Yes Canada, we too have an anti-Black racism problem

Good reminder of the insights from the Black Experience Project:

The anguish and confrontations spreading across the United States in response to the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer have captured the attention of news audiences in that country and around the world. We are transfixed by images of shocking police brutality and the widespread community resistance they have inspired.

But Canadians should challenge themselves to look past the deeply disturbing American news clips and reflect on the situation here at home, including the recent death in Toronto of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29 year-old Black woman. If we do, we will learn there is no room for complacency in this country.

When we look in the mirror, we see a society in which Black people are regularly treated unfairly because of their race. The Black Experience Project, which focused on the Greater Toronto Area, found that two-thirds of the region’s Black residents report being treated unfairly on a continuing basis. The forms that this treatment takes are specific, varied and tragic.

Three in five young Black men say they are frequently or occasionally accused of something or treated suspiciously because of their race, and a similar proportion report being observed or followed while in public places. Three in four say that others frequently or occasionally are afraid of them or intimidated because of their race.

In the case of young Black women, more than 60 per cent say that others frequently or occasionally expect their work to be inferior because of their race, and that they are treated rudely or disrespectfully because of the colour of their skin.

When it comes to dealings with police – the focal point for the current wave of protests – things only get worse. One in two Black Torontonians and a staggering 80 per cent of Black men between the ages of 25 and 44 report that they have been stopped in a public place by the police. Two in five Black Torontonians and two in three Black men between 25 and 44 say they have been harassed or treated rudely by police.

In short, this unique survey research shows that Black youth in Canada’s largest city are growing up being observed, questioned, dismissed and belittled by their fellow citizens because of their race, and are routinely harassed by the very public institution that we should turn to for protection.

Yes Canada – we, too, have an anti-Black racism problem.

Racism doesn’t stop there. The recent Race Relations in Canada Survey found that Indigenous peoples in Canada are just as likely as Black people to experience unfair treatment because of their race. South Asian and Chinese Canadians also experience racism; fewer than one in five say this never happens to them.

If there is any good news to hold onto in these bleak times, it is that, on the whole, Canadians are not in denial about this reality. Three-quarters of white Canadians recognize that Black people in this country are either frequently or occasionally the subject of discrimination in Canadian society. Just a handful (3 per cent) said this never happens.

Yet this general recognition of the problem carries us only so far. Three in 10 non-Indigenous Canadians disagree with the statement that it is easy to understand the anger of Indigenous peoples, as do 39 per cent of non-Black people in the case of the anger of Black Canadians. Somehow, a significant number of Canadians seem to expect that people who experience racism should not get too upset about it.

That ship has sailed.

Will things change for the better? The survey research provides some grounds for optimism. Canadians from all racial groups are more likely to say that race relations in this country are getting better as opposed to getting worse. And, crucially, personal connections among racial groups in Canada are growing.

The majority of Canadians not only have regular contact with people from other races, but contact that is overwhelming described as friendly. These friendships can only deepen our understanding of each other’s experiences.

Most strikingly, six in 10 Canadians are optimistic there will be racial equality in Canada in their lifetime; just one in four are pessimistic. Pessimism, at 30 per cent, is higher for Black Canadians, but is not the majority view. When we ask non-white Canadians whether the next generation will experience more racism than today or less, they are much more likely to anticipate that racism will diminish.

These results were collected before George Floyd was killed. The optimism that shone a few months ago may well have diminished in recent days. It will not be rekindled by congratulating ourselves for doing better than our American cousins. The determination to do better needs to be reborn and sustained by our own actions to confront and eliminate racism in Canada, not just by institutions and authorities such as the police, but by each and every one of us.

Source: Yes Canada, we too have an anti-Black racism problem: Michael Adams and Marva Wisdom

Adams and Parkin: The coronavirus pandemic will not dent the trust Canadians have in each other

Of note. To be tested but does seem like the trust factor remains, both for individuals and organizations:

In just a few days, we went from wondering how COVID-19 would affect us to finding ourselves in the midst of a national emergency. Many expect major disruptions to expose the weak patches in our civic fabric, and there have been, and will continue to be, actions and episodes that have disappointed and shocked. Some people have hoarded and even resold supplies for a quick profit; some have refused to follow public-health directives; some have tried to collect payments from those thrown out of work.

Many Canadians have no doubt also seen a cascade of headlines in recent years announcing the decline of trust in Western societies. We have been told that “2019 had the ‘highest level of democratic discontent’ since detailed global recording began in 1995,” that the quality of democracy is declining, while “growing political polarization has made the day-to-day work of governance … more difficult,” and that a “majority worldwide say their society is broken,” to cite just a few examples.

Compounded together as this pandemic accelerates, these concerns have left Canadians wondering whether we have the cultural and institutional resilience to respond effectively. Do we trust each other, our institutions and our leadership to work together to defeat this virus?

Leaving aside the question of whether these reports accurately capture trends unfolding elsewhere, it would be a mistake to assume that they are reliable guides to trends in Canada. Our surveys have found that we remain one of the most trusting societies in the world when it comes to our institutions and values – and so, most Canadians will surely react to this crisis exactly as good neighbours, co-workers and citizens should.

