Adams, Neuman: Canadians need to keep talking about racism [to facilitate change in social norms]

On the importance of social norms and how discussion and conversation needed influence social norms change:

Combatting racism is now firmly on the public agenda in Canada, reflecting an evolving acknowledgment of the systemic mistreatment of racialized people. This evolution has accelerated in response to important events, including the horrific murder of American George Floyd and the continuing discoveries of unmarked graves at former Indian Residential Schools. But progress in eradicating racism in our country has been slow and at best uneven. Many Canadians are frustrated by what they see as all talk and no action.

What is holding us back? Efforts to eradicate systemic bias in our institutions, including our local police departments, have shown little progress given how deeply it is ingrained. Many organizations have made considerable investments in diversity and inclusion training to educate people and make them aware of their unconscious biases, but studies have shown this training has not had a lasting impact. This shouldn’t be surprising, as it is next to impossible to change people’s deeply held attitudes and values, at least in the short term.

Where else can we turn? One avenue yet to be explored is in changing the social norms that allow racism to promulgate and flourish.

Social norms are widely held, yet mostly unspoken, expectations about what is, and is not, acceptable to say and do in particular situations. Such norms exert a powerful influence over how people act in public and in social situations, apart from what they may think or feel.

Social norms play a key role in the dynamics of racism and prejudice because they establish the boundaries around which people act toward those they see as “the other.” While internally held attitudes, beliefs and stereotyping are stubbornly resistant to short-term change, the way individuals choose to express themselves can be easily influenced by social pressure. Over time, norms can change – in some cases through efforts to positively shape our collective behaviour.

Take, for example, the successful campaign to change norms around tobacco use in public. Just over a generation ago, smoking in public was common, even cool. Today, the behaviour has become effectively “denormalized” as inconsiderate and self-defeating. While a significant minority of the population continues to smoke in private, few dare to do so in the presence of others because they correctly understand it would not be tolerated.

The concept of social norms is not new, but it has been missing from the scope of anti-racism initiatives in Canada and elsewhere. With this in mind, the Environics Institute recently conducted a national survey of Canadians that measured social norms in relation to common types of micro-aggressions directed at people who are Indigenous and/or Black.

Our research reveals that a significant majority of Canadians acknowledge the reality of racism in their communities and social circles. Regardless of their racial background, many of those surveyed say they have personally witnessed, or know others who have witnessed, racist behaviour directed against Indigenous or Black people. This racism has taken many forms, from insensitive jokes or racist gestures in public and private spaces, to derogatory comments on social media or even broad claims that racism simply doesn’t exist.

Most of those surveyed personally believe these types of behaviours are morally wrong. At the same time, our research demonstrated that the current social norms acting to inhibit these racist actions are not especially strong. The survey revealed that Canadians may believe such actions are morally wrong, but often feel unsure about what others around them think and whether they would also disapprove of what is going on in that situation. They may also be unclear about whether the social norms are sufficiently encouraging to support someone who steps up to intervene when witnessing a racist act in public, such as harassment on a bus.

What the research tells us, in essence, is that racist behaviour persists, despite growing disapproval, in large part because Canada’s social norms – the unspoken rules about what is and is not acceptable in public – governing respectful treatment of racialized people are not strong enough to discourage transgressors.

What does this mean for tackling racism? The research tells us that a major obstacle to reducing racism is the absence of social pressures that are strong enough to compel us to treat others with respect (even when we harbour prejudicial opinions about them) and to speak up when transgressions occur. Many Canadians are caught in a form of limbo when confronted with someone acting in a racist manner, not knowing if others around them recognize what is taking place or agree about what it means and what to do about it.

This is why it is so important that we keep talking about racism. The more public conversations we have on this subject, the more people may recognize a shared understanding of what is acceptable and what is no longer tolerated. Each of us needs to think individually about racism and take responsibility for our own behaviour, but this is not enough. We need to engage with others on this issue, in order to create a shared understanding of what we expect from each other in how we live together and treat one another.

