Canadians lukewarm about protection of human rights


McGill expertise in human rights informs survey by Trudeau Foundation
The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and McGill University released today results of a national opinion poll on human rights and dignity conducted by the Environics Institute, in conjunction with the 10th Annual Trudeau Foundation Conference, taking place November 21-23, in Montreal. McGill University researchers provided expertise and helped formulate questions about how Canadians view the country’s record on protecting human rights at home and abroad, and about the extent to which Canadian society discriminates against minority groups.

McGill expert on survey results: stuart.soroka [at]

Survey highlights:

Canadians give their country a lukewarm rating for its performance in protecting human rights at home and abroad over the past decade, with few expressing strong opinions either way. In comparative terms, the public believes Canada’s record is as good as or better than that of other Western democracies, although opinions have slipped marginally since 2010.

Large majorities of Canadians believe there is discrimination in this country against minority groups, including Aboriginal peoples, Muslims, Blacks, gays and lesbians, and new immigrants, although there is considerable difference in perceptions about the extent of such discrimination across groups. Almost half of Canadians now say that discrimination happens often against Aboriginal Peoples: this view has strengthened since 2004, especially in Quebec and BC over the past two years. Canadians are most likely to blame government policies for such discrimination, but a significant minority says that Aboriginal peoples are themselves most responsible for their own victimization.

Four in ten Canadians believe that Muslims experience frequent discrimination, a view that is essentially unchanged since 2004 and is most widely held in Quebec as well as among well-educated Canadians. One in three says that new immigrants to Canada are often discriminated against, and apportion this responsibility equally among government policy, public attitudes and new immigrants themselves. Smaller proportions believe that frequent discrimination takes place against gays and lesbians, and against Blacks; in both cases this view has declined modestly since 2011.

The public is more likely to place greater priority on governments investigating terrorist threats even if doing so intrudes on personal privacy, than on protecting citizens’ personal privacy even if this limits the ability to investigate terrorist threats. These opinions roughly mirror those expressed by Americans on a recent US survey.

Survey Methodology

The results are based on a telephone survey conducted for the Environics Institute by Research House with a representative sample of 1,501 Canadians (18 years and older) between September 17 and October 13, 2013. The sample was stratified by province and community size to ensure adequate coverage of jurisdictions for analysis purposes. A sample of this size will produce a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The margin of error is greater for results for regional and socio-demographic subgroups of the total sample.

The survey questions were designed by the Environics Institute, in conjunction with representatives from the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and McGill University.

For full survey: 

Contact Information

Katherine Gombay
Media Relations Office
katherine.gombay [at]
Office Phone: