How satisfied are immigrants with their personal safety?
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By Colin Lindsay
Although overall, the majority of Canadians indicate they are satisfied with their level of personal safety1, there may be groups in the population who feel less safe for reasons such as where they live, fear of discrimination or other factors. One possible measure of how well immigrants are adapting to Canadian society is how safe the foreign-born population feels in their new country. Depending on their country of origin and the reasons and circumstances around their coming to Canada, some immigrants may feel less safe than others. In the case of refugees, some come to Canada seeking greater safety2. How does the foreign-born population feel about their personal safety, compared to the Canadian-born? Are they more likely to feel safe after having lived in Canada for some time, or less safe than those who have arrived recently? The Canadian General Social Survey (GSS) data help us answer these questions with data from three time periods for recent immigrants (those who arrived in Canada in the 5-year period prior to the respective survey) and established immigrants (those who had been in the country for longer than five years at the time of the survey)3.
The first key finding4 is that the vast majority of immigrants – regardless of when they arrived in Canada - living in Canada in 2004 reported they were satisfied with their personal safety5. Immigrants in Canada were about as likely as the Canadian-born population to say they were satisfied with their personal sense of safety. In 2004, 93% of immigrants indicated they were satisfied with their personal level of safety, compared with 95% of those born in Canada.
As with the Canadian-born population, the level of satisfaction with one's personal safety has increased in the foreign-born population since the early 1990s. Between 1993 and 2004, for example, the percentage of the total foreign-born or immigrant population reporting that they were satisfied with their personal safety rose from 88% to 93%, while the figure for the overall Canadian-born population rose from 89% to 95% in the same period.
Percentage of Immigrants and Canadian-born satisfied with their personal safety, 1993, 1999 and 2004
There is also no statistically significant difference in the level of satisfaction with personal safety reported by recent immigrants6 compared with established immigrants who have been in the country for longer periods. In 2004, about 94% of recent and 93% of established immigrants said they were satisfied with their sense of personal safety.
Percentage of recent and established immigrants satisfied with their personal safety 1993, 1999 and 2004
The share of established immigrants feeling satisfied with their personal safety has risen over the three time periods. Between 1993 and 2004, for example, the proportion of established immigrants satisfied with their personal safety rose from 87% to 93%.
Immigrants arriving in Canada settle in disproportionate numbers in the country's largest urban areas. In 2004, for example, 61% of all immigrants living in Canada, and 71% of recent arrivals, lived in one of the three largest Census Metropolitan Areas: Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. In comparison, 35% of the total Canadian population lived in these urban areas7.
There is no significant difference in the percentage of immigrants living in the Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver CMAs indicating they are satisfied with their level of personal safety. In 2004, 93% of the foreign-born population living in the Toronto CMA indicated they were either very satisfied or satisfied with their level of safety, while the figures were 92% in the Montreal and 90% in Vancouver. As well, in each of these three CMAs, recent immigrants indicated they were satisfied with their level of personal safety.
In 2004, levels of satisfaction with personal safety among immigrants residing in the Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver CMAs were also similar to those of the Canadian-born population in those CMAs.
The level of satisfaction with personal safety rose somewhat among immigrants living in the Toronto and Montreal CMAs in the past decade, whereas it did not change appreciably in Vancouver in the same period. In Montreal, for example, the percentage of immigrants reporting they were satisfied with their level of personal safety rose from 76% to 92% between 1993 and 2004, while the figure in Toronto went from 87% to 93% in the same period. In contrast, the share of immigrants living in the Vancouver CMA indicating they were satisfied with their personal safety was relatively constant around 86% in 1993 to 90% in the 2004 period.
GSS data shed light on the fact that immigrants to Canada are not different from Canadian-born regarding how they feel about their personal safety. In fact, like the overall Canadian population, the large majority of immigrants to Canada report they are satisfied with their personal safety. As well, the level of satisfaction with personal safety reported by established immigrants to Canada has increased over the years and there is little real difference in the levels of satisfaction with personal safety reported by recent immigrants compared with those reported by more established immigrants.
All percentages (%) have been adjusted as of September 17, 2008.
- Gannon, M., General Social Survey on Victimization, Cycle 18: An Overview of Findings, 85-565-X, July 7, 2005.
- The General Social Survey does not enable us to distinguish between immigrant categories of admission, such as refugees.
- Respondents were asked 'In general, how satisfied are you with your personal safety from crime?'.
- All differences highlighted are statistically significant differences.
- Note that 2004 is the most recent year in which the General Social Survey collected information on victimization and attitudes towards personal safety.
- Recent immigrants are those who arrived in Canada in the 5 years prior to answering the respective surveys and established immigrants are those who had been in Canada longer than 5 years.
- By 2006 the Canadian Census showed small changes in the proportions to 63% of all immigrants and 69% of recent immigrants living in large urban areas. (Immigration in Canada: A portrait of the foreign-born population, 2006 Census, Statistics Canada, catalogue no. 97-557-X)
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