Indigenous people see growing racism but are hopeful for next generation, poll suggests

A majority of First Nations and Métis people in Manitoba believe life will be better for the next generation, despite a sense that racism is growing in Canada.

Two-thirds of First Nations, Métis respondents believe life will be better for those under 15

The future looks bright for Indigenous children, say people who took part in a recent poll. (Bert Savard/CBC)

A majority of First Nations and Métis people in Manitoba believe life will be better for the next generation, despite a sense that racism is growing in Canada, a new poll suggests.

The poll asked hundreds of First Nations and Métis people in Manitoba to weigh in on government and police relations, identity, culture and education.

One of the questions in the omnibus survey, conducted by Probe Research in March 2017, asked whether Indigenous people in Manitoba think that life for youth under 15 years old "will be better than that of their parents."

Two-thirds of respondents agreed, with Métis people more likely than First Nations people to believe the next generation will be better off.

"The biggest metric for me is, how healthy are our families going to be?" said Michael Champagne, founding member of the Winnipeg-based advocacy group Aboriginal Youth Opportunities, who believes that bright future is only possible with big changes in Canada.

"If our families are together and learning their languages and sitting in ceremony, then I will have hope."

The poll didn't specify but Champagne said he defines a better future for Indigenous youth as one with families not torn apart by over-representation in the justice system and child welfare agencies, and where there are improved health outcomes and an end to the suicide epidemic facing so many First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities.

'Trained to look away'

First Nations child advocate Cindy Blackstock said there's reason to be optimistic about the future and she credits mandatory education about Indigenous Peoples in the school system for a shift.

"There has been some progress with the Canadian public and in particular with Canadian children, young people," she said. "Their attitudes are much healthier than the generation that Gord Downie said is 'trained to look away."

But while she believes society is changing, Blackstock said the government is still stuck in the times of Duncan Campbell Scott — the Canadian politician who advocated for the assimilation of Indigenous children through residential schools around the turn of the last century.

"I've always believed that there are good people in government, but the machinery of government hasn't evolved," she said. 

First Nations child advocate Cindy Blackstock says there's reason to be optimistic about the future. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
In 2009, Blackstock and the Assembly of First Nations filed a complaint against Ottawa with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, arguing the federal government discriminates against First Nation children on reserves by failing to provide the level of child-welfare services that exist elsewhere.

In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal agreed — but the government has yet to fully comply with orders to fix the problem.

"It's going to take a lot of people, not just being educated about First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, but actually taking action and speaking out and demanding change from the government."

Racism increasing

While there's optimism for the future, more than one-third of respondents — 37 per cent — believe racism against Indigenous people is increasing in Canada.

First Nations are more than twice as likely as Métis people to feel that racism is growing in Canada, the poll suggests.

​Indigenous women and First Nations people who live in the northern part of the province and on-reserve are also more likely to feel that racism is on the rise, the survey suggests.

Michael Champagne sees a brighter future for Indigenous youth — but says it won't come without some hard work. (CBC)
"I understand why so many people think it's more racist now.… I feel there is a certain brand of politician that is becoming increasingly popular and racism is becoming a bit more normalized," Champagne said.

Still, the education system in Manitoba is doing a good job of teaching all young people to be more tolerant and open, he said.

500 surveyed

​Five hundred First Nations and Métis people from both urban and rural areas of Manitoba took part in the Probe Research telephone poll from March 6-29.

A mixed methodology, including primarily random sampling, was used. If only random sampling had been used, the margin of error for a survey of this size would be +/- 4.38 per cent, 19 times out of 20.