Support for Canada’s democracy is high and has been slowly rising over the past decade, from 70 per cent in 2010 to 76 per cent in 2019. Satisfaction with public services such as health care also currently sits at 75 per cent, which is higher than the average among members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The country has become less, not more, polarized; opinions among those on the left and right of the political spectrum (79 per cent and 78 per cent, respectively) have been converging in their satisfaction with our democracy.

Xenophobia and anti-immigration sentiment has weakened, as suggested by our October, 2019, survey that found 50 per cent of Canadians felt “too many immigrants do not adopt Canadian values,” the lowest proportion expressing this view since Environics began asking the question in 1993 (when 72 per cent voiced such concerns).

And even in the midst of heated disputes on energy and climate policies and other issues, two-thirds of Canadians told us they have a great deal or some confidence in our ability to resolve our internal differences, reflecting a majority view in all 13 provinces and territories.

If attitudes to our political system seem a bit abstract, consider these more concrete findings from a study of social capital we conducted in Toronto in 2018. At that time, most residents of Canada’s biggest city agreed that people in their neighbourhood can be trusted and that people in their community are willing to help their neighbours. Nine in 10 said people working together as a group could make a difference in solving problems in their community. And most expressed high levels of trust, not only in members of their own family, but also in the people they work or go to school with.

Perhaps most remarkably, a comparison to earlier research shows no erosion in these measures of social capital over the past decade, even after the arrival of more than one million newcomers from around the world. They have quickly become our trusted neighbours, too.

Having a trusting society does not mean having an uncritical one, either. Where once we nearly automatically deferred to political, business and religious elites, Canadians now greet election promises and corporate advertising with a healthy dose of skepticism. This is not a sign that society is broken – rather, it shows that it has matured.

To suggest that trust is declining in Canada not only ignores the available research, but risks counterproductively sowing doubt in our own minds about our institutions, our capacity for responsible leadership, our will for collective action and our instinct for mutual support.

Of course, trust alone cannot protect us from COVID-19. Nevertheless, it is worth acknowledging that we have a reservoir of trust to draw on as we navigate these unprecedented circumstances together. The wait for a vaccine may be long, but an extra dose of hope, courtesy of our fellow Canadians, will not hurt.

Source: The coronavirus pandemic will not dent the trust Canadians have in each other Michael Adams and Andrew Parkin

Last election marked shift in the type of growth Canadians are seeking

More interesting analysis on the recent election by Andrew Parkin of Environics Institute:

There is never any shortage of public opinion polls on the eve of an election. A steady stream of data sets up the electoral contest by gauging who is starting in a leading position and who is lagging at the back of the pack.

The main limitation of this type of “horserace” data is that it doesn’t help us anticipate what might happen next. To get a good sense of how the campaign might unfold, we need to know more about the public’s mood – what citizens are feeling good about, and what is keeping them from getting a good night’s sleep. Not that broader survey data on issues and outlook can foretell the eventual outcome with any degree certainty. Human actions and reactions will always disrupt the expected course of events, especially during election campaigns. But a good understanding of the wider context of public opinion on the eve of an election should minimize the extent of our surprise at what ultimately transpires.

This applies, for example, to the issue of inclusive growth – the notion that economic growth and the equitable distribution of its benefits should be seen as mutually reinforcing rather than mutually exclusive policy objectives. Talk of inclusive growth has animated international forums such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Economic Forum for much of the last decade. In Canada it was a central preoccupation of the federal Liberal government that was elected in 2015.

While the term inclusive growth has only recently moved into the vernacular, we can still ask whether, as the government sought a second mandate in 2019, the public was feeling more or less included in the country’s prosperity, and whether historic fissures in Canadian society seem to be widening or closing.

At first glance, the data suggest that the public should have been fairly receptive in October 2019 to the incumbent Liberal government’s claim to have made growth more inclusive. At that time the proportion of Canadians citing the economy as the country’s most important problem had declined to 14 percent, the lowest level since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008. More Canadians were feeling positive about both the country’s and their own economic situation. The proportion of Canadians saying that it was a good time to find a job in the area where they live had jumped from 36 percent in 2015 to 61 percent in 2018. And the proportion describing their own incomes as inadequate had dropped 10 points (from 39 percent to 28 percent) over the course of the Liberals’ first mandate. As they headed back to the polls, they could hardly have wished for more (figure 1).

All these numbers, however, reflect national trends, and they obscure contrasting regional ones. The modest 5-point increase since 2014 in the proportion of Canadians with a favourable view of the country’s economic situation subsumed the much larger 22-point increase in Quebec, and a counter-acting 22-point drop in Alberta. In fact, over the course of five years (between 2014 and 2019 – a relatively short space of time), Quebec and Alberta had essentially switched places: in 2014 Quebec was the least economically optimistic and Alberta the most optimistic province; the reverse was true in 2019.

In Canada, the issue of inclusive growth is not just about equity across social groups, it is also about equity across regions.  Framed in this way, it was less of a “winning issue” for the incumbent government than they might otherwise have expected (figure 2).