Canadian institutions also need to demonstrate leadership in establishing social norms and expectations, and in cultivating spaces that prioritize respect for all. Social norms are often well entrenched but can and do change. Here lies a new opportunity to focus our efforts and realize a more just society.

Keith Neuman is a senior associate with the non-profit Environics Institute for Survey Research. Michael Adams is the institute’s founder and president.

Source: Canadians need to keep talking about racism

Adams and Parkin: Having an election that changes nothing is not such a bad outcome after all; Ibbitson: A divided country? Actually, the federal election revealed Canada has never been more united in purpose

Contrary narrative, two versions:

What, if anything, has changed?

Immediate media reaction to the federal election result is divided. Those who count the seats won and lost see the status quo. Those concerned with the tone and tenor of our politics fear the election has left the country more divided than ever. Is it possible that the election changed nothing and everything at the same time?

We can hardly be shocked that there are strong differences of opinion among Canadians—we wouldn’t need elections if there weren’t. Can we address climate change and increase oil and gas exports at the same time? Should we make child care more affordable by giving money to care providers or to consumers? Will subsidizing the cost of a mortgage make housing more or less affordable? Arguing over issues like these is not a threat to democracy; it is the point of democracy.

Canadians are divided, then, in the sense that we take different sides in these debates. But in another sense, we are not nearly as divided as many assume. Differences in opinion are scattered throughout the population, and do not separate us dramatically by region, or age, or gender, or race. There are oil-enthusiasts in Quebec and radical ecologists in Alberta. There are men who want $10-a-day national day care and women who would prefer to pocket a tax credit. There are new Canadians who trust the police and “old stock” Canadians who do not. We are not a country that is fracturing into increasingly hostile groups defined by geography or identity.

And only those with short historical memories can claim that our political divisions are greater than ever. Elections in the 1970s and 1980s featured heated exchanges over which party was going to save the country and which was going to put an end to it—whether by handing it over to the separatists or to the Americans. The National Energy Program was hardly less divisive than the carbon tax; Bill 101 was no less controversial than Bill 21. Canadians did not exactly rally together to embrace the introduction of the GST. Keith Spicer told us in June 1991 that the nation was riven by rage.

But all this is besides the point, if the real problem is the emergence of the People’s Party, and the associated rabble-rousers who yelled obscenities and threw rocks at the prime minister, surely this is an indication of a society that is increasingly polarized?

Here, we need to be precise about the meaning of the words we use. Politics becomes polarized when more people move to opposing extremes, with far fewer remaining in the middle. This is what we see happening between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S., or between Leavers and Remainers in the U.K. There is no evidence that this is happening in Canada. Most Canadians remain firmly in the political centre, embracing the politics of pragmatic compromise and incremental progress.

Some Canadians do hold extreme views, but the proportion who do so is not on the rise. Yes, it is sobering to consider that one in 10 Canadians agree that, under some circumstances, an authoritarian government may be preferable to a democratic one. But this proportion has hardly changed over the past decade—if anything, it is slightly lower in 2021 than it was in 2010. Meanwhile, the number of Canadians comfortable with the country’s diversity, and uncomfortable with racism and discrimination, is higher than ever.

While Canadians, as a whole, are not becoming more extremist, the extremists among us might be becoming more organized, and more empowered by social media. They may also be targets for further radicalization by those with the most sinister of political aims. This, and not widespread division or polarization, is the concern. The threat to our democracy does not come from the heated, even acrimonious debates between left and right, or East and West. But it may come from the small, but vocal minority that seeks to undermine the norms of democracy.

This threat should not be dismissed, but rather addressed swiftly by those knowledgeable in how to counter those seeking to infiltrate and radicalize. But this does not need to be accompanied by a generalized lament for the soul of a nation. The election may have been unnecessary; it may have been tedious and uninspired; it may have changed little as far as the composition of the House of Commons is concerned. But it did not leave us more polarized or divided than ever before. In that sense, having an election that changes nothing is not such a bad outcome after all.

