An estimated 58 per cent of Canadian youth (12–18 years old) declare they have seen kids bullied based on their race or ethnicity at school, according to an August 2021 survey data, in partnership with the University of British Columbia (UBC), from the Angus Reid Institute.
“The reason for the survey was anti-Asian violences in British Columbia and [in] Ontario. We wanted to see if it is also happening in high-schools. It’s surging in high-school. We don’t have any previous data to compare with, but it is obvious that it is rising dramatically by social experiences,” says Henry Yu, an associate professor in UBC’s department of history and a National Forum planning committee member.
Although it is difficult to pinpoint anything definite from the survey, says Yu, he feels bullying is stemming from students’ households.
Looking forward: resolving conflicts from within
The survey also indicates 14 per cent of respondents say they, themselves, have experienced bullying. Visible minority children were three times as likely, and Indigenous children twice as likely, as white children, to attest that they have faced personal abuse.
“The question is not to find out where it comes from, but how to solve it. The solution approach doesn’t differ depending on the response, racism is out there,” says Yu. “We should work on our response to it, instead of working on the reasons.”
Putting forth a couple of solutions to racial bullying on school grounds, Yu proposes teachers first need to be better equipped to deal with racist incidents because if students don’t believe their teacher can solve the issue, they will not be inclined to confide in them.
“Since high school students are the future, this problem will not just go away. It has to be solved by us for a better future, our society has a negative reflection on our children,” says Yu.
A common understanding, he says, should be reached in schools where students can rely on their teachers, and be sure that these problems will get resolved within the school borders.
Yu also suggests diversity among school staff. “Students can’t genuinely believe in racial diversity if they can’t see it from the school executives and teaching associates,” he says.
Yu points out hospitals or retail stores are the only places that reflect any racial diversity.
“[There] you face many different, diverse people,” he says. “But when you think of schools, museums? It is not really considered as diverse. It is usually Caucasian ethnic majority working there. How would this affect our kids’ thinking?”
The Canadian curriculum: how constructive is it?
The survey’s results confirm the summary findings from the June 2021 National Forum on Anti-Asian Racism: Canada has a national problem with ignoring or denying racism.
Questioned about the effectiveness of the current school curriculum in combating bullying, Yu says the answer is no. Schools are simply not teaching enough.
“If you don’t know what happened in the past, then you don’t know how Canada evolved and improved such regulations,” he says.
The survey showed that one-third of the students say they never learned anything about slavery in Canada; half say they weren’t taught about the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War; three-in-five say schools didn’t talk about the head tax on Chinese immigrants; and four-in-five say the Komagata Maru ship was never mentioned in their classrooms.
“It is important that they also learn about “racism” in school,” says Yu. “They should not look at the situation as it never happens these days. They should understand the background of the problem and current possibilities that could cause negative consequences for Canadian society.”
The survey also found children in more diverse schools were notably more likely to say they have learned about racism in Canada’s history, Indigenous treaties, residential schools, and multiculturalism.