Diversity and Education: Half of Canadian kids witness ethnic, racial bullying at their school

By: Kw Now Local News - Angus Reid Institute Study
| Published 10/19/2021


Diversity and Education: Half of Canadian kids witness ethnic, racial bullying at their school

'However, the majority of those surveyed are ambivalent towards classmates wearing different clothes, eating different foods.'

CANADA, October 2021 – As Canada grows and changes, becoming more diverse every year, new generations of children are immersed in a reality that can look far different than that of their parents or grandparents.

And while diversity in schools is largely an accepted and comfortable fact of life for Canadian children, a new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the University of British Columbia finds some – in particular those who identify as a visible minority – struggling to fit in more than children who do not identify this way.

Indeed, this conversation with 12- to 17-year-olds in Canadian schools finds that racially motivated bullying and insults are a reality in more ethnically diverse areas of the country.

While half of kids who describe their school as made up of mostly students from similar backgrounds say that these racial issues are something they have seen, this rises to two-thirds among those who say their school is more diverse. Further, visible minority students are three times as likely as white children to say that they have faced personal abuse. Indigenous children are twice as likely to say this.

That said, most Canadian children say that they have an outlet to talk about these issues. Indeed, nine-in-ten say that they talk to their parents or other family members about it. There may, however, be more for teachers and school staff to do. Three-in-ten victims of bullying or abuse say that staff in their school were either unaware of it or just ignored it.

More Key Findings:

  • Children in more diverse schools are significantly more likely to say that they have learned about racism in Canada’s history, Indigenous treaties, residential schools, and multiculturalism, than those who say their student body is made up of kids from mostly the same background.

  • Most Canadians kids are comfortable with their peers wearing different clothes, celebrating different holidays and speaking different languages than they do. Approximately two-thirds say it’s not a big deal, while one-in-ten say they enjoy it.

  • Among those who say that they have been the target of ill treatment, 43 per cent say it is something that they carry with them after it happens. More than half (57%) say it doesn’t bother them, or that they’re able to move past it.

  • Older kids, between the ages of 15 and 17, are more likely than 12- to 14-year-olds to say they talk about racism with their friends – 73 per cent to 56 per cent respectively

Diversity Introduction: Who was surveyed?

The volume of the discussion around racism in Canada has increased in recent years. The conversation took on new importance as anti-Asian discrimination intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic and hate-based attacks grabbed headlines across the country.

This study is the third in a series conducted through a partnership between ARI and UBC. The first report issued in May detailed the impact on Asian Canadians of prejudice during the first year of the pandemic and helped inform a two-day national forum UBC held in June on the impact and causes of anti-Asian racism.

Do Canadians Feel that Canada Is a Racist Country?

The second study in the series looked at diversity and racism in Canada more broadly, including how Canadians feel about the country’s diversity and whether or not they perceive Canada as a racist country.

This follows on a study from 2020 in which ARI partnered with the University of Alberta for a study that found many Chinese Canadians had been the victims of racism during the pandemic.

Diversity and Racism in Canada: Competing views deeply divide country along gender, generational lines

As those earlier studies showed, racism touches many Canadians, and follows them throughout their life. This survey looked to explore Canadian middle- and high-school students’ experiences with racism, and the extent to which they notice or experience racism at their schools. Youth aged 12- to 17-years-old from across Canada were asked a series of questions about their experiences with diversity and racism at their school.

Diversity Varies Significantly By Province

Canada may be a diverse country overall, but diversity varies significantly by province. Atlantic Canada has a much lower visible minority population. Ontario and B.C. are the most racially diverse provinces, while Quebec is the least racially diverse of the most populous provinces in the country.