Source: https://www.hilltimes.com/2021/09/23/having-an-election-that-changes-nothing-is-not-such-a-bad-outcome-after-all/318706?utm_source=Subscriber+-++Hill+Times+Publishing&utm_campaign=da8d94bfbb-Todays-Headlines-Subscribers&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8edecd9364-da8d94bfbb-90755301&mc_cid=da8d94bfbb&mc_eid=685e94e554

And in a similar vein, John Ibbitson:

Many believe that Monday’s election exposed deep divisions within Canada. Ontario Premier Doug Ford called it “difficult and divisive.”

This is not so. The election revealed that Canada has rarely had fewer divides either between regions or political parties.

There are discontents, yes, and warning signs that should not be ignored. But although this election left many frustrated and annoyed at the status quo anteresult, the level of consensus on national priorities is really quite remarkable.

Consider relations between Canada and Quebec, which have been fraught since before Confederation. The English-language debate confirmed that no national party is willing to challenge the government of Quebec in its relentless push for autonomy.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh all chastised a moderator who asked Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet how he could possibly defend “discriminatory laws” that restrict the outward display of religious symbols and entrench French as the province’s sole official language.

In fact, no national political party is prepared to challenge legislation that most Quebeckers consider necessary to protect their distinct language and culture, but which would be considered by many to be discriminatory elsewhere.

The Conservatives, had they been elected, would have agreed to give Quebec greater control over immigration in the province. Sooner or later, Quebec will get that power. The social contract between French and English Canada appears to be sealed: The province can go its own way, so long as separation is off the table.

Ardent federalists of past generations, especially Pierre Trudeau, would have fought such devolution. But “Justin Trudeau is not his father,” Daniel Béland, a political scientist at McGill University, said in an interview.

This generation of federalists is inclined to respect the near universal will of Quebeckers for something approaching self-government. “We are still part of Canada,” Prof. Béland explained. “But we have growing policy autonomy to do our thing.”

At least one Western premier believes the election was a divisive waste of time. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe called Monday’s vote “the most pointless election in Canadian history.”

“The Prime Minister spent $600-million of taxpayers’ dollars and five weeks further dividing the country to arrive at almost the same result as where we started.”

But Mr. Moe’s government recently signed on to the Liberal $10-a-day child-care plan. Alberta and Ontario are expected to likely join as well, at which point Canada will have enacted a major new national social program.

Though Conservatives continue to dominate in the West, the Maverick Party, which hoped to generate a wave of populist protest in the same way Reform did in the 1980s and 90s, made little impression. Western alienation played less of a role in this campaign than in the election of 2019.

On policy, the political parties in this election were more aligned than at any time in recent memory. The Conservatives offered a more progressive agenda; the Liberals were already seriously progressive, and the NDP was the NDP.

How aligned were they? Had Mr. O’Toole won government, he would have scrapped the Liberal child-care program, replacing it with one of his own. He would have scrapped the carbon tax, replacing it with one of his own. He would also have increased funding for health care, with a particular emphasis on mental health, introduced portable pensions for gig workers and banned puppy mills.

Any Liberal government could – and probably will – adopt a large chunk of the Conservative platform.

Yes, the People’s’ Party of Canada increased its share of the popular vote, to 5 per cent. In many countries that use proportional representation, that would entitle Maxime Bernier and other candidates to sit in the House of Commons. And though their views on vaccination, immigration and global warming are anathema to most, including this writer, they deserve a voice. Nonetheless, they remain a fringe within the Canadian political spectrum, one that needs to be confronted with logic, facts and an appeal to common sense.

