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ANALYSIS: Numbers show public supports anti-racism efforts on the streets and in the boardrooms

Richard Lush, a Mi'kmaw man from Lennox Island First Nation, speaks to hundreds during an Indigenous Lives Matter walk in Charlottetown on June 19.
Richard Lush, a Mi'kmaw man from Lennox Island First Nation, speaks to hundreds during an Indigenous Lives Matter walk in Charlottetown on June 19. - Daniel Brown


Across the country, demonstrations and anti-racism rallies have taken place over the last weeks. In our world of research, we believe it’s important to understand public opinion as a key component in any discussion, so we asked over 1,200 residents of Canada whether they supported or opposed those demonstrations. Results are clear–three quarters support these ongoing demonstrations, with a third completely supporting them. This tells us that there is widespread backing for change, and a desire to fight injustice and inequality. Support for these demonstrations is generally consistent across the country.

As you may expect, younger residents are the most likely to strongly support anti-racism demonstrations, but from Gen Z to Boomers, the majority of Canadians offer support, regardless of gender, ethnicity, income, education level or employment status.

Many organizations have been voicing their support too. You’ve likely seen social media and hashtags from companies talking about their support for Black Lives Matter. It’s important for companies to be clear about their values, and we know from our research that Canadians want to hear from organizations about where they stand. We also know that it takes more than words, and there is a desire for tangible demonstrations of support and change. Our research shows that two thirds of Canadians believe there is systemic racism in Canada. This needs to be talked about and action needs to be taken.

What do the numbers tell us?

Interestingly, while a majority of Canadians recognize that systemic racism exists in our country, fewer believe that racism is a serious problem in their own province, and very few believe that racism is a serious issue in their workplace. This could be encouraging, but could also mask the fact that racism and discrimination exist and may not always be recognized. It’s critical to talk frankly about these topics, and perhaps more importantly, to listen and be open to hearing differing opinions with a view to making change happen.

So what can businesses do?

Just over half of working Canadians indicate their employer has a workplace diversity policy in place, but three-in-ten are unsure, and 16% say their workplace does not have one. A good start is in ensuring you have a strong diversity and inclusion policy that reflects your organization’s practices – it has to be authentic. Ensure your staff have access to it, and can contribute to it. Listen and be open to feedback on how your diversity policy is implemented.

Another great way to take action is to think about procurement practices. Buy from black-owned, women-owned, Indigenous-owned or other type of diverse company or social enterprise. Supplier diversity programs are legislated in the United States, and are becoming more common in Canada. These programs help companies make purchases that can make a difference. At Narrative Research, we recently became certified as a ‘WBE’ – Women Business Enterprise, which offers companies an easy way to recognize that they are doing business with an organization offering diversity.

So what’s the narrative?

Now is the time for action–Canadians are clearly calling for change and a move towards anti-racism. Get started by listening, ensuring you have a diversity and inclusion policy, and support businesses you may not have thought of working with before.

Margaret Brigley, CEO, and Margaret Chapman, COO, are business partners at Narrative Research, a national market research company based in Halifax. Their passion is digging into data to uncover insights. Results presented here are from a national online study of 1,231 Canadian residents, conducted on June 10 and 11 in partnership with the Logit Group.

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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