Half of Canadians Have Experienced Racism in Social Interactions

Three-in-four Canadians (74%) think the policy of multiculturalism has been good for the country, up 15 points since January 2019. 

Vancouver, BC [July 21, 2020] – Racist behaviour in day-to-day social interactions has impacted half of Canadians, with a significantly higher incidence reported among those who identify as First Nations, a new Research Co. poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative national sample, 49% of Canadians say they have experienced racist behaviour in day-to-day social interactions with others, such as shopping and taking public transit.

More than four-in-five Canadians who identify as First Nations, Métis or Inuit (86%) say they have endured racism in day-to-day social interactions, along with 78% of Canadians of African descent, 68% of South Asians, 63% of East Asians and 58% of Southeast Asians.

Slightly lower proportions of Canadians acknowledge experiencing racist behaviour on social media (46%), at school (43%) or at work (41%).

A third of Canadians say they have endured racism during interactions with police or law enforcement officers (33%) and the health care system (29%).

“Canadians of European ancestry are less likely to have endured racism, and the numbers on specific settings go through significant fluctuations according to a person’s ethnicity,” says Mario Canseco, President of Research Co. “Three-in-five Canadians of African descent (61%) have experienced racism during interactions with police, and seven-in-ten Canadians who identify as First Nations (70%) have endured racism at work.”

Majorities of Canadians of First Nations (56%), South Asian (also 56%) and African descent (58%) say they have faced racism during interactions with the health care system.

When asked if they have witnessed behaviour that they would describe as racist, more than half of Canadians say they have perceived it in day-to-day social interactions (58%) and social media (57%), while fewer have seen it at school (50%), at work (47%), dealing with police and law enforcement (41%) and engaging with the health care system (34%).

Half of Canadians (49%) believe race relations in Canada have improved over the past two years, while 29% feel they have worsened. Men (56%) and Canadians aged 18-to-34 (61%) are more likely to think that the situation is getting better.

Three-in-four Canadians (74%) believe the policy of multiculturalism has been “very good” or “good” for Canada—up 14 points since a similar Research Co. survey conducted in January 2019.

The proportion of Canadians who think multiculturalism has been “bad” or “very bad” for the country fell to 18% (-15).

As was the case last year, Canadians are divided when assessing two distinct concepts. Almost half (46%, -3 since January 2019) believe Canada should be a melting pot and immigrants should assimilate and blend into Canadian society.

A smaller proportion of Canadians (41%, -1) believe the country should be a mosaic and think cultural differences within Canadian society are valuable and should be preserved.

Quebecers (51%), Ontarians (48%) and Albertans (also 48%) are more likely to endorse the concept of the melting pot for Canada. Smaller proportions of residents of British Columbia (43%), Atlantic Canada (38%) and Saskatchewan and Manitoba (also 38%) concur.

Results are based on an online survey conducted from July 3 to July 8, 2020, among 2,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 2.2 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty.

Find our data tables here and download the press release here. 

For more information on this poll, please contact:
Mario Canseco, President, Research Co.
[e] mario.canseco@researchco.ca