Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Majority of Aboriginals lack confidence in the justice system and feel it treats Aboriginals unfairly
Almost half of Canadian aboriginal peoples are city dwellers, and a new study released to CBC by the Environics Institute suggests many have no plans to return to their home reserve.
The national Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study of 2,614 self-identified aboriginal people found that while many native Canadians maintain ties with their home communities, only three in 10 first-generation urban aboriginal peoples have moved back to their home community since moving to the city.
"Notwithstanding the sense of connection majorities of urban aboriginal peoples have to their communities of origin, the large majority of urban aboriginal peoples feel their current city of residence is home," the study said. "When asked 'where is home for you?' seven in 10 (71 per cent) UAPS participants say it is their current city of residence."
Native Canadians in 11 urban centres across the country participated in the study, which included person-to-person interviews conducted from March to October 2009. The Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study set out to examine the attitudes of native Canadians who call the city home. Non-aboriginal people were also interviewed in a separate poll.
Half of the country's 1,172,790 aboriginal Canadians lived in urban centres, according to the 2006 census. Nine in 10 of those interviewed in the study said they liked living in their city at least somewhat.
"Within [Canada's] cities, urban aboriginal peoples are seeking to become a significant and visible part of the urban landscape," the study said. "They like living in their cities and majorities feel they can make a positive difference in their urban homes. Notably, they are as likely as non-aboriginal people to feel this way."
Eighty-two per cent of participants said they were "very proud" of their specific aboriginal identity, that is, First Nations, Métis or Inuk. Slightly fewer — 70 per cent — said the same about being Canadian.
And most are confident that they can retain cultural ties in an urban setting. Six in 10 were completely or somewhat unworried about losing contact with their culture, while a minority were totally (17 per cent) or somewhat (21 per cent) concerned.
Participants in the study did note, however, that while they have a strong sense of pride in their culture and their country, a majority continue to experience negative stereotypes.
"If there is a single urban aboriginal experience, it is the shared perception among First Nations peoples, Métis and Inuit, across cities, that they are stereotyped negatively," the report said. "Indeed, most report that they have personally experienced negative behaviour or unfair treatment because of who they are."
Almost nine in 10 of those native Canadians interviewed said they believe others behave unfairly or negatively toward aboriginal people. Seventy per cent said they had been teased or insulted because of their background.
Many of the aboriginal respondents also believe other Canadians hold negative stereotypes against them. Almost three in four perceive assumptions about addiction problems in the aboriginal community, while many felt negative stereotypes about laziness (30 per cent), lack of intelligence (20 per cent) and poverty (20 per cent).
One participant in the study said the stereotypes tend to be twofold — aboriginal peoples as both romantic ideals and troublemakers.
"There's that impression of [the] noble savage, there's like the exotic romantic view, and generally we're viewed as problematic," one participant said. "You know, blocking bridges, protesting and always looking for a free lunch."
In contrast, the survey of non-aboriginal city dwellers found generally good impressions of native Canadians. Researchers labelled 45 per cent of urban non-native Canadians as "cultural romantics" who believe in the artistic and cultural contributions of aboriginal people to Canadian society. As well, these survey respondents are optimistic that the lives of aboriginal people will improve in the next generation.
However, the survey found 24 per cent could be described as "dismissive naysayers" who tend to hold more negative impressions.
Participants in the study were also asked about their goals, which closely mirrored those of many Canadians. For example, respondents said their top aspirations are to complete their education (28 per cent), start or raise a family (24 per cent) and have a satisfying career (22 per cent).
Many participants also saw education as a top priority for themselves and future generations, but reported financial cost as a major obstacle to post-secondary studies.
Schooling is also a top hope for future generations. When asked how they would like their children's and grandchildren's lives to be different from their own, one in five mentioned education. Slightly fewer hoped for a solid cultural connection (18 per cent) and a life without racism (17 per cent).
The Environics Institute
The study suggests, however, that many aboriginal people are clearly concerned about how to pay for that future. Money was cited as the No. 1 barrier to getting a post-secondary education among 36 per cent of those planning to attend — and 45 per cent of those already enrolled in — a university or college.
One out of every two urban native Canadians interviewed say they have had serious involvement with the Canadian justice system in the past decade: 52 per cent have been a crime witness or a victim, or have been arrested or charged.
Of these people, nearly four in 10 believe they have been treated unfairly by the system, while 57 per cent believed they received a fair shake.
The participants also tended to lack faith in the justice system. More than half of aboriginal respondents have little (33 per cent) to no (22 per cent) confidence, while six per cent have a great deal.
A majority of respondents — 56 per cent — supported the idea of creating an aboriginal-only justice system separate from mainstream Canadian courts.