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Immigration officials wanted to “rethink the narrative” amid lack of confidence in government

Bureaucrats within Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada were tracking public sentiment and reaction.

Bureaucrats within Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada were tracking public sentiment and reaction as Canada’s confidence in the Trudeau government’s handling of the immigration file declined.

Documents obtained under Access to Information laws by True North reveal how the government thought this lack of confidence was a communications problem, rather than a policy problem.

A communications staffer sent a “sentiment comparison” report to his colleagues on Aug. 3, 2018, acknowledging that the “Conversation is 136% more negative than positive” in 2018 compared to the year prior. He also noted that the overall volume of conversation – in particular “negative conversation” – increased.

In response, the director general of the communications division of IRCC, David Hickey, said he is planning to start “rethinking the narrative going forward.”

Hickey, who did not respond to two requests for comment, told his colleagues he would be flagging the communications problems on an upcoming call with the deputy minister.

Tracking public response to the government’s immigration policies wasn’t just limited to IRCC, however. The Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister’s Office, commissioned a study on asylum seekers in June, 2018, which that over an 18-month period, confidence in the government’s management of immigration dropped significantly – from 51 per cent of Canadians believing the government was “on the right track” to 34 per cent.

In an Aug. 3 social media monitoring briefing, one staffer says the problem is a “significant lack of knowledge when it comes to policy on this issue,” suggesting that Canadians believe a majority government can do more than it actually can.

At one point, someone prepared a PowerPoint presentation that listed “Influencers” as a consideration. Also in the presentation was a “Case Study” about a tweet from conservative lawyer @manny_ottawa, which the presentation said “resulted in increased scrutiny of IRCC on social channels.”

In July, True North reported that IRCC officials were monitoring social media posts and flagging content for “condemnation of the Trudeau government,” among other descriptors.

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