A “Criminal Immigrant” Mindset and Punitiveness: The Canadian Case


  • Steven Donald Brown Wilfrid Laurier University
  • Anthony Piscitelli


Unnever and Cullen (2010) argue that there is a “culturally universal” relationship between racial/ethnic/immigrant animus and general punitiveness.  Because this thesis seems ill-fitting to Canada’s multicultural society, we re-examine the connection in Canada between punitiveness and intolerance associated with new immigrants. We do this by expanding their multivariate analyses of the Canadian case to consider additional data sources spanning the first decade of this century, and by testing directly their thesis that the relationship is mediated by citizens imputing criminal activity to negatively-viewed outgroups.  We show that the relationship between immigrant intolerance and punitiveness reported in their original research for the year 2000 remains strong in 2004, 2008 and 2011 and resists explanation in terms of potentially relevant third variables. Our supplementary study examining the capacity of a criminal immigrant mindset variable to mediate this association shows that mediation is partial only. We conclude (1) that outgroup animus and general punitiveness are indeed related in the Canadian case, (2) that there is modest support for the Unnever/Cullen account of that relationship, but (3) that most of the original relationship remains unexplained.

Author Biography

Steven Donald Brown, Wilfrid Laurier University

Associate Professor Emeritus

Dept. of Political Science