How does discrimination happen in Hamilton and can it be prevented? New survey results offer answers

December 16, 2021

By CBC News |

Applying for a job, riding on public transit or just walking down a sidewalk are some of the most common settings where discrimination happens in Hamilton, according to results from a recent survey.

A report published this fall by the Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council (HIPC) offers a glimpse into how discrimination unfolds in the city, who is targeted most often, how it impacts victims and some steps Hamilton can take to prevent it.

The results, shared by the city on Dec. 7, are another piece of evidence that highlights one of the city’s most daunting issues.

Hamilton has wrestled with a reputation for hate for years, having the country’s highest per-capita rate of hate crimes in 2019, 2018, 2016 and 2014 according to Statistics Canada.

“Individuals in Hamilton have always experienced these things … I think we’re now actually able to talk about it,” HIPC chair Lily Lumsden said.

“[The report] does further reinforce Hamilton as seemingly not a great place to live for some people, but now that we’re actually doing things like this … we’re becoming better at calling it out when we need to and supporting organizations and individuals.”

Who are the most likely targets of discrimination?
The randomized phone survey included responses from 316 immigrants and visible minorities, 176 Indigenous people and 293 white non-immigrants.

Of those, 83 per cent of Indigenous people, 59 per cent of immigrants and visible minorities and 48.5 percent of white non-immigrants surveyed said they experienced discrimination in the past three years.

Shelly Hill, the city’s manager of Indigenous relations, said the results from Indigenous participants aren’t surprising.

“It shows that settler colonialism is ongoing and will remain so without the repatriation of Indigenous land and way of life,” she wrote in an email statement.

“Indigenous people have been comprised of dislocation from traditional communities, disadvantaged and forced assimilation including the effects of the residential school system.”

The survey also found that in Hamilton, Muslims, Black people and Arab people experienced some of the highest levels of racism.

While they indicated they were targets because of their race, skin colour, ethnicity, culture or accent, the report states white people surveyed faced discrimination from “more universal factors such as age, gender, and physical appearance.”

Sarah Wayland, HIPC’s senior project manager, notes an interesting finding is immigrants who have stayed in the city for five to 10 years were more likely to say they were targets of discrimination compared to newcomers.

“Perhaps they grow more aware of discrimination over time or their social networks are wider, or it could relate to their greater likelihood of being in the workforce or entering the labour market,” she wrote in an email.

The most common answer from survey participants when describing the culprits of discrimination was middle-aged white men.

Where does discrimination occur?
Survey participants said they experienced the most discrimination when applying for jobs, while at work or in public areas, like parks, sidewalks and transit.

Nearly half of Indigenous participants also highlighted that they are discriminated against when buying a home or renting an apartment.

The most common forms of discrimination reported were inappropriate jokes, derogatory language and verbal abuse.

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