Local Perspectives on Immigration and Diversity in 15 Ontario Municipalities

This paper explores the warmth of the welcome for immigrants and minorities in 15 second- and third-tier municipalities in Ontario.  Through a series of 150 confidential interviews with opinion leaders from the governmental and non-governmental sectors, the study addresses four thematic lines of inquiry.  First, it explores perceptions about the interest levels of local and regional governments in immigration and the drivers of that interest.  It also probes the respondents’ perceptions about whether community leaders in general see immigration as contributing to the economic, social/cultural, and political/civic life of the community and identity, as well as their personal views about the advantages and disadvantages of immigration.  Second, it reveals their views on how local residents perceive immigration and cultural diversity, and whether their communities are welcoming places for newcomers and visible minorities.  A third leitmotif taps into the perceived capacity of the municipality to meet the program and service needs that accompany demographic change.  Finally, demographic data on the age, gender, length of community residency, immigrant status, and ethnic and racial origins of the interviewees have been collected in order to paint a profile of community leadership.  Overall, the study furnishes important insights about receptivity to immigration and diversity in urban centres about which very little is known, as well as policy recommendations that support the development of welcoming communities.