No one who had these Alberta numbers in full view, then, would have been surprised that the Liberals were shut out of the province in terms of seats come election night. But the flip side of the story is also important. Going into the 2019 election campaign, it would have been useful if the opposition parties had thought harder about what they were offering voters in Quebec. This might have prompted them to go beyond a pitch based on the premise of how much harder it was getting to make ends meet. (At the city level, affordable housing and the rising cost of living were top issues for those living in Toronto and Vancouver, but not Montreal.)

A sober review of public opinion data as they pertain to notions of inclusion also helps explain something that didn’t happen during the 2019 election campaign. In the wake of increases in the number of refugees “irregularly” crossing the Canada-US border in Quebec and Manitoba, and the launching of the Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada, which had an overtly anti-immigration platform, the risk that immigration would emerge as a defining (and divisive) election issue appeared high. But it did not become a defining issue, largely because, in spite of some heated rhetoric on talk radio and social media, Canadians themselves have never felt more positively about immigration than they did on the eve of the 2019 campaign.

The proportion of Canadians who say there is too much immigration in Canada was trending downward, as was the proportion questioning the legitimacy of refugee claimants (figure 3). While in 2018 and the spring of 2019 one in two Canadians agreed that too many immigrants do not adopt Canadian values, this was the lowest figure ever recorded (in 1993, three in four Canadian held this view). Perhaps most importantly, heading into the election, in April 2019, only 3 percent of Canadians felt that immigration was the most important issue facing the country (a proportion that was nine times lower as that in the United States).

Further analysis also reveals that attitudes on immigration in Canada correlate less strongly with economic concerns than they do with general political outlook (that is to say, ideology). So despite the overall brighter mood in 2019, plenty of Canadians were anxious about the economy and their own financial situation as election day approached. But this anxiety propelled them to blame Ottawa insiders, not newly arrived outsiders. In retrospect, then, the table was not set for a heated debate about immigration, and it should have come as no surprise that the more a party pushed this issue to the fore, the worse they did on election night.

Looking back, however, there was one signal in the pre-election polls that might have warranted more attention. While fewer Canadians were expressing concerns about the economy, more were expressing concerns about the environment – and specially about climate change. In fact, by the spring of 2019, climate change had overtaken the economy as the top issue for Canadians for the first time since the onset of the economic crisis in 2008. That said, in spring 2019, the proportion of Canadians singling out climate change as their top issue was only 14 percent – up from 5 percent two years earlier, and tied in order of importance with the similar proportion expressing concern about the quality of government leadership.

At that time, there was no way of knowing whether the share of Canadians preoccupied with climate change was already peaking or just beginning to grow. It took a subsequent survey, conducted during the election campaign, to reveal the answer. We now know that the priorities of Canadians were evolving quickly over the course of 2019; by October, the proportion citing climate change as the country’s top problem had jumped a further 10 points, to reach 24 percent, while the proportion concerned with the either the economy or government leadership continued to fade. This trend was especially pronounced in Quebec, where the proportion preoccupied by climate change doubled from 18 percent to 37 percent between the spring and fall of 2019

So, heading into the 2019 election, Quebecers were less concerned about the economy or the cost of living than other Canadians – a pattern that the pre-election survey data made clear. What could perhaps have been better anticipated was the extent to which this was creating space for climate change to emerge as one of the defining issues of the campaign, in Quebec and beyond.

In retrospect, the election campaign was decided more by the issue of sustainable growth – the question of how to balance economic and environmental imperatives – than by that of inclusive growth, which is perhaps why the opposition parties’ strategy of approaching the carbon tax mostly as a pocket-book issue had limited appeal.

Source: Last election marked shift in the type of growth Canadians are seeking

Canada shares expertise with Germany on successfully integrating immigrants

Over the years, there has been a steady stream of German politicians and officials coming to Canada to learn about Canadian immigration policies and programs.

Environics and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung did an interesting comparison of public attitudes between the two countries: Public sentiment toward immigrants and refugees: Current perspectives in Canada and Germany

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino was in Germany this week to share what Canada has learned from an immigration program that helps newcomers find jobs and learn about life in Canada before they arrive.

At the invitation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mendicino took part in a summit looking at best practices for integrating migrants. Canada was the only foreign country the Germans invited to take part in the summit.

“Our friends in Germany see Canada as a role model, as a country that has achieved success,” Mendicino told CBC News.

Canada’s pre-arrival settlement services provide newcomers with information and supports, including employment assistance, while they’re still overseas. The goal of the program is to better prepare immigrants to ease into Canadian society by educating them about life in Canada and navigating roadblocks they could encounter.

An internal government audit in 2018 found that while the program was valuable in helping newcomers, it had a low uptake due to a lack of widespread awareness about the services available. It concluded there was a “missed opportunity.”In response to that finding, the government set aside $113 million to raise the profile of the program. Mendicino said a recent survey showed that 85 per cent of people who used the services said the program helped them find them a job, and about 88 per cent said the program helped them get foreign credentials recognized in Canada.

