Half of Indigenous, Black Calgarians do not feel city is accepting, according to Vital Signs 2020

Since 2007, the Calgary Foundation has annually released a Vital Signs report combining research and a citizen survey on issues tied to quality of life.

Annual survey segmented results to reflect race for first time, Calgary Foundation says

Sixty-one per cent of Calgarians think that Black and Indigenous people experience disproportionate levels of violence by the police and RCMP, according to the 2020 Vital Signs Report. That belief jumps to 72 per cent if you’re Black and/or Indigenous. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Half of Indigenous and Black Calgarians do not feel the city is accepting of people from diverse backgrounds, according to the 2020 Vital Signs report.

The report is released annually by the Calgary Foundation, and combines research with a citizen survey on issues tied to quality of life that include living standards, the environment and nature, and giving back and values.

The results help the foundation, which funds hundreds of charities every year, determine where it directs its resources.

According to its website, new contributions last year totalled $35.4 million. The foundation had an asset base of $1.0 billion and it granted $54.9 million to 996 charitable organizations.

"This is a very important resource for us," said Taylor Barrie, the foundation's vice-president of communications, on the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday.

"But we also feel this is a really important tool for Calgarians, whether personally or professionally, to have some conversations about what role they play in addressing some of these results."

Equity and racial justice

This year, and for the first time since the reports were first published in 2007, it segmented some of the survey results by race, and dedicated a section to equity and racial justice.

"There is one data set we feel is especially relevant to 2020," Calgary Foundation president and CEO Eva Friesen wrote in the report.

"As the data indicates, for Black, Indigenous and people of colour, the experience of our city is often harder. By reflecting on the inequality, discrimination and hardship many of us unfairly experience, we can begin to change."

The results indicated that while 82 per cent of Calgarians believe racism toward Black, Indigenous and people of colour exists, many Black Calgarians — nearly 70 per cent — have felt unsafe or threatened in the city.

Meanwhile, 56 per cent of those surveyed believed that Calgarians are committed to anti-racism, equity and inclusion — but that belief drops to 53 per cent among Indigenous people and 35 per cent for Black Calgarians.

Sixty-one per cent of Calgarians believe that Black and Indigenous people experience higher levels of violence by police and the RCMP, but that figure jumps to 72 per cent among those who are Black and Indigenous themselves.

"If you have felt threatened or unsafe because of differences in skin colour or gender or religion, then you are 20 per cent more civically engaged than people who generally don't feel unsafe," Barrie said.

Living standards

The majority of Calgarians continue to worry about their finances, which is the continuation of a trend for the report.

"That sort of holds true for the last few years — 73 per cent of Calgarians told us they're stressed about money," Barrie said.

"It's harder to find work. In 2019, 50 per cent of us felt we could find suitable employment. And this year, that number dropped to 27 per cent. So concerns around stretching your dollar, father, continues to be true."

Thirty-three per cent of Calgarians sometimes struggle to afford the necessities, including rent, groceries and utilities. Meanwhile, 17 per cent always struggle.

And this year, 67 per cent of Calgarians feel pessimistic about the economy — which is a jump from 42 per cent in 2019.

The weight of the pandemic

Interestingly, and in spite of COVID-19, respondents rated their quality of life higher in 2020 than they did in 2019.

"I would say one thing we were pleased to see is that, generally, quality of life held pretty steady," Barrie said.

"And we conducted the survey in June, sort of in the height of some of the uncertainty and concerns around the pandemic. And still, 75 per cent of Calgarians said their quality of life was good or excellent, and that's actually up from 69 per cent last year."

Seventy-nine per cent of Calgarians also believe the city is a great place to raise kids in 2020, compared with 68 per cent in 2019, and Calgarians reported an increase in happiness with their social networks, sense of belonging and ability to cope with daily stress.

"We learned that, you know, even though we've been socially distant for the last seven months, we're doing all right," Barrie said. "So, some good news navigating the past few months."

The exception, according to the survey, was primarily reflected in Calgarians under 25, who are more likely to be lonely and suffer from poorer mental health.

"You are definitely carrying more of the burden of the stress of the future of the city, I would say," Barrie said.

The full report can be found online.

Its results are based on the survey responses of 1,000 Calgarians. A probability sample of 1,000 results in a margin of error of +/- 3.10 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.