Vancouver Foundation study finds Lotusland a lonely, isolated place

·National Affairs Contributor

With its beautiful setting, relatively balmy climate and comfortable ethnic diversity, Vancouver's often held up as a model of urban livability.

But a survey by the Vancouver Foundation reveals that reputation may have fragile underpinnings.

The 70-year-old organization interviewed more than 3,841 residents of Metro Vancouver and discovered, among other things, that many people felt isolated among the city's splendour.

"We found that one in four people are finding it difficult to make friends in Vancouver and one in three people are lonely," Vancouver Foundation chief executive Faye Wightman told CBC News.

The study, done in April and May, also found that despite Metro Vancouver's celebrated ethnic diversity, almost two-thirds of those interviewed did not have any close friends from another ethnic group. And 65 per cent said they preferred to spend their time with people who are like them.

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While many respondents believed all new immigrants and refugees would be welcome in their neighbourhood, some were prepared to rank which ethnic groups would be most or least welcome.

Almost a third of those surveyed refused to answer the question, while those among the roughly 30 per cent who did rated Middle Eastern, South Asian and Asian immigrants as the least desirable neighbours, CBC News said.

"What we'd like to do over the summer is just try to get underneath that and figure out why," Wightman said.

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The survey's other key findings also found people's neighbourhood connections were cordial but weak. Most knew the names of at least two neighbours but little more. Most did not do simple favours for their neighbours, such as collecting the mail when they're away, and few have either visited a neighbour's home or invited them over.

"Anonymous people often speak the truths that they don't want to be associated with, sometimes with good reason," Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham commented.

"What they say can range from just plain stupid to offensive. But to dismiss even those comments would be to deny that occasionally there are grains of truth within them that need to be acknowledged and even addressed."

Some of the other responses were quite amusing, Bramham noted. Many respondents, living in a city on the edge of a wild, mountainous rainforest, wanted less rain and less wildlife.

"My favourite for sheer silliness was the people who wished for fewer hills," she wrote. "Yes, fewer hills!"

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