Is Immigration the Real Threat to our Canadian Culture?

Canadian Flag with Dancing Crowd Carol Ring Corporate Culture SpeakerRecent events in Canada and the US have raised the notion of national values. Each country feels strongly about protecting their culture. In some cases, the talk has been about restricting immigration and increasing the scrutiny of those applying. For President Trump, it appears to be an issue of preserving law and order to ensure the safety of Americans. For Canadian Conservative leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch it’s about matching the values of the immigrants to existing Canadian values.

Canadian Values

What’s interesting to watch is how governments perceive their country’s culture compared to how citizens experience it. Kellie Leitch lists equal opportunity, hard work, helping others, generosity, and freedom as well as tolerance as key Canadian values. Immigration websites like the Durham Immigration Portal calls out equality, respect for cultural differences, freedom, peace, and law and order. Prime Minister Trudeau during his recent visit to Washington talked about equality, openness, respect and safety.

All of these are wonderful descriptors of a nation we would be proud to call home. But are these values actually being encountered in our country or are they aspirational? The picture painted by Canadians when asked to describe Canada’s culture is telling. A survey was conducted May 1- 7, 2009 by the Todd Thomas Institute for Values-Based Leadership at Royal Roads University of British Columbia. Respondents were asked to select, from 85 or more values, their top 10 priority values or behaviors across three dimensions.

  1. Personal Values – select the 10 values that most reflect who you are. The ten most frequently selected values were:








Positive attitude




  1. Current Culture Values: select the 10 values or behaviors that most reflect how your society in Canada currently operates. What would you choose? The ten most frequently selected values to this question were:

Human Rights

Freedom of Speech

Law Enforcement

Quality of life


Wasted resources




Uncertainty about the future


(Ouch, not such a pretty picture as one might have expected!)

  1. Desired Culture Values: select the 10 values you would most like to see reflected in Canadian society. Canadians came back with a vision of a caring Canadian culture:

Human Rights


Caring for the elderly

Affordable housing

Effective healthcare

Caring for the disadvantaged

Concern for future generations

Poverty reduction

Employment opportunities

   Governmental effectiveness


So how do we get from where we are today, to where we’d like to be? Is there a role for government?  Absolutely. All levels of government can make an impact. From policy setting to law making and in some cases funding. There is also a role for our business organizations. When you look at these ten areas identified as being important to Canada’s future, where could your organization play a part? Even as individuals we can contribute to setting the tone for Canada’s culture.

Just saying the words in a speech, or writing them on a website does not make the values real. We see this behavior in our workplaces every day. Companies list values on their career pages in the hopes of attracting top talent. Then, when new employees come on board, they find out that what was on paper is not what’s going on in the workplace.

All this talk about immigration and national safety has opened the door to discussions about our national culture. To date, the focus has been on preserving our culture. Just like in business, however, culture needs to be managed. The results show that we could be better. I believe the timing is right to have a conversation on how to improve the Canadian culture we all value so much. I encourage you to begin a dialog with friends, family and employees. In this year of celebrating 150 years of Canada, let’s also make it a year of commitment to building a better Canada – one that truly demonstrates the values we hold dear.

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