Muslim Canadians proudest of Canada; face high levels of discrimination, survey finds

A boy puts on his head dress at the Muslim Association of Canada's Eid celebration that marks the end of the holiday of Ramadan at the Metro Convention Centre in Toronto on Tuesday, August 30, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

Canadian Muslims have an overwhelmingly strong sense of pride in Canada despite facing higher levels of discrimination than experienced by the general population, according to a new survey.

In fact Canada’s Muslims have a stronger send of pride in the country than non-Muslims.

The Canada wide survey of 600 Muslims conducted by the Environics Institute found 83 per cent say they are “very proud” to be Canadian, despite the 35 per cent who report having experienced discrimination or been treated unfairly in the past five years.

READ MORE: Hate crimes against Muslim-Canadians more than doubled in 3 years

By contrast, a separate survey of nearly 1,000 non-Muslims found only 73 per cent of respondents were “very proud” to be Canadian.

The survey conducted between November 2015 and January 2016 by Environics was a follow-up to the first-ever survey on the country’s Muslim population from 10 years ago in 2006.

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What are Muslims proud of Canada?

Twenty-four per cent said freedom and democracy followed by 22 per cent who said the country’s multiculturalism and diversity. Nine per cent said Canada’s peaceful/stable country.

Perhaps not surprisingly the number one thing Muslims like the least about Canada is the cold weather, while 25 per cent said they couldn’t name anything they disliked about Canada.

But nine per cent cited discrimination and the treatment of Muslims as the thing they like the least.

READ MORE: Muslim community starts ‘Demystify Islam’ campaign across Canada

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Kathy Bullock from the Tessellate Institute,  one of the study partners, said the findings of the survey showed that Muslims across the country had the same sources of pride as non-Muslims.

“We saw this thread, this theme of a community that felt proud to be Canadian. Of feeling that they belong to Canada,” said Bullock, noting that both groups surveyed listed freedom, democracy and multiculturalism as reasons for liking Canada. “In mainstream media we tend to hear more of the negative discourse, but this [survey] was overwhelmingly more encouraging and more positive.”

High levels of discrimination

However, Bullock said one of the concerning findings was the high levels of discrimination experienced by the Muslim community.

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Thirty-five per cent of respondents said discrimination and the way they are treated by the public is the top issue and another 35 per cent say they expect future generations to face more anti-Muslim discrimination.

The survey also found 62 per cent of Muslims reported being very or somewhat worried about discrimination, with that number rising to 72 per cent among young Muslims and 83 per cent among Canadian-born Muslims.

Another 78 per cent of those surveyed say they are worried about how the media portrays Muslims in Canada. Although, 84 per cent of Muslims said they are treated better in Canada than in other Western countries — up seven points from 2006.

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An investigation by Global News earlier this month found that hate crimes targeting Muslim-Canadians more than doubled between 2012 and 2014 — even as the total number of hate crimes dropped. In 2014, police forces across the country recorded 99 religiously motivated hate crimes against Muslims — up from 45 in 2012, according to numbers from Statistics Canada.

Bullock said she hopes this report contributes to building better relations between the Muslim community and Canada at large.

“When we asked Muslim respondents where they experienced discrimination they tended to be in areas of public space like public transit, the workplace, school and university,” she said. “If people can feel assured to know that 83 per cent [of] Muslims are very proud to be Canadian, very high sense of belonging … then hopefully that will help drain away some of the discrimination.”
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The 2016 survey was conducted in partnership with several civic groups including the Tessellate Institute, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, the Inspirit Foundation, the Olive Tree Foundation, and Calgary-based Think for Actions.

The survey by Environics Institute was conducted with a representative sample through telephone interviews of Muslims age 18 and older, between Nov. 19 2015 and Jan. 23. 2016 The margin of error is +/- four per cent, in 19 out of 20 samples.

The survey of non-Muslims was also conducted by phone using a representative sample of 987 individuals, 18 or older, between Feb. 6 2016 and Feb. 15. 2016 The margin of error is considered +/-  3.1 per cent, in 19 out of 20 samples.

*With a file from Anna Mehler Paperny

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