Canadians generally tolerant toward their neighbours; ‘tribalism’ an issue: poll

Two people working to fight hate in Canada, Akaash Maharaj, CEO of The Mosaic Institute and Aidan Fishman of B'Nai Brith Canada, talk to reporter Tammie Sutherland.

By Spencer Gallichan-Lowe

A new poll is shedding light on a dark problem in Canada: intolerance and bigotry.

Data collected by Pollara Strategic Insights, and provided exclusively to CityNews, showed that 33 per cent of Canadians hold negative, intolerant, prejudiced or hostile views against at least one other segment of the population. This included those of different races, religions, sexual orientations, and gender identities.

And 42 per cent of Canadians said they have been treated unfairly or discriminated against because of their sexual orientation gender identity, religion, or ethnic and cultural background.

However, a little under half of Canadians, or about 44 per cent, refused to say anything negative about their neighbours.

“That’s a very nice number,” said Craig Worden, president of Pollara Strategic Insights. “It’s the right response …almost half of Canadians don’t judge others.”

About 23 per cent of those surveyed had nothing negative to say about other groups but viewed their own group as being superior to others.

“I can call this the ‘Big Fat Greek Wedding’ group,” Worden said. “They don’t feel this [superiority] is a negative thing.”

This form of “tribalism” cuts across society and their data found it was most prominent in non-white groups, which may surprise some, Worden said.

“They don’t say anything negative about any particular group, but they do say their own group is superior towards other groups,” he said.

“This group can sometimes seem harmless on the surface, but they are not benign. These attitudes are a form of prejudice and they can easily express themselves through acts of bigotry,” Worden explained. “We can’t give them a pass.”

Acceptance of transgender persons ‘the new frontier’

While the poll data shows a general acceptance of gay and lesbian Canadians in society, persons who identify as transgender, non-binary or gender non-conforming still face discriminatory attitudes.

“Canadians have come around to same-sex issues,” Worden said, adding that the gay marriage debate is a “dead issue” in Canada.

“[However] intolerance was more likely to be directed at transgender identity,” he said. “It’s a new frontier of acceptance.”

Face-to-face exposure, education, key to changing attitudes

Worden said that while these numbers may be surprising to some, as Canadians tend to view themselves as an accepting society, he said that it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“I don’t think these results say we are not successful …but does speak to the fact that Canadians aren’t perfect, and there’s always improvement needed on this.”

Worden said their findings show that exposure to other groups, whether that be through face-to-face interactions in the community or education, can help combat intolerance.

“By far the most common predictor was exposure to other groups,” he said, adding that old assumptions about income level determining a person’s attitude towards others weren’t the main factor.

Still, Worden said the poll results show Canadians as a generally tolerant bunch.

“It’s quite a nice finding,” he said.

The online poll of 1,013 adults was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights between March 27 and April 1, 2019.  As a guideline, a probability sample of this size carries a margin of error of ± 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

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