This country has never been more united in purpose. Federal and provincial governments acted in unison to fight the pandemic, protect workers and businesses and procure and deliver vaccines. Almost every province has or will soon have some form of vaccine passport that residents must show to enter many businesses or entertainment venues. A large majority of Canadians support these passports and other mandates, such as employers requiring workers to be vaccinated before returning to the workplace.

On immigration, Canada is on track to accept more permanent residents this year than at any time in its history, despite travel restrictions. The population becomes more diverse every year. Yet no major national party is calling for cuts to immigration levels.

The Conservatives went from opposing to supporting a price on carbon because polls show most Canadians consider global warming a major issue and want Canada to lower emissions.

While the Supreme Court in the United States appears to be headed toward striking down Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s right to have an abortion, every major federal party leader in Canada declared they were pro-choice in this election, which reflects the views of a large majority of Canadians.

When the Conservatives mooted the possibility of removing restrictions on some semi-automatic weapons, on the grounds that the rules were capricious and contradictory, the backlash was so swift that Mr. O’Toole reversed himself within days.

The Conservatives also took heat for proposing greater involvement by the private sector in the delivery of publicly funded health care. Lost in the noise is the truth that every major political party supports medicare, and has now for decades.

Deficits used to be a divisive issue, but they have become less so. Jean Chrétien’s Liberals accepted in the 1990s the conservative arguments that Ottawa had to balance its books. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, with Liberal support, incurred deficits to fight the 2008-09 financial emergency. Deficits were an issue in the 2019 campaign, but this time out the only distinction was that the Liberals have no plan to return to balance, while the Conservatives proposed returning to balance in a decade.

Unfortunately, while both governing parties continue to promise reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples, neither has succeeded in achieving it, though both are gradually moving toward an implicit recognition of an Indigenous right to a deciding say over major resources projects on lands they claim.

There are differences, of course. Conservatives seek a more confrontational approach toward China. Conservatives are more likely to favour the private sector, though Mr. O’Toole sounded like an editorialist for the Daily Worker when he declared, “too much power is in the hands of corporate and financial elites who have been only too happy to outsource jobs abroad.”

Some within the Conservative Party believe Mr. O’Toole went too far left on some social and environmental issues. But he only went as far as any party must go to line up with public opinion. Once the pandemic ends, Grits and Tories may disagree more sharply on taxation and spending. But that’s down the road.

The United States has become so polarized it threatens to tear itself apart. Parties of the far right have become increasingly powerful in Europe. Canada is nothing like that, as the election proved. Our politicians howl over picayune differences. Elections are fought over the best way to deliver a new government program, rather than on whether such programs should exist. The consensus on everything that matters is deep and profound.

It’s been a very long time since we were this united, if ever.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-a-divided-country-actually-the-federal-election-revealed-canada-has/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=Morning%20Update&utm_content=2021-9-24_7&utm_term=Morning%20Update:%20‘Nobody%20knows%20what%20to%20do’:%20Haitian%20migrants%20running%20out%20of%20options%20along%20U.S.-Mexico%20border%20&utm_campaign=newsletter&cu_id=%2BTx9qGuxCF9REU6kNldjGJtpVUGIVB3Y

Adams and Parkin: Don’t let angry protestors fool you — Canadians still trust in our democracy

Good nuanced perspective:

Certain truths seem self-evident: We are all created equal. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Our democracy is imploding under the strain of declining trust and increasing polarization.

The first two we should accept, but the characterization of our democracy as nearing collapse does not fit the facts, at least not in Canada. The trends run in the opposite direction: trust in many of our democratic institutions is actually growing, and the gaps between the political left and right are in fact narrowing. This helps put the troubling scenes of gravel-throwing anti-vaccine protestors in context: it is not just that they are a small minority — it is that the protestors and the majority of Canadians are moving in completely opposite directions.

Our regular Environics Institute surveys show that three in four Canadians are satisfied with the way democracy works in this country — a proportion that has held steady over the past 10 years. An equal number are satisfied with the way our political system works, but in this case, satisfaction has risen. Feelings of pride in the Canadian political system and of respect for our political institutions have both also been gradually increasing.

