Most Canadians say they understand discrimination – but many don’t think their neighbours do: poll

August 7, 2021

Last month, Research Co. and Glacier Media studied the views of Canadians on multiculturalism and racism.

We found that a significant proportion of the country’s residents endorse the concept of the mosaic, but we also learned that significant proportions of Canadians – particularly those of African and First Nations origin – have endured or witnessed racism in Canada.

The same survey allowed us to look at the perceptions of Canadians on systemic discrimination and human rights. The results outline a public that is keenly aware of the two overarching themes, but skeptical about the judgment of the rest of the population and oblivious to potential solutions.

Discussions about systemic discrimination have grown louder over the course of the past two years, fuelled by specific incidents that have garnered national and international coverage. These include the existence of long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations communities and the flawed race-based arrest of retired judge Selwyn Romilly in Vancouver.

Across the country, just over three in four Canadians (76%) say they know what systemic discrimination is – a proportion that jumps to 80% among those aged 55 and over and to 78% in Ontario.

When Canadians are asked if most residents of the country have a sense of what systemic discrimination is, the skepticism becomes evident. Only 50% of respondents to the survey agree with this statement, representing a 26-point gap between what we claim to know ourselves and what we assume the people around us are aware of.

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