Canada is often regarded as an example nation for equal rights, including that between races. Everyone in the country is expected to have the same rights and opportunities in all areas of society, including employment, education, the justice system, and healthcare.
However, is that working in reality, or do people from, for example, black or Asian communities still experience discrimination based on race or skin colour in Canada?
Read on to find out the key statistics on what racism looks like in Canada.
Racism Statistics for Canadians
- 54% of black Canadians have experienced discrimination at least on one occasion and many on several occasions.
- 53% of Indigenous people in Canada have experienced discrimination. People from First Nations are the most likely to be victims of discrimination.
- Among other visible minority groups, Southeast Asians are most likely to face discrimination at 39%.
- Black students are more likely to be expelled or drop out from high school than white students.
- Racialised people earn less than their non-racialised colleagues at 80 cents per dollar.
- 40% of Canadian employers admit they are more likely to interview applicants with an English-sounding name.
- Black people, especially black men, are more likely to be stopped by the police in Canada.
- The number of Indigenous people in Canadian prisons is disproportionately high.
- Over half of reported hate crimes in Canada are racially motivated.
- 60% of Canadians believe racism to be a serious problem in Canada. However, the majority of Canadians say relationships between races are generally good in their community.
Racial Equity in Canada
Canada is a multicultural country, both legally and socially. The multiculturalism policy in Canada has many goals, which include the recognition and promotion of racial and cultural diversity in Canada. It aims to eliminate barriers to participation and to ensure all individuals are treated equally under the law.
While discrimination based on national or ethnic origin, race, colour, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital or family status, disability, or a pardoned conviction is prohibited by law in Canada, people from minority groups still experience it.
Discrimination Against Minority Groups in Canada
Despite the expectation for equal rights regardless of race, 25% of the complaints the Canadian Human Rights Commission received in 2016, were related to national or ethnic origin, religion, race, or colour.
Discrimination Against Black People
A General Social Survey from 2019 found that 46% of black people in Canada aged 15 years and older had experienced some form of discrimination in the five years before the survey. However, later surveys indicate that the portion of black Canadians who have experienced unfair treatment or discrimination is higher at 54%.
Based on the 2019 survey, 41% had experienced discrimination based on their skin colour or race. This is around 15 times higher than among the non-visible, non-Indigenous minority population, where 3% reported discrimination based on their race or skin colour.
27% of black people reported that they had been discriminated against because of their ethnicity or culture, and 70% of black who had experienced discrimination said it had happened more than once.
Canadian-born black people were more likely to experience discrimination than black immigrants at 65% and 36%, respectively. Black women are more likely to experience discrimination than black men, with 49% compared to 42%. 16% of black people had experienced discrimination in their dealings with the police.
Young black people were more likely to experience discrimination. 53% of black people aged between 15 and 44 said they had experienced discrimination compared to 31% of those who were 45 and older.
Discrimination Against Indigenous People
33% of people from the Indigenous population in Canada have experienced discrimination. Again, later surveys indicate a rise in discrimination, with 53% of Indigenous people reporting unfair or discriminating treatment against them. The First Nations people are the most likely to face discrimination, with 44%, followed by 29% of the Inuit population and 24% of Métis.
Indigenous men and women are almost equally likely to face discrimination at 32% and 33%, respectively. 70% of gay, lesbian, or bisexual Indigenous people have experienced discrimination, which is more than twice the percentage of heterosexual Indigenous people at 30%.
46% of Indigenous people who have a physical or mental disability have experienced discrimination. 21% of Indigenous people reported they had experienced discrimination when dealing with the police in Canada.
Common reasons behind unfair treatment or discrimination against Indigenous people include culture or ethnicity at 15%, skin colour or race at 14%, physical appearance also at 14%, mental or physical disability at 7%, and religion at 5%.
Other Visible Minority Groups
Discrimination among visible minority groups is highest among Southeast Asians at 39%, followed by Arabs at 32%, Latin Americans at 30%, and Chinese at 29%. While the most common reasons for discrimination against people from visible minority groups are race or skin colour at 19% and ethnicity or culture at 17%, 72% of people from these groups say the discrimination was based on multiple grounds.
Women from visible minority groups are more likely to have been discriminated against than men at 30% compared to 25% of men. 35% of Canadian-born people who belong to other visible minority groups say they have experienced discrimination compared to 24% of those who had immigrated to Canada. However, 12% had experienced discrimination when crossing the border into Canada.
Findings on Anti-Black Racism in Canada
Outside the findings from the General Social Survey, data from BCG indicates that black people in Canada face racism in several areas of Canadian society. For example, black students in high schools in Toronto are up to four times as likely to be expelled than white students, and the drop-out rate for black students is 23% compared to 12% among white students.