It is true that only a minority of Canadians have a lot of trust in Parliament or in political parties — a degree of healthy skepticism that is neither surprising nor problematic. But over 80 per cent have at least some trust. And the trends again are positive: strong trust in Parliament has risen by 19 points since 2010, including a 10-point increase since the previous survey in 2019. Strong trust in Parliament is now twice as high as it was just seven years ago; weak trust is now almost twice as low. The change in the case of trust in political parties is more modest, but in the same positive direction.

While the anger seen on the campaign trail makes our politics seem highly polarized, this too is a misleading impression. Our research shows that, in many cases, the views about our democracy among those on the left and right of the political spectrum have actually become more similar over the past few years, rather than diverging. And while it goes without saying that the Conservatives draw more support from those on the right and the NDP attracts more of those on the left, the fact is that the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP each draw a majority of their support from those who place themselves in the centre. The electorate is not divided into hostile camps separated by a widening, unbridgeable gulf.

But there is one measure in our survey that has shown a sudden decline: national pride. Almost all of us continue to feel at least some pride in being Canadian, but in our latest survey, this pride is less strongly expressed — a change likely linked to the discovery earlier this year of hundreds of graves of Indigenous children at the sites of former residential schools. Our survey began right after Canada Day, when many Canadians were discussing what these discoveries mean for the country. As these discussions unfolded, flags were lowered to half-mast, and feelings of national pride became more muted.

But this too is more the sign of a healthy democracy than one in crisis. It is reassuring to see that the revelations about residential schools upset our self-image. The shift in the tone of Canada Day from celebration to reflection did not occur only among a handful of political insiders, but among many ordinary citizens as well. This is a sign of a democracy in which minds remain open, and backs are not turned on one another.

As voting day approaches, there is no better time to bring the image we have of our democracy into alignment with the evidence. Angry antimask or antivaccination protestors fuelled by misinformation are currently a security and public health risk, but they are not the tip of a larger iceberg that reflects broader public opinion.

Canada is not the United States, and what has happened there (and elsewhere) does not always foreshadow events here. In a year filled with so much bad news, let’s open the curtains to welcome at least one ray of sunshine.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2021/09/13/dont-let-angry-protestors-fool-you-canadians-still-trust-in-our-democracy.html

Adams and Neuman: Private sponsorship is much more than a feel-good project

Good piece:

As we mark World Refugee Day on June 20, new numbers from the United Nations Refugee Agency show that there are now more than 82 million people worldwide who have been forced to flee their homes, and half of them are children. These displaced peoples are fleeing conflict, persecution, human rights violations and violence, seeking a safe haven in countries that all too often fail to welcome such newcomers. Canada – because of its geography – has been largely insulated from this international migration crisis. But in 2015-16, the country stepped up to welcome more than 33,000 refugees fleeing the war in Syria.

The federal government largely controls and manages the flow of immigration, but the most notable part of the Syrian refugee story was how individual Canadians and community organizations (churches, synagogues, NGOs) came forward to privately sponsor roughly half of the refugee quota to be filled. Private sponsorship groups commit to providing financial and social support to the refugee, and to help them find a place to live. This recent civil society mobilization mirrored an earlier one in the late 1970s that brought 70,000 Vietnamese refugees to Canada.

Few in this country appreciate the fact that private sponsorship of refugees is a Canadian innovation, and a model that is now being emulated in other countries such as Ireland, Britain and Germany. Until very recently, only in Canada was it possible for individuals and non-governmental organizations to sponsor refugees; and not just family members living abroad, but also those with whom the sponsors have no prior connection or relationship (often described as “welcoming the stranger”).

