A year-long look at views on life in Winnipeg suggests many in the city are happy with their station in life, but class divisions, income inequality and a general lack of knowledge about reconciliation underscore the need for more community-level supports for Indigenous Peoples.

The Vital Signs 2017 report, a Winnipeg Foundation project released Thursday, includes broad observations on quality of life, mental health and financial well-being, identity and belonging, discrimination and differing views on aspects of community life.

"Bridging the divides in our city is going to be an ongoing priority," said Rick Frost, CEO of the Winnipeg Foundation, a charitable organization that creates and manages community grant programs in the city.

Thousands weighed in through an online survey, an NRG Research Group poll and questionnaires given out at community events. The results of those surveys were pooled and analyzed with help from data specialists at the University of Winnipeg's Institute for Urban Studies.

"On the whole the conclusion you have to reach is that people feel the quality of life in our city is very good," Frost said. "There's a lot of good things to be said about living in Winnipeg, and a lot of people feel proud of our city. There's a lot of good feelings about the cultural diversity of our city."

That said, one in four respondents reported experiencing some form of discrimination — racial, religious or otherwise — in Winnipeg, Frost said.

"We need to ensure that everybody belongs and feels a sense of belonging in our community. Certainly that comes out in a sense of discrimination," he said. "The question is, how do we respond to that as a community foundation?"

More public input on grants

Frost said the Winnipeg Foundation has historically approached the awarding of grants primarily through in-house, staff and board-driven decisions. But in the interest of transparency as the organization has grown in size over the years, Frost says the board decided to open up and allow for more public input over the past year as part of the Vital Signs project.

"This gives us the opportunity to allow people to influence sort of the conclusions that we are reaching and will be apparent in our next plan."

Frost said it's still too soon to say exactly how the findings will inform the Winnipeg Foundation's approach to providing grants in the future.

But, he says, it's possible the Vital Signs findings could lead the foundation toward funding more projects aimed at servicing Indigenous communities, and Indigenous-led groups committed to reconciliation efforts.

"We're going to have lots of conversations with people and it wil help us interpret the value of the report ourselves, because it is packed with information," said Frost. 

Donors and members of the public met at a reception Thursday at the Manitoba Museum to discuss the report.

With files from Bryce Hoye