Canada ranks first in world for personal freedom and social tolerance

Spectators cheer during Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, 2012. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

O Canada: you might be the land of the free now.

A new study reveals that the United States’ neighbor to the north has the “freest country in the world,” with the greatest tolerance for immigrants worldwide.

Canada’s ranking as the top nation in the world for personal freedom can be found in the Legatum Institute’s 2015 Prosperity Index. The London-based international public policy think tank released its findings Monday.

Typically, a country’s prosperity has been based on its material wealth, but at the Legatum Institute, this data is studied along with quality-of-life metrics.

“By combining those two types of data, the objective and the subjective, we really get a more complete picture of prosperity around the world,” Nathan Gamester, program director for the Prosperity Index, said in an interview with Yahoo News.

The Legatum Institute found that Canada's population is highly accepting of immigrants. 
The Legatum Institute found that Canada's population is highly accepting of immigrants. 

For a broad look at prosperity, the educational charity ranked 142 countries in eight categories: the economy, entrepreneurship/opportunity, governance, education, health, safety/security, social capital and personal freedom.

“The idea behind the personal freedom sub-index is that freedom constitutes a part of your own individual well-being, but it’s also an important component of national prosperity,” Gamester said. “Some of the things that we measure in that category include tolerance for ethnic minorities and immigrants. We look at people’s satisfaction with their freedom of choice and their civil liberties as well.”

Since 2009, Canada has risen five places to the top of the personal freedom sub-index: 94 percent of Canadians think they have the freedom to direct the courses of their own lives.

Here are the top 10 countries for personal freedom:

1. Canada
2. New Zealand
3. Norway
4. Luxembourg
5. Iceland
6. Ireland
7. Sweden
8. Denmark
9. Australia
10. Uruguay

The United States ranked 15th worldwide.

According to the study, 92 percent think Canada is a good country for immigrants and ethnic minorities.

Other countries that are exceptionally welcoming to immigrants include Norway, New Zealand, Iceland and Ireland.

A game of pickup soccer in downtown Toronto, 2010.  (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)
A game of pickup soccer in downtown Toronto, 2010. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

Overall, combining every sub-index, Canada was ranked the sixth most prosperous country in the world – one position lower than last year.

Norway took the top spot for the seventh year in a row thanks to the freedom its citizens enjoy, the quality of its health-care system and the social bonds among its people. Switzerland was ranked second for the third year running.

Here is the Legatum Institute’s raking of the top 10 most prosperous countries worldwide:

1. Norway
2. Switzerland
3. Denmark
4. New Zealand
5. Sweden
6. Canada
7. Australia
8. The Netherlands
9. Finland
10. Ireland

This time, the United States just missed making the top 10, ranking 11th.

Just as Canada’s exceptional record on individual freedom and social tolerance does not secure the top position for overall prosperity, the Nordic countries’ superlative overall prosperity does not mean they do not lag in other categories.

Despite landing spots at the top of the index, the Nordic countries are still struggling to fully recover from the financial crisis, and several have high rates of unemployment: Denmark has 6.3 percent, Sweden has 7.8 percent and Finland has 9.4 percent.