More Canadians see racism as a serious problem today than one year ago, according to a new Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News.
One year ago, less than half (47 per cent) of Canadians polled viewed racism as a serious issue in the country. But that number shot up 13 points in one year.
The poll, conducted between July 8 and 10, found a majority — sixty per cent — of respondents believed racism is a serious problem in the country.
“People are learning to identify what racism is, they are finding a way to label it. Canadians aren’t becoming more racist, but people are starting to identify things for what they are,” said Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs.
The Canadians who were more likely to agree that racism is a problem in the country were women and younger people, according to the poll.
For example, respondents aged 18 to 34 were more likely (70 per cent) to see racism as a serious problem for Canada, ahead of those aged 35 to 54 (60 per cent) and aged 55 plus (52 per cent).
Women (66 per cent) are more likely than men (52 per cent) to consider racism a serious issue. And Canadians who live in the Prairies (68 per cent) are more likely to hold this view than those who live in Ontario (61 per cent), Alberta (61 percent), Atlantic Canada (60 per cent), Quebec (57 per cent) and British Columbia (56 per cent), according to the poll.
“Women have gone through the #MeToo movement, and this feels like that,” Bricker said. “There is a heightened sensitivity that’s coming out of it, this is another hashtag-type movement.”
He said young people also tend to be more progressively oriented as causes like the Black Lives Matter movement resonate with this demographic.
The composition of Canada’s younger population has changed dramatically over the past few decades due to large amounts of immigration, he explained.
“There are a lot more young people who are people of colour, so they have experienced it, so it resonates with them. Whereas the boomers, not so much,” Bricker said.
Anti-racism protests have sparked across Canada and the world following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died after a white Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck during an arrest.
“The events in the U.S. have percolated over the border,” Bricker said. “People are paying an immense amount of attention to the news. The COVID crisis is really dominating people’s day-to-day decision-making and turning to the news to see what’s going on.”
Bricker said the video showing Floyd’s death “shocked” Canadians and helped spark more racism awareness in the country.
Floyd’s death on May 25 came after tensions had already flared following the February shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was jogging in Georgia, and the Louisville police shooting death of Breonna Taylor in her home in March.
In the wake of these deaths, support for the Black Lives Matter movement has also gained momentum, as thousands of people across Canada came together over the past few months protesting police killings of Black and Indigenous people.
According to the poll, nearly two in three Canadians said they support the Black Lives Matter movement. Support for the movement was highest in the Prairies (74 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (70 per cent) and the lowest in Alberta (60 per cent) Quebec (54 per cent).
Support for the movement is strongest among those aged 18 to 34 (72 per cent), women (70 per cent), and university graduates (75 per cent).
More Canadians are also saying they have personally experienced racism.
Twenty-eight per cent of respondents said they’ve been a victim of racism, which is up five points from last year. Younger Canadians are much more likely to say they’ve been targeted: 40 per cent of those aged 18 to 34 say they’ve been a victim of racism, compared to 30 per cent of those 35 to 54 and 18 per cent of those over the age of 55.
Kathy Hogarth, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo’s school of social work, said this is because Canadians have greater “permission” to talk about racism in the public sphere now.
“Racism is not new in Canada,” she said. “We just weren’t hearing about it as much before, but now people are using different channels to think and talk about racism.”
Coronavirus and racism
The Ipsos poll found that Canadians believed discrimination against Asian people is more acceptable today than it was a few years ago.
When Canadians were surveyed in 2019 about whether it is acceptable to discriminate against Asian people, 13 per cent agreed. That number jumped to 17 per cent in 2020.
“This is a new brand of racism — anti-Asian,” Hogarth said. “This is a direct result of COVID. We have had the pandemic that has given a different brand to racism — before it was anti-Muslim racism.”
The reported origins of the novel coronavirus virus have led to spikes of overt acts of racism against Asian communities in Canada.
For example, in June, the Vancouver Police Department reported a 600 per cent increase in reports of hate crimes targeting the Asian community, whether they’re of Chinese, Korean or Japanese descent.
The Chinese National Council for Social Justice (CNCSJ) has also reported a spike in hate crimes against Asian Canadians during the pandemic.
Systemic racism in Canada
Six in 10 Canadians believed systemic racism exists in the country, according to the poll. But six in 10 of the respondents also believed that systemic racism in Canada is an “exaggeration.” Half of the respondents believed systemic racism exists in the RCMP.
When it comes to the Trudeau government, a majority of Canadians believed the country has not gone far enough in making sure all Canadians, regardless of ethnic, racial or religious backgrounds, have equal rights.
Most Canadians take a firm stance against racism and discrimination – but some do not, according to the poll.
Twenty-eight per cent of Canadians agree that “white Canadians are under threat from immigration,” the poll stated. But that view has gone down nine points over the past year.
Seven per cent of respondents disagreed with the statement “racism is a terrible thing.” Ten per cent disagreed with the statement that they would “would welcome people, without reservation, from other races if they moved in next door to me.”
Nearly two in 10 said they cannot “confidently say that they are not racist,” while a little more than half agreed that “everyone is at least a little bit racist.”
These views varied depending on the respondent’s province.
For example, B.C. (61 per cent) and Ontario (59 per cent) residents are more likely to agree that “everyone is a little bit racist.” Residents of Quebec (48 per cent) and Alberta (44 per cent) are less likely to agree.
Hogarth said it is key that Canadians are aware racism exists, as it’s the only way to change it.
“We can’t let the awareness die,” she said.
Methodology: This Ipsos poll was conducted between July 8 and July 10, 2020.
For this survey, a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed online via the Ipsos I-Say panel. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census information. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would be had all Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to, coverage error and measurement error.