82 per cent of B.C. minorities have experienced discrimination or racism, survey finds

March 9, 2017

By Stephanie Ip, Vancouver Sun |

As multicultural as Canada may be, it appears we are not immune to racism.

According to a new survey conducted in B.C., 82 per cent of visible minorities say they have experienced prejudice or some form of discrimination, while 56 per cent of all respondents reported having overheard racist comments.

Of those who identified themselves as visible minorities, 46 per cent said they believe they face social disadvantages because of their background, and 33 per cent said they have been a target of abuse. Another 29 per cent reported facing discrimination simply based on their name, while 10 per cent have dealt with disadvantages because of their religious beliefs.

And 11 per cent said their experiences with discrimination were traumatic enough to prompt thoughts of moving to a new location.

“The majority of British Columbians are welcoming and embrace multiculturalism. However, it’s clear that racism is alive and well in our communities and we need to call it out when we see it,” said Catherine Ludgate, a spokeswoman with Vancity. The report was commissioned by the credit union as part of its community investment efforts.

Some 82 per cent of all those who responded said they felt multiculturalism has been “very good” or “good” for Canada, though three-quarters thought the population of immigrants should remain the same. Just over a quarter thought the population should increase.

But racism is not always straightforward, as one advocate for African refugees suggests.

Daniel Tseghay, who is from Eritrea in eastern Africa, notes that in the midst of the Syrian refugee crisis, other ethnic groups seeking aid have been overlooked despite also risking their lives to flee their homeland. Whether the migration is motivated by poverty or war, Tseghay says anyone desperate enough to risk their lives in search of better opportunities should be afforded support.

“What’s troubling is that there’s a rhetoric – that’s more explicit in Europe, but also really implied in Canada as well – that has influenced our policies on immigration, the idea is that there’s a distinction between deserving refugees, real refugees and so-called economic migrants,” said the 34-year-old, noting it’s not a matter of putting one group ahead of the other, but a reminder that other refugee groups should not be forgotten.

Tseghay agrees there should be even more support for Syrian refugees in Canada, but is unhappy that some of the aid or resources offered specifically to Syrian refugees are not also offered to refugees of other countries.

“This is a kind of racism – there are different forms of racism. Some can be explicitly hostile and some can come in the form of simply not acknowledging that something is happening, that somebody’s life is being destroyed, that they’re dying in one way or another.”

The numbers are from a new report released today, conducted in January by Insights West and is in anticipation of a community roundtable series to be launched by SUCCESS B.C., an immigrant assistance organization, and sponsored by Vancity.

Dates for the roundtable series have yet to be announced, but the series follows a forum on immigration hosted by SUCCESS in February.

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