News / Vancouver

Racism poll doesn’t reveal full picture of discrimination in Canada: Advocate

Anti-racism activist says Canadians need to open their eyes to subtle but widespread racism that hurts visible minorities

A Vancouverite celebrates Canada Day on Tuesday July 1, 2014.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

A Vancouverite celebrates Canada Day on Tuesday July 1, 2014.

A new poll says one in three people who identify as a minority have been the target of abuse due to their ethnicity, but one activist says the effects of racism run deeper than that.

The survey, conducted by Vancity Credit Union found that more than half of minorities feel people make assumptions about them because of their ethnic background. Almost one in three reported feeling discriminated against because of their name, and almost half said they believe their ethnicity has resulted in a social disadvantage.

But anti-racism advocate Daniel Tseghay says this kind of discrimination is more rampant than what the poll suggests.

“I think the numbers underestimate how bad things are,” he said.

Many who experience direct racism are hesitant or don’t feel safe reporting those experiences, he pointed out.

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Meanwhile, the Vancity poll showed that an overwhelming majority of respondents believe multiculturalism has been good for Canada and want immigration levels to either increase or remain the same.

But Tseghay says the Canadian image of multiculturalism is not as rosy or clear as some people make it out to be.

“The reality is I go to a coffee shop or a Tim Hortons and there’s a temporary foreign worker who’s being paid poorly or has a precarious work situation,” he said, pointing out that those workers have fewer rights than those born in Canada.

Tseghay, whose family arrived in Canada from Eritrea when he was three, says he has seen that kind of unconscious racism his whole life.

“I would say Canada’s done a really effective job of keeping its racism hidden and subtle, and so structural that we don’t even notice that it’s happening.”

Correction (March 6): An earlier version of the story misidentified the country Tseghay's family emigrated from, which was Eritrea.

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