Document reveals govt. monitors public opinion on asylum seekers

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No one can accuse of federal Liberals of taking positive public opinion for granted, especially around the issue of asylum seekers. It turns out that the federal government has been closely monitoring public reaction to the influx of asylum seekers in Canada for a while now by conducting national surveys and measuring discussions on social media.

There are people in Ottawa probably perusing Twitter feeds on the topic and taking notes.

Documents released to The Canadian Press under access-to-information law show department officials receive weekly internal updates on media coverage and public response to issues related to asylum seekers coming irregularly into the country across the Canada-U.S. border.

This monitoring includes internal polling conducted by the Immigration Department to track public opinion about asylum seekers.

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Two mid-year surveys of 2,000 Canadians, conducted by the department in March, suggested Canadians were not overly confident about Canada’s ability to manage the border at unguarded points-of-entry and had little sense of obligation about accepting asylum seekers from the United States.

Fewer than half of respondents — 43 per cent in a telephone survey and 35 per cent in an online survey — agreed that Canada is taking appropriate steps to manage irregular border crossings.

Forty-two per cent of telephone respondents and just 18 per cent of those online indicated they felt the number of people coming to Canada and claiming asylum was at an appropriate level.

The government also measures the number of times media stories published about asylum seekers include “myths countering messaging.”

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It also uses social media as a tool to disseminate information as part of its outreach efforts to discourage irregular migrants from coming to Canada.

A targeted advertising campaign using search engine marketing to reach key populations in the U.S. was launched on December 18, 2017 and continued until March 17, 2018, which included “targeted messaging based on users’ search terms to users in select U.S. cities where larger temporary protected status populations are found,” the internal document states.

Over 36,000 asylum seekers have since arrived in Canada from the U.S., avoiding official border checkpoints where they would have been turned back to the U.S. under the Safe Third Country agreement between the two countries. Instead, they have been crossing the border along forest paths and fields, declaring their intent to seek refugee status once on Canadian soil.

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The issue has sparked calls for Canada to suspend or amend the Safe Third Country Agreement as a way to stop the flow of irregular migrants.

Year-over-year numbers show that overall, more people have crossed irregularly into Canada so far this year compared to the number of individuals who crossed from January to September of 2017. As things stand, public opinion will matter more in 2019 especially if those numbers spike during the summer of 2019. – CINEWS

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