JEFF HEINRICH - Compared to other Canadians, Quebecers have less contact with foreigners, eat less foreign cuisine, go on fewer foreign trips, have fewer friends in foreign places and don't work as much in multicultural environments, a poll suggests.
Quebecers are also more comfortable with people of their own ethnic origin and are more likely to think minorities weaken their culture, according to the Léger Marketing poll, issued yesterday at a Montreal conference on Quebec's policy of interculturalism.
The policy began in 1990 under the Liberal government of Robert Bourassa with its white paper on immigration called Pour bâtir ensemble.
It aimed to encourage immigrants and old-stock Quebecers to enter into a "moral contract" built on a common cause: the primacy of the French language and the idea of Quebec as a democratic and pluralistic "nation."
To that end, the government stopped subsidizing minority programs that kept newcomers in cultural ghettos; "intercultural" programs were promoted instead.
Has it worked? Do immigrants "integrate" better now?
Those questions were very much the subject of yesterday's conference, organized by the Association for Canadian Studies with the Quebec government's Conseil des relations interculturelles and the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Jewish Congress.
Montreal immigration researcher Annick Germain said social workers are increasingly telling her it's getting harder to integrate minorities - and often blame the minorities themselves.
"The workers start by saying: 'They don't speak French, their women are oppressed, they prefer their temple to our community centre, etc.' Invariably they finish by saying: 'They don't want to learn anything from us, so how can we mobilize them if we have the impression there's nothing we can give them?' " Germain said.
"But shouldn't we be turning the question around? Don't they have something to teach us?"
Minorities don't just get a bad rap in the regions, they also get it in the city, and "that's very worrisome," said Marie McAndrew, another well-known immigration expert. "In the regions, intolerance comes from misunderstanding; in the city, it comes from living together," said McAndrew, a Université de Montréal education professor.
About 40 people attended the conference, including the deputy-director and spokesperson of the Bouchard-Taylor commission into the "reasonable accommodations" of minorities, as well as several members of the commission's advisory committee. The commission's report on its three-month road-show of public hearings is due May 31.
In the Léger poll, Quebecers lagged behind other Canadians on openness to foreigners, ethnic minorities and their cultures.
The poll found:
- Forty-two per cent of Quebecers prefer to live in neighbourhoods with people of the same ethnic origin as them, three times the level in B.C.
- Twenty-four per cent of Quebecers are more comfortable with people of their own ethnic origin, almost double Ontario's level.
- Nineteen per cent of Quebecers "strongly agree" that cultural life is enriched by people of minority cultures, compared with 39 per cent in Alberta.
- Thirty-eight per cent of Quebecers really like foreign cuisine, the lowest level in the country.
- Thirty-six per cent of Quebecers have travelled internationally at least three times in the last three years, compared with 51 per cent of Ontarians.
- Forty-nine per cent of Quebecers have friends outside Canada, compared with 80 per cent or more of Albertans, British Columbians and Ontarians.
- Nineteen per cent of Quebecers communicate with foreigners by email or over the Internet very often, compared with 40 per cent of people in Ontario and Alberta.
- Only 18 per cent of Quebecers work in a very multicultural environment, compared with more than 30 per cent in the other provinces.
The poll of 1,500 adult Canadians was done between Feb. 6 and 11. Statistics Canada census data were then used to weight the data in terms of regions, age, sex and mother tongue to make them representative of Canadians as a whole.
The poll's margin of error is 2.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.