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November 21, 2013

New Trudeau Foundation survey on human rights and dignity

Prior to the 10th annual Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Conference (November 21-23, 2013), the Environics Institute for Survey Research conducted a national survey of Canadians covering the Foundation’s four defining themes, one of which is “human rights and dignity.” How do Canadians view the country’s record on protecting human rights at home and abroad, and to what extent does Canadian society discriminate against minority groups? This survey was sponsored by McGill University.


Canadians give their country a lukewarm rating for its performance in protecting human rights at home and abroad over the past decade, with few expressing strong opinions either way. In comparative terms, the public believes Canada’s record is as good or better than other western democracies, although opinions have slipped marginally since 2010.

Large majorities of Canadians believe there is discrimination in this country against minority groups, including Aboriginal peoples, Muslims, Blacks, gays and lesbians, and new immigrants, although there is considerable difference in perceptions about the extent of such discrimination across groups. Almost half of Canadians now say that discrimination happens often against Aboriginal Peoples, and this view has strengthened since 2004, and especially in Quebec and BC over the past two years. Canadians are most likely to blame government policies for such discrimination, but a significant minority says that Aboriginal peoples are themselves most responsible for their own victimization.

Four in ten Canadians believe that Muslims experience frequent discrimination, essentially unchanged since 2004, a view most widely held in Quebec as well as among well-educated Canadians.  One in three say that new immigrants to Canada are often discriminated against, and apportion this responsibility equally among government policy, public attitudes and new immigrants themselves. Smaller proportions believe that frequent discrimination takes place against gays and lesbians, and against Blacks; in both cases this view has declined modestly since 2011.

The public is more likely to place greater priority on governments investigating terrorist threats even if doing so intrudes on personal privacy, than on protecting citizens’ personal privacy even if this limits the ability to investigate terrorist threats. These opinions roughly mirror those expressed by Americans on a recent US survey.

Read the full report - English

Read the full report - French

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