Black Canadians twice as likely to trust the government — but less likely to trust police: survey

Black Canadians are twice as likely to trust the government, according to a new report, while faith in local law enforcement or police among those surveyed was lower compared to the general population.

41 per cent of Black people surveyed said they trusted the government

Though Black Canadians were found to be more trusting of government than the general population, they had less trust in police, a recent survey by Proof Strategies found. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Black Canadians are twice as likely to trust the government, according to a new report, while faith in local law enforcement or police among those surveyed was lower compared to the general population.

Canadian public relations firm Proof Strategies created a specific sample set of Black Canadians for the first time as part of its annual CanTrust Index, gauging not only the community's faith in political and law enforcement institutions but also commercial brands. It also surveyed more than 1,000 other Canadians who weren't Black.

It found Black Canadians expressed more trust in the government than the survey's national average.

For example, it found that 41 per cent of Black people surveyed said they trusted the government, compared to 22 per cent within the general population. The same proportion said they trusted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, compared with 33 per cent surveyed in the general population. The higher approval rating comes despite photos of Trudeau wearing blackface and brownface surfacing in 2019, something he has apologized for because of its racist history.

A senior executive at the public relations firm that commissioned the survey said the data only captures a moment in time, and, even then, results should be considered with caution.

"If you got a test where you got 41 per cent, you didn't pass," said Bunmi Adeoye, a senior vice-president at Proof Strategies. "The other thing is, you can lose that trust of that 41 per cent, as well."

Community members pray in memory of Abdirahman Abdi at a 2020 rally in Ottawa after an Ottawa Police constable was found not guilty of manslaughter or aggravated assault in the 2016 death of Abdi, a 37-year old Black man. Only four in 10 Black Canadians say they have trust in law enforcement compared to five in 10 in the general population. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The new survey found, however, that trust in the police among Black people surveyed fell below the national average. About four in 10 Black Canadians said they trusted law enforcement compared to about five in 10 Canadians overall.

Black-owned research firm On Point Insight administered the online survey in English and French to 311 Black Canadians during the first two weeks of 2022. For comparison, a probability sample of the same size would be plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The total sample size for the CanTrust study was 1,536.

'Not a good picture'

Digging into the numbers further, "it's not a good picture," Adeoye said. Trust in the government is lower among Black women, those born within Canada and younger Black people between 18 and 34.

"The youth are skeptical," Adeoye said. "So again, there is an opportunity to improve that if there's a desire."

In many other categories, trust among Black Canadians surveyed continued to outperform the general population when respondents shared their faith in doctors, scientists, public health officials during the pandemic, charities and the news media.

Trust in small and big businesses among Black people didn't vary as much as in the general population. However, the data shows those surveyed tended to trust banks, pharmaceutical companies, cannabis producers and telecommunication companies less. But like public institutions, trust falls among younger Black people surveyed, which should worry businesses keen on building their market share among youth, Adeoye said.

"That's something that, as a brand, you really should be paying attention to," Adeoye said. "I think that young groups of Black Canadians are the ones that are helping to drive culture; they're helping to drive trends."

Another section of the report found Black Canadians surveyed said they have experienced racism first-hand or witnessed it. The number was much higher among those born in Canada. Also, more than 85 per cent said corporations and governments have a responsibility to address racism within society, but only 41 per cent said they could see any positive change happening.

Institutions must go beyond 'half measures': senator

The co-chair of the Parliamentary black caucus, Sen. Rosemary Moodie, called the overall numbers "poor" and "quite concerning." Moodie is a member of the Independent senators group and was appointed by Trudeau.

"This may reflect the historical and current experiences of Black communities and the challenges that they face, without the support of government or due to negative interactions with some public institutions," Moodie said in a statement to CBC.

Moodie said government institutions should go beyond "language and half measures" to earn the confidence of Black Canadians.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a press conference to unveil plans for greater support for Black businesses in September 2020. Forty-one per cent of Black Canadians say they trust Trudeau, more than the general population. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

Echoing Moodie's comments, the co-lead of a group that addresses anti-Black racism in the national capital region said trust among Black Canadians is essential for building social cohesion during a pandemic and beyond.

"To deal with things like massive crises, like climate change — we have to work together," said Robin Browne, the co-lead of 613-819 Black Hub. "If people don't, if there's no trust, then you don't have a society."

While this is the first time Proof Strategies included Black Canadians as a specific sample population in its survey, it marks a growing trend to break down data into key demographics, including race, or what's known as disaggregated data.

Statistics Canada has also pledged to do the same. The latest figures from the national statistical agency show in 2016, close to 1.2 million people in Canada reported being Black and they account for 3.5 per cent of the total population. The Black population is also younger than the general population, with a median age of 29.6 years compared to 40.7.

Statistics Canada also found higher rates of resiliency and optimism among Black Canadians compared to the general population. For example, in 2016, more than 75 per cent felt their opportunities would improve compared with the national average, which hovered around 50 per cent. This was despite higher reported rates of discrimination, unsuitable housing and poverty, Statistics Canada found.

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.



David Thurton

Senior reporter, Parliamentary Correspondent

David Thurton is a senior reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He covers daily politics in the nation’s capital and specializes in environment and energy policy. Born in Canada but raised in Trinidad and Tobago, he’s moved around more times than he can count. He’s worked for CBC in several provinces and territories, including Alberta and the Northwest Territories.