Safety in Immigrants

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Image by Flickr user: LeeHoney / Creative Commons

Canada’s progressive integration policies are celebrated by reformers the world over, but a poll reveals that 46 percent of Canadians believe that immigration negatively affects their homeland. Like their neighbors to the south, Canadians equate increased immigration with higher crime rates. Even though, writes Rachel Giese in The Walrus(June 2011), immigrants actually drive crime down.

Since Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau advocated multiculturalism in the 1970s, immigration has risen and crime has plummeted. Foreign-born residents make up some 20 percent of the populace–and a disproportionate number of these immigrants live in large cities such as Toronto, where crime has fallen 50 percent in the last 20 years.

Some anecdotally attribute the crime decrease to more stringent drug policies, an aging populace, and even the 1988 legalization of abortion. Giese, however, has hard data to back her side of the story: A youth delinquency study started by Toronto sociologist John Hagan in 1976 morphed into an ongoing glimpse into a community affected by the arrival of a large number of immigrants. The results reveal that “cities with the highest increase in immigration also had the largest decrease in violent crime.” First-generation immigrants, contrary to stereotype, are studious, family-oriented, and unlikely to participate in risky activities. Giese also found that the aversion to crime “extended across all nationalities; it didn’t matter whether a teenager’s family was from India or Trinidad or China.”

Unfortunately, with more years of exposure to Canadian culture, immigrant crime rates sneak back up to the national average–suggesting that it’s not where people are from, but where they grow up.

Have something to say? Send a letter to This article first appeared in the September-October 2011 issue of Utne Reader.

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