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Canadian view of immigration sours in wake of Tamil ship

Canadian attitudes toward immigration are hardening as debate over the fate of a shipload of Tamils continues to make headlines, a new survey suggests.

An Angus Reid online poll says 46 per cent of Canadians believe immigration is having a negative effect on the country, a five-point increase from August, 2009. This compares to 34 per cent of the poll respondents who believe it is having a positive effect, a decrease of three points since last August.

Not only that, almost half - or 44 per cent - of the 1,007 polled believe illegal immigrants take jobs away from Canadian workers, compared to 38 per cent who think that they are employed in jobs Canadians don't want.

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The poll was conducted Sept. 2 and 3. For the past month there has been much publicity surrounding the arrival of the MV Sun Sea from Thailand. The fate of the 492 Tamil passengers remains unclear, The Globe and Mail reported Thursday that one man has been detained because of suspected links to the Tamil Tiger terrorist organization.

The Harper government has repeatedly suggested terrorists are among the passengers on board. A week after the ship arrived, Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed to put a stop to such migrant vessels, saying he would not "hesitate to strengthen the laws if we need to."

"Canadians are pretty concerned that a whole boat of people comes - not through any normal application process, not through any normal arrival channel - and just simply lands," he said at the time.

Fifty per cent of poll respondents want to deport the passengers and crew of the Tamil ship back to Sri Lanka, even if their refugee claims are legitimate; 32 per cent of respondents say they should be allowed to stay in Canada as refugees.

A regional breakdown shows that a majority of Albertans (52 per cent) and Ontarians (55 per cent) want the passengers and crew deported. This compares to 43 per cent of Atlantic Canadians and 39 per cent of British Columbians; 50 per cent of Quebeckers believe the Tamils should be deported.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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