Ontario facing ‘epidemic of Islamophobia’ survey finds

While Canada rides a wave of global praise for welcoming Syrian refugees, a new poll suggests we’re also facing a wave of something sinister — Islamophobia.


The survey by polling firm MARU/VCR&C measured public perceptions of ethnicity and immigration in Ontario in the wake of the recent influx of thousands of Syrian refugees — almost 12,000 to this province alone.


“There is an epidemic of Islamophobia in Ontario. Only a third of Ontarians have a positive impression of the religion and more than half feel its mainstream doctrines promote violence (an anomaly compared to other religions),” said the 51-page survey to be released this week by the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants and advocacy group Mass Minority. “These sentiments are echoed with Syrian refugees in Ontario where acceptance often coincides with acceptance of Islam.”


Ontario has seen a number of recent incidents targeting Muslims. A woman wearing a hijab was attacked at a supermarket in London in June and a Western University student from Iran was beaten by two men who taunted him and told him to go back to his country. Also, in June, an anti-immigrant group rooted in Germany held an anti-Muslim protest in Toronto.


While the survey’s respondents agreed that immigrants play a valuable role in society (72 per cent) and are an important part of our cultural identity (71 per cent), three-quarters of the survey participants said we need to focus on taking care of the people “here” instead of spending resources on refugees.


“Taken together, this suggests that Ontarians see non-immigrants as more entitled to social care. This entitlement is, in some ways, a contradiction given the inherent value that immigration offers,” said the poll of 1,009 Ontarians conducted between May 11 and 16.


The survey was funded by the province and the City of Toronto for its recently launched public awareness campaign on Islamophobia, which has sparked heated debate over its provocative posters, seen by some as reinforcing stereotypes and fuelling tensions.


The research was commissioned to take a snapshot of Ontario residents’ attitudes and perception towards immigrants and ethnic minorities as a benchmark to assess the effectiveness of the multimedia campaign. A followup survey is planned after 12 months.


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