Given the immense scale of the continuing migration crisis, perhaps we are kidding ourselves that taking in 10,000 or 20,000 refugees a year makes an important difference. But the value and importance of this effort is not so much in the numbers as in its impact on those affected and on the country as a whole. Canadians from coast to coast, in large cities and small towns, organized and raised funds to bring individuals and families out of danger and help them start new lives. Statistics Canada research has shown that privately sponsored refugees have higher employment rates and earn more money than government sponsored refugees.

A newly released survey by our Environics Institute for Survey Research (conducted in partnership with Refugee 613) estimates that about 4 per cent of our country’s population ages 25 and older have been involved in sponsoring refugees in the past five years, whether through a faith-based or civil society organization, or with a group of friends. This translates into more than 1.5 million Canadians volunteering their time and effort in realizing the aspirational values of inclusion and welcoming that we like to think typify our country. Those who get involved in refugee sponsorship often find the experience to be personally rewarding in ways they never imagined, and may deepen their sense of citizenship.

And we also find there is considerable potential for much broader participation. Our research shows that another four million Canadians would consider getting involved in helping to sponsor refugees. This level of interest is striking given that private refugee sponsorship has never been actively promoted or marketed to the broader population at a regional or national level. To date, most of the people involved in “welcoming the stranger” sponsorship have been recruited through personal networks (faith-based organizations, universities) and tend to be white, highly educated and retired. But our research indicates the interest and capacity to get involved in refugee sponsorship is much more widely distributed across the Canadian public. Such interest is driven in part by being aware of the presence of refugees in one’s own community, as well as knowing others who have already become involved.

But private refugee sponsorship is much more than a feel-good community project. It is creating new Canadians of the very best sort. People who arrive as refugees must rebuild their lives, and with support from both government assistance and private sponsors, they are making impressive progress to establish themselves in their host communities. In another study recently completed by our institute, we found that the vast majority of Syrians who arrived in 2015-16 are adapting well to their new lives in Canada in terms of language acquisition, employment and creating opportunities for their children. They are very happy to be in Canada (in spite of the weather), generally feel welcomed and have life aspirations most of us would share. These newcomers embrace the value Canadians place on hard work and tolerance. And now that they are here, only 3 per cent hope to one day leave Canada for another country.

Canada is seen by much of the world as an open and welcoming society. We know this reputation is not fully earned as we continue to confront discrimination, racism and fear of the “other” in our communities. But as we strive to do better, let us also celebrate the good work that many Canadians are doing to welcome new strangers to our shores, and consider getting involved. Doing so is a unique privilege of the Canadian citizenship others envy.

Keith Neuman is a senior associate with the non-profit Environics Institute for Survey Research. Michael Adams is the Institute’s founder and president.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-private-sponsorship-could-be-used-to-help-many-more-refugees/

Changing social norms is the key to addressing racism

Good piece by Michael Adams and Keith Neuman:

When the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread in North America last March, it was hard to imagine anything else capturing a large share of public attention in the ensuing months. And then, in May, video footage of the horrific killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police ignited a blaze of protest that spread across the United States and also Canada, a country with its own history of colonialism and racism. The depth of the reflection and conversation – public and private – provoked by the protests was unprecedented. For the first time, many of this country’s leaders unequivocally acknowledged the existence of systemic racism in Canada, and reflected the predominant public sentiment. Our own research shows that a significant majority of Canadians now recognize the reality of racial discrimination in this country, especially as it affects people who are Indigenous and Black.

Such recognition of racism in our society is a significant milestone, long in coming. Doing something about it becomes the next step, and represents an even greater challenge given how deeply such prejudice is embedded in Canada’s dominant culture and institutions. Evidence of its pervasiveness confronts us both in personal anecdotes and in hard data on racial disparities across many areas of society – from policing and health to education and social welfare.