Boost for productivity, growth

“If we are able to facilitate integration by speeding up the processes and helping immigrants to land a job, then that will contribute to productivity and growth. It will mean that one more job vacancy is filled and that will contribute to a stronger economy as a whole,” Mendicino said.

The minister said Canada’s pre-arrival settlement services program has been around for about 20 years, undergoing various refinements and adjustments over that period.

Describing Canada and Germany as “like-minded countries,” Mendicino said the two nations have shared values and an understanding that solid integration of immigrants leads to better outcomes for both the newcomers and the country’s economy.

Canada has been praised in past on the world stage for programs that attract and retain workers to communities outside large urban centres, and that link immigration to labour gaps.”What we’re discovering is that some of our strongest G7 partners like Germany are starting to look at Canada as a role model, so that tells me that we certainly have been recognized for having a specific expertise in this area,” he said.

Last year, the OECD praised Canada’s economic migration system as one of the most successful in the world. It said Canada is widely seen as a “benchmark” for other countries.

Programs that assist in successful immigration and attract skilled workers are key to meeting the economic challenges of the future, Mendicino said.

“We will really benefit from continuing to grow our country and our economy through immigration, and that’s part of the narrative that I shared with our friends in Germany,” he said.

The shifting lens through which Canadians see the Wet’suwet’en crisis

Interesting analysis by Michael Adams and Andrew Parkin:

Canadians have lived through many confrontations over Indigenous rights and resource development, but few have had such high stakes as the one that erupted last month and is still unfolding, with a proposed deal newly announced after weeks of rail blockades across the country as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have protested the Coastal GasLink pipeline that would run through their territory in British Columbia. Hanging in the balance, depending on one’s perspective, are not only the rights of particular First Nations but the coastal environment, the livelihoods of people travelling or shipping by rail, Canada’s reputation as a reliable trading partner, the survival of the federal minority government and the future of reconciliation itself.

Also at stake are the hearts and minds of the Canadian public. Some worry that the prolonged blockades of roads and railways has put public buy-in to the reconciliation agenda at risk — and with good reason. A look back at survey data from 1990 shows that the Oka crisis did erode public support for Indigenous land claims. While few Canadians approved of how the federal and provincial governments handled the crisis, there was little sympathy for the Mohawk barricaders, either. Tellingly, the only actor in the Oka dispute whom the public did support was the army. Two-thirds of Canadians backed the decision to call the army in to deal with the situation.

But Canada is a very different country than it was 30 years ago. Using excessive force to bring down the barricades would likely have been seen by many Canadians as a strategy that is three decades out of date. It would also have set back the clock on years of slow but steady bridge-building.

One big change in the public’s mindset is the emergence of climate change as a major concern. At their heart, both the Oka crisis of 1990 and the current conflict are about Indigenous control over Indigenous lands. But the current conflict can also be framed as being about whether the need to move fossil fuels to market should continue to trump all other concerns. It comes at a time when more Canadians name climate change than name the economy as the most important issue facing the country. The interweaving of Indigenous self-determination with the fight against climate change has shifted the lens through which the public is gauging the federal government’s reaction to the crisis — and, as a result, has affected the government’s room to manoeuvre.

A second change has to do with the bumpy journey toward reconciliation. As distant as the end point of this journey may seem, it would be a mistake to think that the past several decades of public discussion has left Canadians no better informed than before. In fact, most Canadians now recognize the wrongs that Indigenous peoples have faced and support actions to redress those wrongs.

For instance, most Canadians believe that Indigenous peoples experience discrimination in our society and are disadvantaged in their standard of living. And overwhelming majorities support policies such as equalizing funding for Indigenous education and spending more to improve the quality of housing and drinking water in Indigenous communities.

More important, two in three Canadians believe that individuals like themselves have a role to play in efforts to bring about reconciliation. This points to a recognition that reconciliation is not just about what governments do; it is also about broadening understanding and promoting dialogue more widely across society.

Generational change will likely keep the momentum for reconciliation going. Almost two-thirds of non-Indigenous youth in Canada now have an awareness of the history of Indian residential schools. And young Canadians want to know more: over 80 percent agree that everyone will benefit from looking more closely at Indigenous perspectives on community, land and culture, and almost 90 percent agree that it is important to understand the true history of how Indigenous peoples have been treated by governments and society in this country.

None of this is to suggest that the public can be counted on to support those who disrupt the country’s transportation networks. There remains a gap between the public’s strong desire to see improvements in the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada, and its uncertainty about the nature and extent of Indigenous rights and what these mean in practice for resource development. And if the lines between peaceful protest, civil disobedience and resistance get more blurred, most may once again side in the short term with those entrusted to reimpose order.

But Canada has moved on from where it was in 1990 — before reconciliation entered the public’s lexicon. Canadians don’t just want things to get back to normal, they want things to get better. That is why the onus is on Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders alike to find a way out of this crisis that differs from what was done in the past.

