Montreal — A new study shows non-Indigenous Canadians have recently become more supportive of Indigenous rights and more concerned at the slow pace of progress being made toward reconciliation. A growing proportion also recognize that they as individuals have a role to play in efforts to bring about reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
The study was conducted by the Environics Institute, in partnership with the Institute for Research on Public Policy, the Canada West Foundation, the Centre D’Analyse Politique Constitution Fédéralisme, and the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government. Based on a survey of 5,814 adults from across Canada, including 775 who self-identified as Indigenous, it makes comparisons with the results of the 2020 and 2019 Confederation of Tomorrow surveys on the same topic. The 2021 survey was carried out earlier this year, before the discovery on May 15 in Kamloops, British Columbia, of the unmarked graves of 215 First Nations children.
The survey polled respondents on their attachment to their nations and communities, their thoughts on leadership and representation, current relations between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous Canadians, and progress toward reconciliation. Among the findings are marked differences but also certain convergences in the opinions of Indigenous people and non-Indigenous Canadians.
When asked how they would describe the current state of relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada, in 2021 47 percent of Indigenous people said these relations were positive, down from 53 percent in 2020. Among non-Indigenous Canadians, in 2021 48 percent said relations were positive, which is up from 44 percent in 2020.
On the question of reconciliation, 60 percent of Indigenous people said governments had not gone far enough, while 42 percent of non-Indigenous Canadians said that more should be done. Still, over half of all respondents were optimistic that meaningful progress towards reconciliation would be made in the next decade. And 70 percent of all respondents said that they as individuals have a role to play in advancing reconciliation — up from 55 percent in 2020.
Additionally, the survey results show that the majority of Indigenous people feel strongly attached to Canada; at the same time, they are much more likely to say they have a lot or some confidence in the leaders of Indigenous organizations (66%) than in governments (42%) or political leaders (32%). Also of note is the finding that most non-Indigenous Canadians support the principle that resource development in Indigenous lands requires Indigenous peoples’ consent.
Charles Breton, executive director of the IRPP’s Centre of Excellence on the Canadian Federation, helped oversee the study. For him, these results are a call to action.
“The positive signs we see in our research do not mean we can sit back and wait for meaningful reconciliation to unfold on its own. A majority of Canadians think that they or their governments should be doing more to advance reconciliation. Much of that work remains to be done,” says Breton.
Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation – A report from the Confederation of Tomorrow 2021 Survey of Canadians can be downloaded from the website of the Centre of Excellence on the Canadian Federation (centre.irpp.org).
The Centre of Excellence on the Canadian Federation is a permanent research body within the Institute for Research on Public Policy. Its mission is to build a deeper understanding of Canada as a federal community. To receive updates from the IRPP, please subscribe to our e‑mail list.
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