In the workplace, black people are four times as likely as their white colleagues and twice as likely as their Asian colleagues to experience racial discrimination. In the healthcare sector, inequalities exist, too. For example, black women are three times less likely than non-racialized women to have a family doctor.
Disparities in Earnings
It is evident from the data on Canadians’ earnings that not all Canadians are paid equally. Racialized Canadians earn less compared to white people. For every dollar earned by non-racialised Canadians, racialised Canadians earn, on average, 81 cents.
Racism at Work
Not only are racialised Canadians not earning the same as their non-racialised counterparts, but they are also less likely to be offered an interview in the first place. 40% of employers in Canada admit they are more likely to ask an applicant with an English-sounding name to attend an interview when the applicants have identical skills, education, and experience. In Quebec, the same percentage of employers are more likely to offer interviews to applicants with a French-sounding name.
In October 2020, the unemployment rate for black Canadians was 11.7%, which was 5% higher than for Canadians who did not belong to a visible minority. Survey data on job satisfaction in Canada shows that black people are 50% more likely than their white colleagues to consider leaving their job, often due to microaggressions towards them at the workplace.
Treatment by Police
Police in Canada are more likely to stop black males than any other Canadians and ask for identification. In Toronto, the likelihood of a black male being stopped is three times more likely than for other groups. As a result, only a quarter of Toronto’s black population trusts that they will be treated fairly by the police.
Black people only represent 9% of Toronto’s population, yet they represent 36% of cases where police used pepper spray, 46% of police using a taser, 57% of cases involving police dogs, and most worryingly, 70% of civilian deaths in shootings by the police.
The number of Indigenous people in prisons in Canada is disproportionally high. According to Statistics Canada, Indigenous people comprise only 4.1% of the population in Canada. However, they represented 27% of the population in federal prisons in 2017.
Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Treatment of Some Visible Minorities
Following the COVID-10 pandemic, there was an increased anti-Asian sentiment in Canada. This led to an increased number of people from Chinese and other Asian backgrounds reporting racially-motivated negative behaviour towards them. This is mirrored in the beliefs of Canadians, with 59% of Canadians recognising that the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in discrimination against Chinese people. However, fewer Canadians believed it had led to rising discrimination against South Asians at 38% or Southeast Asians at 26%.
Hate Crimes and Racism
Race still plays a role in hate crimes in Canada, with 54% of all reported hate crimes being motivated by hatred of ethnicity or race. Other common reasons behind hate crimes include language at 32%, sex at 24%, disability at 23%, and religion at 19%.
In 2017, 16% of hate crimes were against black people, while 17% targeted Muslims and 18% the Jewish population in Canada.
What do Canadians Think About Racism in Canada?
Findings by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation show that Canadians were less likely to believe race relations were good in Canada and their community in 2021 than they were in 2019. The drop has been most significant among black people, where it fell by 23% to 49%. Among Indigenous people, only 51% said race relations were generally good in Canada.
The majority of Canadians know that discrimination based on race happens in Canada. 77% of Canadians believe that Indigenous people face discrimination. 73% believe there is discrimination against blacks and 75% against South Asians. Only 5% of Canadians believe racialised Canadians are never discriminated against in Canada. According to an Ipsos poll from 2020, 60% of Canadians see racism as a serious issue in the country.
Not All Canadians Have a Firm Stance Against Racism
According to the Ipsos poll, 7% of Canadians disagree with the statement that racism is a terrible thing, while 10% disagree with a statement about welcoming people from other races without reservation to move in next door. Almost a fifth of Canadians, 17% of the population, cannot say with confidence that they are not racist, and 54% agree with the statement that everyone is a little racist.
However, there is optimism about race relations and equality among Canadians. 14% of Canadians are very optimistic, and 46% are somewhat optimistic about people from all races being treated equally in Canada within their lifetime. 26% feel pessimistic. Youngest Canadians are the most likely to feel optimistic about racial equality.
While Canada is often seen by Canadians and other countries as a model of an inclusive society, there is still much room for improvement before there is true equity between all races. The majority of Canadians feel the relationships between different races within their community are good overall. However, 60% feel that racism is a serious problem in Canada.
While people from all minority backgrounds have experienced discrimination, it is more prevalent in certain groups, including black and Indigenous people. People from non-visible minority groups are less likely to face discrimination than people from visible minorities.
Frequently Asked Questions
The most likely groups in Canada to face racism are black people and Indigenous people. Canadians from non-visible minority groups are the least likely to face discrimination or unfair treatment based on their race.
60% of Canadians believe racism is a serious problem in Canada. However, many Canadians feel hopeful about more equal relationships and treatment between the races in Canada in the future.
Racism is present in all areas of society in Canada, including education, healthcare, employment, and treatment by the police. It is also present in some Canadians’ attitudes, with 17% of Canadians unable to say they are not at all racist and 54% agreeing with the statement that everyone is a little racist.