too far, there's a danger."

And one religious group stood out. "We found a not-insignificant number of Christian groups at the evangelical end of the spectrum who felt they were discriminated against," he said. "Some people thought Canada should be a Christian country and they were distressed it wasn't."

People in this group were unhappy with the idea of religion being a private matter. Young, second-generation immigrants also had strong feelings about Islam: "There was widespread opinion that if there's a disadvantaged religion in this country, it's Islam," he said. Beyer noted that there were also significant differences between Quebec and the rest of Canada on the issue of racism.

While immigrants of African origin in, say, Toronto, felt that there was hope they could fully integrate into Canada even if there were problems today, that sense of hopefulness was absent among people of African origin living in Quebec.

"They were the only ones who felt they were completely apart," said Beyer.

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