Most Canadians view multiculturalism as a demographic reality that acknowledges the ethnic diversity of the Canadian population. However, while the recognition and acceptance of mixed and multiple identities has increased in recent years, differential treatment and opportunity gaps can still be problematic in a diverse society.
Perceived as a model of inclusion, discrimination of racialized people remains frequent in CanadaThe Employment Equity Act defines visible minorities as "persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in color". In 2020, more than 38 percent of women and nearly 32 percent of men from visible minorities reported having experienced discrimination based on their race, color, ethnicity, or culture in Canada. The people most likely to face such situations were women, younger people, people of Chinese and Filipino origin, and Black people. The most common context for discrimination was in a public space: more than half of people from visible minorities had experienced discrimination in places such as stores, banks, or restaurants. They were also likely to be discriminated against at work or when applying for a job, as well as when dealing with the police.
Furthermore, according to the 2016 census, although visible minorities account for 22.3 percent of the Canadian population, they represented over 48 percent of the adult population in federal correctional services in the fiscal year of 2019.
Racism and diversity, divergent perspectives in public opinionCanadians' opinions on racism and inclusion tend to vary quite a bit depending on gender, generation, and political views. Thus, while the majority of the Canadian population (86 percent) believed in 2021 that the fact that the population includes many people of different racial backgrounds makes the country better, 18 percent of men and 12 percent of women believed the opposite. Consensus was also lower among Conservative Party and Bloc Québécois voters. In addition, 17 percent of people who voted for the Conservative Party in the 2019 federal election believed that some races are naturally superior to others, as did one in five of Canadians who voted for parties other than the main ones. Meanwhile, the opinion that Canada is a racist country was shared by more than one-third of the population, and by nearly half of people aged 18 to 24.
Multi-factorial discriminationWhile racism and discrimination are a painful reality for people from groups marginalized by their ethnic origins, race is far from the only basis for discrimination in Canada. Canadian human rights law recognizes several grounds for discrimination, including religion, age, family status, disability, and sexual orientation or gender identity. While differential treatment of people based on these criteria is sanctioned by law, discrimination on these grounds is still present in Canadian society. Thus, many people with disabilities face barriers of accessibility, transportation, or communication, and are far more likely than others to have low incomes or to struggle to get by. Regarding gender based discrimination, women continue to earn less than men on average, and are more numerous among low income earners. They are also more likely than their male counterparts to work in care and social occupations, and make up only a small proportion of students in mathematics and engineering. In addition, in 2020, a substantial proportion of women reported experiencing sexual harassment at work in the past year.
Discrimination, stereotypes and prejudices are interconnectedStereotypes contribute to the understanding of discriminatory behaviors, which in a way help to maintain the existence of stereotypes and prejudices. Although these seem to be less prevalent in Canadian society than in the rest of the world, they are nonetheless present. In 2021, nearly three out of five Canadians felt that it was more difficult for a woman to have a successful career because she would have to sacrifice part of her family life, and 41 percent thought that being a good mother was only possible by giving up part of her professional life. In addition, in 2017, more than one in ten Canadians still believed that women were inferior to men.
Moreover, while acceptance of LGBTQIA+ people has increased in Canada in recent years, there is still progress to be made: in 2021, 15 percent of the population said they were opposed to same-sex marriage, and 13 percent of Canadians were against adoption for same-sex couples, believing that they were not capable of raising children. Furthermore, three in ten people in Canada believed that Canadian society should work to promote the traditional family model in which a woman is married to a man, rather than greater acceptance of non-heterosexual people.