The Perception & Reality of ‘Imported Conflict’ in Canada

Project Title

Imported Conflict in Canada: Perception and Reality

Lead / Author

The Mosaic Institute

Relevant Dates

Report published March 2014. National survey November 2012 – January 2013; focus groups March 2013; interviews September 2012 – July 2013.


This study examines how the memories of or connections to conflicts abroad affect the ways people think about and respond to such conflicts in the course of their lives in Canada. As well, the research studies how the broader Canadian population perceives such ‘imported conflict,’ including possible concerns about divisions between community members from different sides of a conflict, to violent expressions such as support for or participation in transnational terrorist organizations.

The research is based on close to 4,500 survey responses from Canadians about their understanding of the prevalence and nature of imported conflict in Canada, and what they think should be done to address it. In addition, the study draws on over 200 in-depth interviews of Canadians who come from, or whose families come from, eight global regions that have experienced or are were experiencing violent conflict at the time of the research: Afghanistan; Armenia-Turkey; the Former Yugoslavia; the Horn of Africa; India-Pakistan; the Middle East (emphasis on Israel-Palestine); Sri Lanka; and the Sudans. Further, the study held a series of 12 focus groups to examine how within-community group dynamics affect individuals’ reactions to questions of conflict in Canada.

Select Findings

Overall the research finds a gap between what Canadians in general perceive, and what those with specific connections to conflicts abroad think and experience. According to the study, at the time of the national survey, a majority (57%) of Canadians believed that people with connections to conflict hold on to the intercommunity tensions, and fear that these tensions may result in violence in Canada. Based on the interviews, however, while people were often found to remain invested in ‘their’ conflict, the study also found that all interviewees and focus group participants repudiate the use of violence in Canada.

Some survey respondents did report experiencing an ‘importing’ of the conflict to Canada, as through participation in demonstrations, and verbal, physical or occasionally even violent confrontations. As well, some respondents viewed violence abroad as acceptable in specific circumstances, though while marking it as wrong in Canada. Further, a prominent narrative that emerged from the interviews and focus groups was that the experience of living in Canada reframes how people think about conflicts, and about possible, legitimate solutions. The researchers found that this reframing is based on Canadian principles of multiculturalism, human rights and rule of law.

The authors also find evidence that the experience of living with Canadians from other backgrounds involving experiences of conflict abroad has similar impact on reframing about conflict and legitimate routes for action in Canada. In addition, the study finds that such sharing of conflict experience sometimes leads to collaboration on common problems, including untreated conflict-related trauma, discrimination, and exclusion experienced in Canada. While the researchers emphasize the strong, positive role of community-level narratives in delegitimizing violence, they also note that untreated trauma combined with social exclusion risks eroding positive attachment to Canada – including in ways that could potentially lead to violence. For this reason, many of the report’s recommendations focus on addressing issues of discrimination and treatment of trauma.

Further Information

The Perception & Reality of ‘Imported Conflict’ in Canada

Related Initiatives

Wesley Wark et al., “Securitizing Minority/Muslim Canadians: Evaluating the Impact of Counter-terrorism, National Security and Immigrations Policies Since 9/11,” University of Ottawa, 2016.

Myrna Lashley et al., “Cultural Competence and Canada’s Security: Can being culturally competent assist police and security officers in ensuring Canada’s security?,” Environics, 2014.

Canadian Council of Muslim Women, “Community Resilience: Environment Scan,” Carleton Centre for the Study of Islam, 2015.



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