Two thirds of Canadians proud of country’s history despite injustices against Indigenous people: poll

Community members place solar lights next to flags which mark the spots where remains were discovered by ground penetrating radar at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School on the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan, June 26, 2021. PHOTO BY GEOFF ROBINS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES/FILE

Asked who they believe is responsible for historic injustices against Indigenous people in Canada, a majority of respondents (53%) blamed the Canadian government

Despite recognizing historic injustices against Indigenous people, two out of three Canadians are still proud of their country’s history, a new poll found.

An Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) and Leger poll, which surveyed 1,547 Canadians through a web panel from Dec. 3 to 5, found that of all respondents, 65 per cent are very or somewhat proud of Canada’s history. Meanwhile, 29 per cent said they were not very proud or not proud at all.

While the majority of Canadians are proud of their country’s history, there is a noticeable gap between younger and older Canadians. Fifty-two per cent of respondents 18 to 34 years old said they were very or somewhat proud, compared to 72 per cent of those 55 and older. There are also gaps between provinces, with 80 per cent of respondents from Atlantic Canada saying they are proud, compared to 57 per cent of respondents from Quebec.

The poll also asked respondents who they believe is responsible for historic injustices against Indigenous people in Canada. It found that the majority of Canadians (53 per cent) believe the Canadian government is responsible. One in five blame all Canadians except Indigenous people, while 18 per cent blame Canadians with British and French ancestors,. Eight per cent think all Canadians are to blame except for immigrants and their children.

Those 55 years of age and older were the most likely to believe it is the government’s responsibility (58 per cent) compared to 45 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 34. People under 35 were more likely to blame all Canadians except those who come from Indigenous backgrounds (28 per cent) compared to 17 per cent of people over 55.

Respondents in Atlantic provinces (29 per cent) and Quebec (25 per cent) were more likely than other Canadians to believe non-Indigenous people hold responsibility. Those from Manitoba and Saskatchewan (63 per cent) and Ontario (56 per cent) believe the responsibility falls on the government.

Jack Jedwab, president and CEO of ACS, said that different beliefs across the provinces vary based on the different situations experienced by Indigenous people. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where economic, social, and cultural challenges are more acute, the tendency seems to be to blame the government, he said. On the other hand, in the Atlantic provinces and Quebec, Jedwab said there may be a greater tendency to root the issues through a historic lens and assign more responsibility to people.

“It is hard to say: ‘It is not us but the governments/politicians that are responsible’ when in many instances it was the governments elected by the people,” said Jedwab in an email.

The survey also found that immigrants and visible minorities in Canada are somewhat more likely to blame non-Indigenous people rather than the government. Respondents born outside of Canada (26 per cent) were more likely than those born in the country (20 per cent) to put the responsibility on people. Similarly, those born outside of Canada and respondents who are part of minority communities were least likely to blame the government, both with 46 per cent. Those born in Canada and not part of minority communities were more likely with 54 per cent each.

“To some degree, less rootedness may contribute to a diminished sense of historic responsibility,” said Jedwab. “If you’ve arrived here recently it is hard to imagine that you share the historic responsibility for a situation that has for too long been neglected.”

Ultimately, the poll revealed that whoever Canadians choose to blame for injustices has little impact on how much pride they have in Canada. Of respondents that believe people are to blame for injustices, 59.8 per cent are either very or somewhat proud of Canada’s history. Of those who responded that they believe it is the government’s responsibility, 66 per cent said they are proud.

It seems like most Canadian’s distinguish between, or separate, the historic injustices against Indigenous people and their pride in the country, said Jedwab.

“The vast majority of the population think Canada is a very good country and across all communities have a strong sense of attachment to it,” he said.

The results of the poll were weighted according to gender, age, mother tongue, region, education level, and children in the household using data from the 2016 census to ensure a representative sample of the population. A comparable probability sample of this size has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.