Source: The shifting lens through which Canadians see the Wet’suwet’en crisis

Adams and Parkin: In Canada, education excellence is also about equity

More on education, equality and integration, and the overall strong Canadian reality:

Functional families celebrate their members’ achievements, be they graduations from school, promotions at work, or personal bests in weekend pursuits. The Canadian federal family is going through another dysfunctional phase, so it is no surprise that its achievements in education, documented last month by the OECD, went largely unnoticed. That’s too bad. We missed a chance not only to pat ourselves on the back, but to reflect on what it is that holds our family together.

Every three years, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) publishes the results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – a worldwide test of 15-year old students in reading, mathematics and science. This year, out of 36 OECD countries and 79 jurisdictions around the world, Canada finished third. Canadian students do a little better in science and reading than they do in math. But Canada was one of only five OECD countries that finished in the top five in two of the three subjects, and one of only four that finished in the top 10 in all three subjects. Only Estonia and Korea can boast that they did better.

Looking across all the jurisdictions that participated – including not only OECD countries but Asian megacities such as Singapore and Hong Kong – Canada stands out as the second-best Western country after Estonia, the top performing federation, and the top performing country where many students write the tests in their second (or third) language.

In a world where education underpins both individual and collective success, this strong showing is reassuring. But it should also serve as a reminder of some of the things that make this country tick.

One of these is how we share the country’s wealth. Three types of redistribution matter: between individuals, between neighbourhoods, and between provinces. Canada’s system of progressive taxation, and income supports like the Canada Child Benefit, mean that more children go to school ready to learn. Our strong provincial governments have the ability to move funding to where it is needed most, so that it matters less which side of the tracks your local school is located on. And equalization means that there is an evenness to the quality of public education provided across the country.

The net result of this redistribution is that Canada’s education systems are among the most equitable in the world. Countries like Germany and the United States are world leaders when it comes to their most affluent students but trail when it comes to their most disadvantaged. Canada, by contrast, performs well across the board.

Countries like Germany and the United States are world leaders when it comes to their most affluent students but trail when it comes to their most disadvantaged. Canada, by contrast, performs well across the board.

Canada’s other forté is its ability to bring significant numbers of students with immigrant backgrounds into its schools and ensure they succeed. More than one-third of Canada’s 15-year-old students are first- or second-generation immigrants. But while some countries struggle to ensure their immigrant students can keep up, Canada’s immigrant students propel us forward. In fact, in no other OECD country do second generation immigrant students score as high in reading as they do in Canada. No other OECD country does as good a job as Canada does at combining a high proportion of immigrant students with high achievement for those students.

Certainly, there is still room for improvement. Canada’s PISA scores have edged downward over time – a trend that needs to be addressed and reversed. While PISA does not report on the situation of Indigenous students, we know that this remains one area where our education systems are letting children down. Schools in Canada, as elsewhere, face the challenge of balancing the learning opportunities afforded by new communications technologies with the risks that they bring to students’ focus, civility and safety.

But overall, if PISA is a mirror held up to the societies that participate, the reflection that Canadians should see is that of a country offering an almost unparalleled combination of excellence and equity. That we have achieved this in our unique Canadian way – by combining decentralized governance, support for redistribution, and openness to others from around the world – should only serve to liven up our celebration.

Source: Adams and Parkin: In Canada, education excellence is also about equity

Groundbreaking study documents extent of racism in Canada

In case you missed it, the latest project by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and the Environics Institute. Media release below but well worth browsing through the main report:

Today – International Human Rights Day – the Environics Institute for Survey Research and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation released the Race Relations in Canada 2019 Survey, a new national survey of Canadians that is the first of its kind to cover race relations across the country.

This study confirms the reality of racism in Canada. Also important, it shows that this reality is widely if not universally acknowledged. Many Canadians across different racial backgrounds report experiences of racism and discrimination due to race, and also recognize that it also affects others of their own race and from other racial groups.

  •   Majorities of Canadians who are Black (54%) or Indigenous (53%) have personally experienced discrimination due to race or ethnicity from time to time if not regularly. Such experience is also evident but less widely reported by those who are South Asian (38%), Chinese (36%), from other racialized groups (32%), or White (12%).
  •   Most Canadians acknowledge that racialized Canadians experience discrimination either often or at least occasionally. Specifically, Canadians are most likely to believe that Indigenous Peoples (77%), Black people (73%), and South Asians (75%) experience discrimination often or occasionally; by comparison, fewer – although still a majority – (54%) believe this is the case for Chinese people in Canada. Very few (5%) say that racialized Canadians never experience discrimination.The reality of racism in Canada notwithstanding, most Canadians believe that different racial groups generally get along with one another, and are more likely to be optimistic than pessimistic about achieving racial equality in their lifetime.
  •   Eight in ten (81%) Canadians say that race relations in their own community are generally good in terms of how well people from different races get along with one another, versus just eight percent who describe such relations as generally bad. A positive view is held by large majorities of those who are White (84%), South Asian (83%), Chinese (81%) and Black (77%), and by a smaller majority who are Indigenous (69%).
  •   Six in ten are very (14%) or somewhat (46%) optimistic that all racialized people in Canada will be treated with the same respect as others in their lifetime, versus 26 percent who are pessimistic. Such optimism is evident across all racial groups, and strongest among younger Canadians.

