More than half of Canadian high schoolers report seeing other children bullied or excluded at school based on race or ethnicity, a new national survey has found.
The report from the University of British Columbia and Angus Reid Institute reveals 58 per cent of youth had witnessed the troubling behaviour and 14 per cent had experienced it themselves.
Children who are visible minorities were three times as likely to have experienced it than white children, and Indigenous children were twice as likely.
The survey published this week also revealed a disturbing number of students had learned little, or nothing about major racist events or policies in Canadian history.
Henry Yu, an associate professor in UBC’s history department, called those findings “shocking.”
“If you read curriculum, you would be surprised if students didn’t know some of this stuff because we have actually changed what is supposed to be taught,” he explained.
“That students weren’t aware they were supposed to know this is not a good sign.”
Researchers surveyed 872 Canadians between the ages of 12 and 17 in August, asking them about bullying and exclusion, and what they had learned about racism in Canadian history at school.
A quarter reported learning “a lot” about racist events in Canada, but nearly as many — 21 per cent — said they hadn’t learned anything.
Slavery, the internment of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War, the head tax on Chinese immigrants, and the SS Komagata Maru were among the topics some students never learned about.
Yu, who helped inform the survey questions, said the results raise questions about diversity in the education sector, the resources and training available to teachers, and the next generation of workers.
“When (the students) become decision-makers, when they enter into professions, what don’t they know is going to shape our future,” he said.
The survey did produce some “encouraging” results, Yan added. Forty-three per cent of students surveyed knew “a lot” about Indigenous treaties and residential schools — proof that “education works.”
Those statistics would have been much worse 10 to 15 years ago, he said.
“We can do better. The discouraging, surprising part is that we aren’t doing better in in terms of say, particular forms of anti-Asian racism or slavery in Canada — very low numbers for that too.”
There were regional differences in the survey results as well.
Students in schools that have more diverse populations reported learning more about racism in Canada, but also reported witnessing more race-based abuse than schools whose students had similar backgrounds.
Overall, students in the Prairies reported having the most knowledge of Canadian multiculturalism, followed by British Columbia and Ontario.