Most non-Euro­pean res­i­dents have faced dis­crim­i­na­tion: poll

The Prince George Citizen - - Opinion -

While im­mi­gra­tion is not cur­rently one of the three most im­por­tant is­sues fac­ing Canada for most would-be vot­ers in this year’s fed­eral elec­tion, it has been a prac­ti­cally in­escapable topic over the past few weeks.

In B.C., we were ex­posed to a video where a woman ut­tered racial slurs at a driver in a Rich­mond shop­ping cen­tre park­ing lot. A na­tional con­tro­versy en­sued after bill­boards favour­ing the Peo­ple’s Party of Canada’s re­jec­tion of “mass im­mi­gra­tion” ap­peared in some ar­eas. There was also a so­cial me­dia out­cry over con­victed crim­i­nal Jon Ven­ables re­lo­cat­ing to Canada from the United King­dom – an al­le­ga­tion care­lessly pushed by peo­ple be­stowed with an im­mac­u­late ig­no­rance of Canada’s im­mi­gra­tion pro­ce­dures.

In spite of this re­cent grotesque­ness, there have also been de­vel­op­ments of a dif­fer­ent kind. Kasari Goven­der be­came the new provin­cial hu­man rights com­mis­sioner, over­see­ing an of­fice with the aim of ex­am­in­ing and ad­dress­ing sys­temic dis­crim­i­na­tion in Bri­tish Columbia. MLA Ravi Kahlon fin­ished a cross-prov­ince tour, dur­ing which he sought to quan­tify re­ported and un­re­ported in­stances of racism and hate – a task that be­gan dur­ing his ten­ure as par­lia­men­tary sec­re­tary for sport and mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism.

Most Bri­tish Columbians find out about in­ci­dents of racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion through me­dia re­ports, which are, as ev­i­denced by the case of the Rich­mond park­ing lot slurs, eas­ier to as­sess when footage is avail­able. With this in mind, Re­search Co. wanted to find out just how preva­lent dis­crim­i­na­tion on the ba­sis of eth­nic­ity is in Bri­tish Columbia, as well as to re­view how of­ten race is cited in an at­tempt to di­min­ish oth­ers.

The sur­vey cap­tured the sen­ti­ments of adult Bri­tish Columbians who de­scribed their eth­nic­ity as non-Euro­pean. The sam­ple al­lowed for di­rect com­par­isons among four spe­cific groups as de­fined by Statis­tics Canada: North Amer­i­can Abo­rig­i­nal, East Asian, South Asian and South­east Asian.

Only 22 per cent of re­spon­dents to this sur­vey said they have never ex­pe­ri­enced dis­crim­i­na­tion on ac­count of their eth­nic­ity in Bri­tish Columbia. One third (33 per cent) re­ported en­dur­ing “a significan­t amount” (11 per cent) or “a mod­er­ate amount” (22 per cent) of eth­nic-based dis­crim­i­na­tion, and a sim­i­lar proportion (36 per cent) de­scribed it as “a small amount.”

While re­spon­dents aged 55 and over are more likely to say that they have not ex­pe­ri­enced dis­crim­i­na­tion (36 per cent), the proportion is lower among those aged 18 to 34 (19 per cent) and those aged 35 to 54 (18 per cent).

How­ever, when re­spon­dents

were presented with 11 dif­fer­ent per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences, 62 per cent were able to say: “Yes, that has happened to me.”

The most com­mon forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion that non-Euro­pean Bri­tish Columbians ex­pe­ri­enced are poor cus­tomer ser­vice (24 per cent), ver­bal ha­rass­ment (23 per cent) and be­ing the sub­ject of racist jokes (17 per cent). In ad­di­tion, 16 per cent were mocked or ridiculed be­cause of their eth­nic­ity, ex­pe­ri­enced un­fair treatment in the work­place or lost a po­ten­tial em­ploy­ment opportunit­y.

The preva­lence of th­ese in­her­ently neg­a­tive per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences was de­cid­edly higher among re­spon­dents aged 18 to 34 (73 per cent) and aged 35 to 54 (66 per cent) than among those aged 55 and over (35 per cent).

Ver­bal ha­rass­ment was a significan­t is­sue among North Amer­i­can Abo­rig­i­nals (46 per cent) and South Asians (32 per cent). Poor cus­tomer ser­vice was a big­ger mat­ter for East Asians (30 per cent).

In any case, the most men­ac­ing forms of racism are not en­coun­tered dur­ing a scuf­fle over a park­ing spot or on a bill­board. My per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence may be lim­ited to two of the 11 in­ci­dents in­cluded in the sur­vey, but they both left an in­deli­ble im­pres­sion.

A con­trac­tor who was di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for se­ri­ous dam­ages to my home claimed that, be­cause I was not “from here,” I did not un­der­stand the com­plex­i­ties of a “work­site” in Canada. My di­rect su­per­vi­sor told me that my nascent ca­reer as a poll­ster would be lim­ited to a “be­hind-the-scenes role” be­cause Cana­di­ans did not want to hear statis­tics from some­one with my ac­cent. Look­ing back, the in­tel­lec­tual lim­i­ta­tions of th­ese two in­di­vid­u­als are mas­sively ev­i­dent, but their words – de­liv­ered to push me aside and ad­vance their in­ter­ests – still stung.

We need to look at dis­crim­i­na­tion in a holis­tic man­ner. State­ments ut­tered “in the heat of the mo­ment” – like the one in the Rich­mond park­ing lot – should not be tol­er­ated. A bill­board that ar­gues against an nonex­is­tent pol­icy is false ad­ver­tis­ing and should have never been ap­proved.

Still, as a so­ci­ety, we need to be ob­ser­vant of a significan­tly graver form of dis­crim­i­na­tion that tran­spires when peo­ple in a po­si­tion of in­flu­ence or power grav­i­tate to eth­nic­ity in the ab­sence of a co­her­ent, ra­tional ar­gu­ment. Most of th­ese in­stances of big­otry are not caught on video or dis­played promi­nently as a tac­tic to scare vot­ers into sub­mis­sion. But, as the sur­vey has out­lined, they do ex­ist.

BY THE NUM­BERS MARIO CANSECO

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