“As social discourse has become coarser with the global emboldening of hate speech, so has the importance of civil dialogue grown,” said Dr. Lilian Ma, Executive Director of the Canadian Race Relation Foundation. “With the loosening of the bonds of civility, it becomes all the more essential to provide pragmatic, evidence-based and non-partisan data such as this. This study provides factual information based on lived experience and is meant to serve as a reference point for cross-cultural interchange.”

The Race Relations in Canada 2019 Survey establishes new benchmark indicators of race relations across Canada from the perspective of its citizens, and provides the foundation for monitoring progress over time. Themes covered in the research include: the state of race relations in Canada, attitudes toward specific racial groups, perceptions of racial discrimination in Canada generally and of one’s own racial group, and personal experiences. The study also draws comparisons with the attitudes and experiences of Americans based on research conducted in the USA.

“This type of research can serve as point of common ground that brings different stakeholders together, and provide a means for measuring progress (or the lack of) over time to support organizations in the public, private and non-profit sectors who are working to reduce racism both internally and in broader society” comments Dr. Keith Neuman, the study’s project director at the Environics Institute.

The full report of the study is available at: Full report

The research consisted of a survey conducted online between April 17 and May 6, 2019, with a sample of 3,111 Canadians ages 18 and over. The sample was stratified to ensure representation by province, age and gender, and also included over-samples of individuals who self-identify as Chinese, Black, South Asian or Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, Inuit) (the four largest racialized populations in Canada).

Canadian public opinion on immigration and refugees

The latest Focus Canada results on immigration. No major change:

The 43rd Canadian Federal Election just concluded was a tightly-contested campaign in which the incumbent Liberal Government led by Justin Trudeau found itself in a tough fight for reelection just a few years after it took office on a promise of “sunny ways” and broad political support. Many anticipated that immigration might emerge as a major election issue that would be used by some if not all parties as a wedge to energize their base or peel away support from competitors. The recent influx of asylum seekers at the southern border in Quebec and Manitoba, the emergence of a new populist party staking a position against “mass immigration”, and increasing animosity toward migrants in the US and elsewhere has fed concerns that Canadians were becoming more anxious about current immigration policies and the flow of newcomers into their communities.

It did not happen. Apart from a few anti-immigrant billboards popping up, immigration and refugees did not feature prominently in the election campaign, and the Peoples Party of Canada attracted less than two percent of the votes, failing to elect a single MP to Parliament. Why these issues did not materialize can be explained by the results of the most recent Environics Institute Focus Canada survey, which was conducted in the final weeks of the campaign. This research reveals that Canadians as a whole continue to be more positive than negative about the number of immigrants arriving in Canada and the benefits they bring to the country’s economy. Moreover, public concerns about such contentious issues as whether newcomers are adequately embracing Canadian values and the legitimacy of refugee claimants have not increased over the past year; if anything they have moderated. Immigration was not a top of mind issue for the vast majority of Canadian voters from any political party.

As on past surveys, attitudes about immigration and refugees differ across the population. Positive sentiments are most prevalent among younger Canadians and those with a university education. Negative views are most evident in Alberta, among Canadians ages 60 and older, and those without a high school diploma. In Quebec, despite the recent controversy over its new legislation banning religious dress, public opinion about immigrants is as positive if not more so than in other parts of the country.

The largest divergence continues to be along partisan political lines, primarily between supporters of the Liberal Party, NDP and Green Party, who are the most positive about immigration and refugees, in sharp contrast with those who would vote for the Conservative Party. This gap in sentiment notwithstanding, immigration is not an issue that strongly divides Canadians (as the recent election demonstrated), and this stands in sharp contrast to the current electoral divisions in other western countries.

Is there an urban-rural divide in Canada?

Nice summary analysis by Andrew Parkin of Environics Institute, and how regional differences tend to be more significant:

With Canada’s population increasingly concentrated in a small number of large metropolitan areas, the question often arises: do the values, interests and concerns of citizens in cities differ from those of their counterparts living in smaller cities or towns across the country? Is there a specific metropolitan mindset or set of experiences that distinguishes those living in these major urban centres from other Canadians?

To find answers, our  2019 Confederation of Tomorrow survey was used to compare public opinion across the country’s four largest metropolitan areas – Montreal, Toronto, Calgary-Edmonton (combined) and Vancouver – with that of people living in the rest of their respective provinces, and that of the rest of the Canadian population as a whole. Those four metropolitan areas together hold 43 percent of Canada’s total population. Calgary and Edmonton are combined to increase the survey sample, representing metropolitan Alberta. (Details of the survey and sample sizes for each city are reported at the end of this article, in chart 4.)

Government and the economy

On a variety of questions relating to the role of government and the state of the economy, there are many differences in opinion across the four major urban areas, and also many cases of similarities in views between each city and its surrounding non-metropolitan area. This highlights the continuing importance of regional differences across Canada, which overshadow differences between bigger cities and smaller towns.

