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More than a hundred people participating in a roving protest against racism briefly stop traffic and shut down an intersection on Main Street in Vancouver on June 21, 2020.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

A significant proportion of the Canadian population experiences discrimination at least occasionally because of their race or ethnic background and has witnessed other people encounter similar treatment, according to a new survey.

The research, conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research in partnership with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, was released on Wednesday. It found discrimination was most widely experienced by Canadians who are Indigenous or Black “although it is by no means uncommon among those with other racialized identities.”

When asked about their own personal experience with discrimination or unfair treatment because of their race or ethnicity, one in five reported experiencing this regularly (four per cent) or from time to time (17 per cent). Personal experience with such treatment was most widely reported by Canadians who are Black (57 per cent) or First Nations (45 per cent).

“This latest research once again confirms the reality of racism in Canada,” said a report on the research. “A significant proportion of the population experiences discrimination because of their race or ethnic background at least occasionally, if not more often, and has witnessed other people encounter similar treatment.”

The study found three in 10 (30 per cent) reported having personally witnessed discrimination or unfair treatment of other people who are the same race as themselves.

It also said discrimination and mistreatment because of one’s race is a common experience in Canada. It said such treatment was felt to a “notable extent” by those who are South Asian, Chinese, East or Southeast Asian, or Métis and by a significant minority of those who identify as white.

The survey was conducted between May 13 and June 11 with a sample of 3,698 Canadians 18 and older. There is no margin of error for the survey because it was conducted online and, while it was designed to be representative of the general population, it is not considered a strict probability sample.

In 2019, the same organizations conducted research on public attitudes, perceptions and experiences on race relations. This year’s study found there has been a notable change in public perspectives about race in Canada from two years prior that is “undoubtedly the result of high-profile incidents of racial injustice in the U.S. and Canada that have prompted renewed scrutiny of policing, institutional policies and the historical record.”

“Broad public awareness and recognition of racism has expanded over the past two years, especially as it is affecting people who are Black or Indigenous, but also the Chinese community due to anti-Asian sentiments arising from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report said.

“And there is increasing appreciation of the systemic basis of discrimination in terms of racialized Canadians being treated less fairly than white people across a range of settings, such as when dealing with the police.”

The report says Canadians are generally positive about the job being done by local police but Black and First Nations people are much less likely to share this view, especially in terms of how their own community is treated. Opinions were divided on whether one’s local police requires incremental or fundamental change.

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