Many Canadian children report ethnic, racial bullying at schools, study finds

Many children in Canada say they’ve witnessed others being insulted, bullied, or excluded based on the colour of their skin, a new survey has found.

The poll, conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the University of British Columbia, shows 58 per cent of children asked have reported such an incident, with 14 per cent saying they’ve been subjected to these kinds of behaviours based on their race or ethnicity.

According to researchers, visible minority children were three times as likely as white children to face personal abuse, while Indigenous children were twice as likely.

Many of the kids who said they were targeted have noted the abuse was something they “carry with them after it happens,” the pollster says, adding more than half reported moving past the bullying.

Despite all this, most children said they have an outlet to talk about these issues. Nearly ninety per cent of respondents say they talk to their parents or family about racial bullying and discrimination.

“There may, however, be more for teachers and school staff to do,” the Angus Reid Institute says. “Three-in-ten victims of bullying or abuse say that staff in their school were either unaware of it or just ignored it.”

Missing pieces of history

The study also found there appears to be a bit of a gap in teaching children about racism and discrimination in Canada throughout the country’s history.

Nearly 21 per cent of students polled said they hadn’t learned anything about Canada’s history with racism, while 26 per cent of respondents said they didn’t.

One third of children said they never learned about slavery in Canada, while half said they didn’t learn about the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II, the study found. Meanwhile, 61 per cent said they never learned about the head tax on Chinese immigrants to Canada, while 80 per cent of kids surveyed said the Komagata Maru tragedy was missing from their curriculums.

The study notes children in more diverse schools are “significantly more likely” than those whose student bodies are made up of children from mostly the same background to say they’ve learned about these issues, as well as Indigenous treaties, residential schools, and multiculturalism.

“The findings on how many kids experience racial bullying and harassment is disturbing, but what it is more shocking is what our children are not learning in school,” said Dr. Henry Yu, associate professor in the UBC department of history and National Forum planning committee member.

(Angus Reid Institute)

More than 870 children between the ages of 12 and 17 took part in the study. This is the third in a series conducted by the Angus Reid Institute and UBC.

The findings come after a National Forum on Anti-Asian Racism was held by UBC in June, the findings of which researchers hope will help push communities and government stakeholders to address racism in Canada.

Yu says the results of this latest survey bear many similarities to the findings from the June forum.

“That we have a national problem with ignoring or denying racism,” added Yu. “If more than half of our children have never learned even the basics of Canada’s long history of racism, we will never solve this ongoing problem.”

“No child should ever experience bullying and exclusion because of their race or ethnicity, but sadly, this study finds that racism is a daily reality for many Canadian children,” said UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa J. Ono. “I am hopeful that this study, along with our report from UBC’s inaugural National Forum on Anti-Asian racism, will spur urgently needed national conversations in the fight against racism in Canada.”

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