In the wake of the economic downturn linked to the petroleum sector in Alberta, it’s not surprising that the mood in Calgary-Edmonton is bleak. Our survey in December 2018-January 2019 found that residents there are less likely to be satisfied with the way things are going in the country. They are also more likely to describe their household income as being “not enough”; and more concerned about job security (chart 1). (However, on the question of job security, Torontonians also express a higher than average level of concern). Those living in Calgary-Edmonton are also the least likely to say that governments have a positive impact on most people’s lives, and most likely to say that this impact is negative (chart 2). Montrealers stand out in exactly the opposite way: compared with residents of the other three city-regions, they are the most satisfied with the direction of the country, the least concerned about their incomes and job security, and the least likely to see government as having a negative impact.

While opinions in Montreal and Calgary-Edmonton are quite different from one another on these questions, they are, on the whole, not very different from residents in the rest of their respective provinces. In other words, non-metropolitan Quebecers sound more like Montrealers than like people who live in non-metropolitan areas of other provinces – and the same goes for non-metropolitan Albertans (whose opinions resemble those of residents of Calgary-Edmonton, not their non-metropolitan counterparts in other provinces).

In the first instance, this is likely because outlooks are shaped by regional economic conditions – currently, more positive in Quebec and more negative in Alberta – whose effects are felt both inside and outside of each region’s major cities. But there is evidence that provincial political cultures matter, too. For instance, Quebecers – whether in or outside of Montreal – are more likely than the national average to favour a larger government offering more services, but also more likely to favour a transfer of powers from the federal to their provincial government (chart 3). Albertans – whether in or outside of Calgary-Edmonton – are less likely than average to favour a larger government, but also (similarly to Quebecers) more likely to favour a transfer of powers from the federal to their provincial government. These differences in support for a larger or smaller role for government, and for a more centralized or decentralized federation, again are regional or provincial in nature – they appear to have little to do with whether or not one lives in one of the country’s major cities.

Diversity

While Canadians have become much more welcoming of immigrants and refugees over the past 25 years, our survey nonetheless finds that two in three (65 per cent) agree that there are too many immigrants coming into this country who are not adopting Canadian values. There is surprisingly little variation in views on this question across the country’s four major urban areas, or between these areas and the rest of the country. Agreement is only slightly lower than average in Toronto and Vancouver, and – with the exception of British Columbia – only slightly higher than average in areas of the country outside of the major urban centres. Quebecers, including Montrealers, are slightly more likely to agree that too many immigrants are not adopting Canadian values.

Canadians were also asked whether they agree that “a person who has a strong attachment to their own ethnic community is no less Canadian than anyone else,” or that “a person who has a strong attachment to their own religion is no less Canadian than anyone else.” When the responses for all big-city dwellers are compared to those of other Canadians, no significant differences are observed: about seven in 10 agree in all cases. There are no significant differences between the views of Quebecers in or outside of Montreal, Ontarians in or outside of Toronto, or British Columbians in or outside of Vancouver.

What stands out on these issues, then, is the absence of significant differences, either across the major cities, or between the major cities and smaller communities.

Policy priorities

The clearest evidence for the absence of a common big-city agenda in Canada comes from the response to the open-ended question about the most important problem facing Canadians today. The most frequently mentioned items differ significantly from city to city. And only one – the economy – appears among the top five problems mentioned in each of the four major urban areas.

  • In Vancouver, the item most frequently identified as the most important problem is affordable housing (18 per cent), followed by the economy (12 per cent), the cost of living (9 per cent), the environment (9 per cent), and poverty, homelessness and inequality (6 per cent).
  • In Calgary-Edmonton, the economy dominates the list, with 24 percent saying it is the most important problem facing Canadians today. This is followed by political representation (12 per cent), energy and pipelines (11 per cent), jobs and unemployment (8 per cent) and immigration (5 per cent).
  • In Toronto, the five most frequently mentioned problems are: the economy (12 per cent), affordable housing (9 per cent), political representation (8 per cent), jobs and unemployment (7 per cent) and the cost of living (7 per cent).
  • In Montreal, the most frequently mentioned problem is the environment (17 per cent), followed by immigration (12 per cent), political representation (9 per cent), health care (8 per cent) and the economy (7 per cent).

While the four major urban areas differ from one another in term of priorities, the question of whether each mirrors the rest of their respective provinces is harder to answer; the patterns are inconsistent. The biggest problem in the minds of Quebecers, regardless of whether they live in Montreal, is the environment. But immigration is cited as the country’s biggest problem by twice as many Montrealers as other Quebecers. Affordable housing is high on the list of problems for Torontonians, but not for other Ontarians; the case is reversed for immigration. British Columbians outside of Vancouver include political representation as well as energy and pipelines on their list of top problems, whereas Vancouverites include the cost of living and poverty, homelessness and inequality. Only in Alberta do the major urban areas and the rest of the province share an identical list of top five problems, most of which relate to the economy, energy and political representation.

Overall, then, while there are some issues that tend to be more of a concern to Canadians living in some big cities than those living outside of them, such as affordable housing or poverty, there are also many concerns that are shared, at least within the context of individual provinces. More broadly, there is greater variation in the list of concerns across provinces than there is between major urban areas and other communities within each province.