It is commonly believed that the biggest obstacle to meaningful change is our inability to recognize our own racial prejudices. The prevalence of unconscious racism or “implicit bias” has been well documented by American social psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt (in her seminal book, Biased) and others. Some have responded by taking steps to make the implicit explicit through education generally, and diversity and anti-racism training in particular. Governments and corporations have invested in programs to teach employees about bias and stereotypes, hoping that raising consciousness will change attitudes, assumptions and behaviour. But the evidence is emerging that this strategy is not effective in producing lasting change, as recently reported in a meta-analysis of close to 1,000 studies of anti-bias interventions.

Efforts to reduce bias through education and training may simply not work because it is impossible to change people’s ingrained mindsets and emotions, at least in the short term. A more promising avenue to consider is the social context in which people operate when they interact with others. Implicit in diversity training is the idea that racism is fuelled mainly by what people know and think, but what matters more is what people say and how they behave in the presence of others. Outward expressions of racism are governed in large part by collective social norms about acceptable behaviour. The term “norms” sometimes gets mentioned in the context of problematic content on social media, but what has yet to receive any serious attention is the concept of “social norms” as a fundamental aspect of society that contributes to the systemic nature of racism and where we might focus to address the problem.

Social norms are widely held expectations about what is, and is not, acceptable to say and do in particular situations. What is distinctive about such norms is that they are not defined by what people think is important to them personally, but by what they see as the social expectations of others whose opinions matter to them. As such, norms exert a powerful influence on how people act in public and social situations, quite apart from what they may think or feel inside.

These norms are typically well entrenched, but do change over time. The Holocaust led many people to decide it was no longer acceptable to articulate anti-Jewish stereotypes. The growing awareness of LGBTQ individuals in society and the legislative endorsement of same-sex marriage both improved attitudes and also made it no longer socially acceptable to trade in homophobic slurs. Many people may still harbour negative views about Jews and LGBTQ people, but most now understand it is no longer okay to express them.

Sometimes social norms change as a result of intentional efforts. Arguably the most striking example is the successful campaign to change norms around tobacco use in public. Just over a generation ago, smoking in public was common, even cool. Today, the behaviour has become effectively “denormalized” as inconsiderate and self-defeating, even as a significant proportion of the population continues to smoke in private. Regulatory measures that restrict smoking in public settings are also important, but it is the norms more than the laws that govern behaviour. By contrast, consider jaywalking, which is also legally forbidden but widely socially accepted.

Social norms play a key role in the dynamics of racism and prejudice because they establish the boundaries around which people act toward those they see as “other.” While internal attitudes and stereotypes are stubbornly resistant to short-term change, action and speech are more amenable to influence and normative pressures. This means that focusing on social norms can be an effective strategy for addressing racism in a meaningful way – especially if the collective norms against intolerance and discrimination are strengthening, which now appears to be happening. Evidence for this can be found in the recent public condemnation of wearing “blackface” in costume, which in a different era was considered by many to be harmless party attire.

There is nothing new about the concept of social norms, which social scientists have studied in academic settings and applied to public health challenges in developing countries. What has been missing is the practical application of this science to important societal problems such as racism, as well as other pressing challenges such as promoting physical distancing during a pandemic. The essential starting point is to first properly define and measure specific social norms about race-related actions and speech in order to determine their breadth and strength across the population (a type of research our institute now plans to undertake). Such information can then point to where interventions might be directed – to reinforce “positive norms” that are currently prevalent in society (no wearing of blackface) and de-normalizing “negative norms” (e.g., telling jokes that demean the “other”). This might take the form of public awareness campaigns (as was done to de-normalize public smoking) or employee-directed programs. Government and corporate leaders might be effective communicators of appropriate normative behaviour, to the extent they are credible and can exert influence over relevant audiences (which research might confirm).

Today in Canada, our understanding of the current reality of racial injustice is at odds with our stated aspirations of justice and inclusion. This tension provides us with a valuable opportunity to create a more just society by developing new strategies that effectively apply normative pressures on each other to do a better job of treating each other as we ourselves expect to be treated.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-changing-social-norms-is-the-key-to-addressing-racism/

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

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

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.