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Canadian first’: Strongest ties are to country, respondents tell survey on belonging

July 10, 2015

By Sadaf Ahsan, National Post |

Most Canadians feel a stronger sense of belonging to their country than their province or community — and for many immigrants, their country of origin, according to Statistics Canada’s new General Social Survey on Social Identity based on 2013 data from people aged 15 years and older. The National Post’s Sadaf Ahsan looks at some of the survey’s findings, and how multiculturalism and life experience are shaping Canadians:

1: Canadian first

Sixty-three per cent of people said they had a very strong sense of belonging to Canada, while 45 per cent said they felt the same level of belonging to their province of residence, while 32 per cent felt the same for their local community. Robert A. Kenedy, an associate professor of sociology at York University, uses Ontario as an example: “We are citizens of Canada, not our province. We don’t say, ‘I’m a citizen of Ontario,’ but ‘I’m a Canadian citizen.’ We feel Canadian first, not Ontarian first.”

2: Sense of history

With great life experience comes great appreciation: People aged 75 and older had the strongest sense of belonging to Canada of any group — 77 per cent — particularly in comparison to the 56 per cent of people aged 15 to 24, the youngest group surveyed. “Seniors vote more, they have a sense of history,” said Kenedy. “These are people who have lived through the Depression. They have been through more than younger generations. Wars cement patriotism and that unites you as Canadian.”

3: Millennials disconnected

The age of disillusionment seems to make itself known from ages 25 to 34. This group feels the lowest connection to their country (55 per cent), province (37 per cent) and community (25 per cent) compared to any other cohort. (A March 2014 Pew Research Center report found American millennials were just as disconnected because of their detachment from institutions as a result of being “linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people and in no rush to marry.”)

4: Multiculturalism counts

Nova Scotia, Ontario and Saskatchewan citizens were the most likely to report a very strong sense of belonging to Canada, at 70 per cent each. With a population drawn from more than 200 countries and speaking 130 languages, Ontario is Canada’s most multicultural province — multiculturalism being a major factor in making people feel they belong.

5: Feeling apart

Quebecers have the least love for Canada, at 44 per cent, but the second-highest sense of belonging to their province, at 52 per cent. The only province that beats Quebec on belonging — Newfoundland, the only province that was once a separate country.

6: Staying put

Two-thirds of Newfoundlanders — 66 per cent — feel a strong sense of belonging to Canada, while 65 per cent feel that way about their province and 47 per cent their community. Atlantic Canada, in general, is a region where people stay put for generations, Kenedy said: “Those who leave go for money or jobs. In other provinces, you might leave to see a new place; here, people have a tendency to leave only if they have to.”

7: Choosing to be here

New Canadians are proud Canadians: Immigrants were more likely than non-immigrants to have a very strong sense of belonging to Canada (67 per cent, compared with 62 per cent). “The citizenship test lays the foundation of patriotism,” Kenedy said. “Immigrants don’t take the country and what it offers for granted.”

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