Canadian public opinion about racism and discrimination
In order to explore these questions, this report examines the responses to questions in two surveys that took place at the end of the summer of 2020: A Better Canada: Values and Priorities after COVID-19, conducted by the Environics Institute in partnership with Vancity, and Focus Canada, conducted by the Environics Institute in partnership with the Faculty of Social Sciences’ IMPACT project at the University of Ottawa and Century Initiative.
The killing of George Floyd, an African-American, by white police officers in Minneapolis earlier this year sparked anti-racism protests across the United States and around the world, along with a wider public discussion of anti-Black racism and systemic racism. In Canada, this movement energized ongoing efforts to condemn and counter racism within society and recurring instances of police brutality against racial minorities. These events have had a clear impact on the Canadian public’s awareness of the reality of racism in this country.
Over the past year, there has been a dramatic decline in the proportion of Canadians who say that discrimination against either Black people or Chinese people is no longer a problem in Canada. In each case, only half as many take this view in 2020 compared to 2019. Notably, the views of both those who identify as white and those who are racialized have shifted in the same direction. While the growing awareness of the reality of racism faced by Black Canadians can be linked to the focus on anti-black racism and instances of policy brutality against racialized persons in Canada, the parallel shift in view of discrimination against Chinese Canadians likely stems from publicized incidents of abusive behaviour against people of Chinese background in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that first emerged in China.
Over the past decade, Canadians have also grown more supportive of racial minorities. A growing proportion agree that it is more difficult for non-white people to be successful in Canadian society, while fewer feel that ethnic and racial groups need to take more responsibility for solving their own economic and social problems. Again, there is a notable similarity on these questions between the views of racialized Canadians and those who identify as white.
The past decade has also seen a significant decline in confidence in the police. A majority of Canadians continue to express confidence in their local police force and the RCMP, but the level of confidence has fallen since 2010 to the lowest level ever recorded since Focus Canada first asked the question in 1988. In this case, there is a difference between the views of white and racialized Canadians, with those who identify as white being significantly more likely to express confidence in the police.
Finally, while becoming more aware of the pervasiveness of racism, a majority of Canadians are optimistic that we will make real progress in addressing racism and discrimination in Canada over the next decade. Canadians tend to think that progress is more likely to be made through the actions of individual citizens than through government action.
For more information, contact Andrew Parkin.
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