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Majority of Canadian students have witnessed racial bullying: Survey

October 23, 2021

By Vancouver Sun |

Racial bullying is a reality in Canadian schools, with a majority reporting they have witnessed or experienced such incidents in their schools, according to a new national survey.

The survey, conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the University of British Columbia, asked people ages 12 to 17 across Canada about their experience with racism and diversity in schools.

About 58 per cent said they’ve seen kids bullied, insulted or excluded because of their race or ethnicity, while 14 per cent said they’ve experienced it first-hand.

Youth who identify as a visible minority are three times as likely to say they’ve faced personal abuse because of their race, while Indigenous youth are twice as likely to suffer the same experiences, said the report .

Those findings were discouraging and disheartening, said Henry Yu, an associate history professor at UBC.

Yu notes that in the last year, when there was a rise in COVID-fuelled anti-Asian sentiments in B.C., political leaders often denounced racist incidents by saying “that’s not who Canada is.”

“I’d prefer they’d have said, ‘This is not who we want to be,’ because this is who we are,” said Yu. “What the survey finds is that for the majority of students this is normal, day-to-day life in our high schools, and that does not bode well for our future.”

The vast majority, or 92 per cent, who have personally experienced racism in schools said the experience bothered them. Nearly half said they “got over it,” while another 28 per cent say the experience stayed with them — something Yu believes is an undercount in the long-term: “Many people who suffer trauma say they’ll get over it, but often it will come back to haunt them.”

The survey found most young people say they can talk about the issue of racism with their parents. In fact, for one-third of respondents, it is a regular family topic of conversation.

However, a significant minority report they don’t get help about racial bullying from school authorities. About 32 per cent say their teachers and principals ignore racist behaviour or are not even aware of the issue.

The survey also looked into the level of awareness of issues of racism in Canadian history.

Children in more diverse schools are more likely to say they learned about racism in Canada’s history as opposed to kids in homogeneous schools, it found.

And experiences of learning about racism appear to vary widely. About a quarter of kids age 12 to 17 said they learned a lot about racism in Canada throughout history in school, while a similar number, about 20 per cent, said they haven’t learned anything about it.

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