Summary

In short, the survey results show that the four major urban areas of Canada are neither consistently similar to one another, nor consistently different from the non-metropolitan areas of Canada. One reason for this is the overriding impact of regional and local economic conditions. Another factor is that there is simply more agreement across the country on some issues (such as diversity) than is often assumed. Finally, on questions of the size and role of government, provincial political cultures, such as those in Quebec and Alberta, appear to shape the views of those living both in and outside each province’s largest cities, again overriding any urban-rural differences.

Big cities share many common features and face many similar challenges as they continue to grow. But this does not mean that Canadians who live in these cities will always share the same opinions. There are many issues that unite us, and this holds true regardless of whether we live in smaller communities or larger ones. There are also issues on which we differ, but in many cases, these differences are of a more regional character than an urban-rural one.

This article is extracted from a larger report available from the Environics Institute at www.environicsinstitute.org.

The 2019 Confederation of Tomorrow survey of Canadians was conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research in partnership with the Canada West Foundation, the Mowat Centre, the Centre D’Analyse Politique – Constitution et Fédéralisme, the Institute for Research on Public Policy, and the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government at Saint Francis Xavier University. The research consisted of a national public opinion survey conducted online (in the provinces) and by telephone (in the territories) with a representative sample of 5,732 Canadians (ages 18 and over) between December 14, 2018 and January 16, 2019.

Sample sizes of Canadians who shared their views for these questions.

Source: 2019 Confederation of Tomorrow.

Source: Is there an urban-rural divide in Canada?

Adams and Parkin: Voters need to be suspicious of all the magical promises from politicians

Indeed:

Voters have changed. Deference to authority has diminished: People no longer respect political leaders’ ideas and judgment simply because of their status. Party loyalty, once an intergenerational commitment for many families, has waned. Increasingly, people shop around for appealing platforms and telegenic leaders, changing parties from election to election.

Little wonder, then, that politicians sometimes seem almost intimidated by these fickle voters. Almost no seat is truly safe; no segment of the electorate can be taken for granted. Each voter must be carefully wooed with tailored promises and inoffensive messages. This courting may be eminently democratic but there is a downside: Politicians have become even more shy about telling voters the hard truths they’d rather not hear.

Fewer than one-in-five Canadians favour a government that’s smaller and offers fewer services. So it’s not surprising that election campaigns focus on how to expand services such as child care, health care and pharmacare.

Meanwhile, many Canadians express concerns about the cost of living. A growing proportion say they’re dissatisfied with the availability of good, affordable housing in their community, for instance. And so voters – especially those in the coveted and ill-defined “middle class” – are offered new tax credits to help them keep up with expenses.

More services and lower taxes. If you think this sounds too good to be true, you’re out of step with most Canadian voters, who seem to see no contradiction.

Our society has changed a lot since Jean Chrétien won re-election, even after breaking his 1993 promise to axe the hated goods and services tax. He kept the tax, brought the budget back to balance and remained prime minister. But since Stephen Harper reduced the GST to 5 per cent from 7 per cent after his victory in 2006, no politician has dared suggest it be restored to the previous level to pay for all the services and programs that people want.

Similarly, faced with the squeeze of public finances in the wake of the economic downturn in Alberta, the new premier of that province is more comfortable pointing the finger at Quebec than entertaining the prospect of a provincial sales tax at home.

Even in the face of what we are now rightly calling a climate emergency, the main leaders vying for the keys to 24 Sussex are promising all gain with no pain.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax comes with a promise to send out rebate cheques that will ensure most Canadians are no worse off. The Conservatives think even that is too risky. They would prefer to find ways to sell green technology to developing countries, so Canadians can actually profit from the hard work of global emissions reduction.

Either or both of these might be workable policies. Yet, it is still remarkable that in an election taking place in 2019, political parties feel compelled to reassure voters that they can save the planet at no net cost to people like themselves.

Politics have always involved a little magical thinking, with politicians using spending to attract new voters before the election, and only sheepishly getting around to dealing with the inevitable costs later on. Very often, the buy-now-pay-later approach is premised on the assumption that current levels of growth and tax revenues will continue into the foreseeable future.

“Elect me and I’ll make sure we’re well braced for an inevitable downturn,” a candidate might say, but this tends not to do well in focus groups as a campaign slogan. With deficit financing back in fashion, a more freewheeling approach to politics is easier than ever – at least until interest rates balloon debt servicing costs and bring us back to the budget shocks of the mid-1990s.

If there is any real difference between today and past eras of political overpromise, it’s perhaps the absence of a traditional left-right schism between the two main parties that can conceivably form government after this Oct. 21 election.

Voters are being asked to parse the different redistributive effects of competing tax credits, the different scale of investments in public services and the different timelines for returning the budget to balance. This leaves the economists with lots to argue about.

The average voter, however, is left feeling both flattered with all the attention, and a little suspicious. As the two most powerful parties promise that Canadians can have it all, without sacrifice, surely some voters have a sneaking feeling there’s something important they’re not being told.