Canadians are increasingly pessimistic about progress toward racism and justice, the study shows

An increasing number of Canadians say the race conditions in the country are bad and black and indigenous peoples are most likely to say that problems around racism are getting worse.

These findings are among the findings of a nationwide study published today by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF), a crown society dedicated to the elimination of racism.

The survey, conducted in collaboration with the Environics Institute, showed that 23 percent of respondents chose “generally bad” when asked how well people of different races come out of it in Canada, up from 17 percent when CRRF conducted the same survey in 2019.

But a clear majority of respondents still maintain a more positive view: 64 percent of respondents said the state of race relations in Canada is “generally good,” down from 71 percent in 2019.

13 percent of respondents said they could not say whether the relationships were good or bad.

“When we looked at the awareness around racism, we have seen that there is a dramatic leap,” said Mohammed Hashim, CEO of CRRF.

But increased awareness also means more people are facing harsh truths about the state of racism in Canada, he said. “There’s a greater sense of disappointment and pessimism that exists – and I think that reflects the time we see.”

The CRRF report says that the changing public perception of racism in Canada is “undoubtedly the result of high-profile incidents of racial injustice in the United States and Canada that have prompted a re-examination of police work, institutional policies and the historical record.”

Since the last investigation was conducted in 2019, Canadians have experienced global protests following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, an increase in anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic and the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves in former residential areas schools in Canada.

The online survey was conducted between May 13 and June 11, 2021 with a sample of 3,698 Canadians.

Canadians may be more open to discussions about racism

“There has been a real awakening to the realities, and I think there is more permission to talk about race, especially in a post-George Floyd protest context,” said Shakil Choudhury, a writer and co-founder of racing skills consulting firm Anima Leadership.

“I think it’s just taken from the veneer – the polite Canadian veneer – that has been around for a long time.”

The report also found that Canadians as a whole did not report more incidents of racism and discrimination compared to 2019, suggesting that it is the perception and dialogue around racism that has undergone the biggest change.

Mohammed Hashim, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, says there has been a “dramatic leap” when it comes to raising awareness about racism. (Shanifa Nasser / CBC)

However, there were some exceptions as reported incidents targeting Chinese and South Asian people increased.

The report was to signal to leaders that Canadians want to see changes that reduce inequalities and combat racism, Hashim said.

“The time to act is now … People are a little tired of just talking about race and they really want to see politicians take this seriously and drive change,” he said.

The Liberal government promised to tackle anti-black racism last year, but a CBC News analysis showed that about half of its promises have not yet been fulfilled.

Black Canadians, indigenous peoples have the worst prospects

While events in the past two years are thought to have changed major public opinions about race, the CRRF study suggests that the effects are strongest among the groups most likely to target racism.

Among black Canadians, just under half of respondents (49 percent) said that race relations in Canada are generally good, down from 72 percent in 2019.

Only one in four black respondents said that “the chances of everyone succeeding” have improved over the past decade, indicating that most black Canadians believe that progress on racism and equality has either been worsened or stagnated.

The answer was the same among the indigenous peoples: 51 percent said race relations are generally good, a slight drop from 56 percent in 2019.

“What I see in this report is that optimism has waned and that pessimism is growing,” Hashim said.

The perception of black and indigenous peoples is in some cases markedly different from the white respondents in the survey, who were generally offered a more positive assessment of the state of racism in Canada.

57 percent of white respondents agreed that people of different races have a chance of success – a higher number than any other group mentioned in the report.

White Canadians were also most likely to say that their local police do an “excellent or good job.” The report notes that this was “much less likely to be the case” among black or native respondents.

“It is not surprising that you will find those who are affected [racism] come to think it’s worse – because it’s real. They’re experiencing the full effect of it, “Choudhury said.” For white people, it’s harder to see. “

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