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Most Canadian kids experience racialized bullying at school: study

Fifty-eight percent of youth aged 12-18 say they’ve witnessed race-based bullying
UBC study finds 57 per cent of kids have witnessed race-based bullying in schools. (File photo)

Half of all Canadian kids witness ethnic or racial bullying in schools, a new study from UBC and the Angus Reid Institute found.

Fifty-eight percent of youth aged 12 to 17 say they’ve witnessed kids being insulted, bullied or excluded based on their race or ethnicity in schools and 14 per cent say they’ve experienced it themselves. Visible minority children were three times as likely and Indigenous children were twice as likely to experience that kind of bullying compared to white children.

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And that bullying has an impact, 43 per cent of respondents said the bullying stays with them after it happens. Fifty-seven per cent of respondents say the bullying bothers them, but they can shake it off.

In most cases, students say that their teachers will try to discourage bullying and talk to children about why the behaviour is wrong. But 23 per cent of respondents said their teachers will ignore the behaviour or are unaware of it.

Children who attend more diverse schools are significantly more likely to say they’ve learned about racism in schools, but the report found a lack of education about racism in Canada’s history, Indigenous treaties, residential schools and multiculturalism in schools that are less diverse.

Only 26 per cent of respondents said they learned “a lot” about racism in Canada throughout history at school compared to 21 per cent who said they haven’t learned anything at all. One-third of kids said they never learned anything about slavery in Canada, half said they didn’t learn about the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II, three-in-five say they didn’t learn about the head tax on Chinese immigrants and four-in-five say they didn’t learn about the Komagata Maru incident.

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“While it is encouraging that most students reported learning at least something about Indigenous treaties, land claims, and residential schools, the majority did not learn about specific examples of anti-Asian racism,” Lindsay Gibson, assistant professor in the UBC department of curriculum and pedagogy said.

“Providing students with a more comprehensive understanding of the history of racism in Canada demands more than adding a few racist events and topics to the curriculum. It must also include professional learning support for practicing teachers, the development of high-quality learning resources for all grades, and increased anti-racist education in teacher education programs.”

The study is the third in a series conducted by UBC and Angus Reid. The studies came out of a two-day national forum held at UBC in June that delved into the issue of anti-Asian racism. The first study looked at how racism impacts Asian Canadians specifically, the second looked at diversity and racism in Canada more broadly.

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The online survey was conducted by the Angus Reid Institute from Aug. 24-27 among a representative randomized sample of 872 Canadians aged 12 to 17, whose parents are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


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