1 in 5 Canadians feel less safe in public places than they did a year ago: poll

Thousands gather on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to celebrate Canada Day. Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

Many Canadians continue to harbour concerns over their safety in public places, according to a new Ipsos poll released Friday.

Twenty-two per cent of respondents — over 1 in 5 — said they feel less safe than they did last year, compared to only 8 per cent who feel more safe.

These numbers suggest that persistent news of international security incidents and terror attacks may be playing on Canadians’ minds, according to Sean Simpson, VP of public affairs for Ipsos.

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“We hear about foiled plots and pre-emptive arrests and the like [in Canada] and so the general trend is a little less safe than feeling more safe, but I think that’s more because of the stories that we’ve been hearing from abroad,” Simpson told Global News.
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The survey, conducted prior to the recent Berlin Christmas market attack, found that 70 per cent of Canadians feel about as safe as they did a year ago. But Simpson warns against interpreting this high figure as a positive.

“If a government had 70 per cent support, that would be great. If 70 per cent of Canadians supported a particular policy, that would be viewed almost as a consensus. But that’s not the yardstick that these figures should be measured by. Everybody ought to feel safe at a church or a mosque… while they’re on transit or in a government building,” he said.

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“We still have many Canadians — it translates to millions of Canadians — who say that they don’t feel safe in many of these public places.”

Simpson added that some Canadians’ fear of certain public places could have an effect above and beyond their own sense of personal safety.

“One in five Canadians say they don’t feel safe in a stadium or arena, so are they staying home and not going to events as a result? What impact does that have on the economy?”

Canadians’ perceptions of their safety in public areas varied from province to province, the poll found.

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Quebecers appear to be the most concerned, with 33 per cent reporting that they feel less safe than a year ago, compared to 20 per cent for Ontario and 15 per cent for British Columbia.

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Simpson said Quebecers’ discomfort can be attributed to their paying closer attention to terror attacks in Europe, as pointed out by another Ipsos poll released Wednesday.

“The fact that Quebecers are more likely to think that they feel less safe is directly linked to the fact that they said that they are more likely to believe that the terror attacks in Belgium and in France were the top news stories, so there’s greater salience for those stories,” he said.

“It reinforces my point about the fact that these feelings of being less safe are likely driven by events that are happening in the world, and not necessarily in Canada.”

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There was also a generational divide, with Boomers (27 per cent) more likely to say they feel less safe than Gen Xers (22 per cent) and millennials (17 per cent).

“As you get older, you maybe feel less confident or less safe in public areas than you did when you were younger. There are things that I would feel comfortable doing when I was younger and I no longer do, so I think it’s just becoming more cautious, maybe more nervous as you age,” Simpson said.

Age groups also differed in the kinds of public places that they felt most unsafe in. Twenty-one per cent of Boomers said they don’t feel safe in or near a government building, compared to 16 per cent of Gen X’ers and 15 per cent of millennials.

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Millennials may be comfortable going into government buildings but they’re wary when it comes to taking buses and trains, with 34 per cent saying they don’t feel safe on public transit, compared to 70 per cent of Canadians overall.

“They’re also more likely to be using public transit than those in Gen X or Boomers,” Simpson points out.

Restaurants were tabbed as the safest public spaces, with 93 per cent of Canadians saying that they feel safe dining out.

This Ipsos poll on behalf of Global News was an online survey of 3,004 Canadians conducted between Dec. 15-21, 2016. This Ipsos poll on behalf of Global News was an online survey of 3,004 Canadians conducted between Dec. 15-21, 2016. The results were weighted to better reflect the composition of the adult Canadian population, according to census data. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/ 2.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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