Monday, June 27, 2022

Rural Ontario suffering because of discrimination

A new study from the University of Western Ontario has found that racism is hurting small towns and rural communities.

The authors say these communities need to learn and practice cultural acceptance and racial tolerance in order to counter their own economic and demographic decline. 

I think it's part and parcel of rural conservative attitudes and politics - i.e. resistance to change and messages from the "elites" in the media, universities and government.

The research team surveyed hundreds of immigrants, Indigenous and racialized people in nine regions in southwestern Ontario, including the London, Hamilton, St. Thomas, Guelph, Sarnia and Niagara regions, and their outlying rural communities.

Victoria Esses, a psychology professor and the director of the Network for Economic and Social Trends at Western, said results of the study suggest greater incidents of discrimination in smaller communities, compared to medium-sized cities, because of the monolithic nature of rural life. 

"People in those communities have less experience with immigrants and diversity and they may feel uncomfortable around people from different cultures."

The study found 80 per cent of Indigenous people in more than half the regions reported experiencing discrimination within the last three years, compared to 60 per cent of immigrants or racialized people. 

Esses said she believes Indigenous people faced higher rates of discrimination because of well-established negative stereotypes and a lack of direct contact with Indigenous people and culture by those living in rural communities.

Esses told CBC Radio that the survey highlights the chilling effect acts of discrimination can have on engagement in small town life for people of diverse backgrounds.

"You disengage from the community, you don't get involved in that community and I would say you wouldn't have a very great view of that community," she said. 

While most of the discrimination was reported at work, many of them also experienced it in public settings, such as in banks, restaurants, public transit, libraries and community centres. 

"We need diversity training," she said. "One of the problems in small communities is they don't have a lot of exposure to diverse communities.

"There are a lot of people out there who have goodwill but they don't know how to intervene when they witness discrimination. So they do nothing or they turn away in embarrassment.

"Providing people with training and tools to intervene effectively and safely I would say would be a big help in reducing discrimination."