#MeToo turns five: Taking stock of gender-based violence in Canadian politics

Written by Tracey Raney, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit Jacques Boissinot/ The Canadian Press. Originally published in The Conversation

Québec Liberal Marwah Rizqy speaks at a news conference while Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade, left, looks on, in August 2022 in St-Agapit, Que. Rizqy received repeated death threats, resulting in a man’s arrest.

Five years ago, women around the world began publicly disclosing their experiences of sexual assault and harassment on social media using the hashtag #MeToo.

This milestone provides us with an opportunity to reflect on how Canada has dealt with its own supposed #MeToo reckoning and misogyny in Canadian politics more specifically.

The events of 2017 came 11 years after Tarana Burke founded the #MeToo movement to raise awareness about the violence Black women and girls experience in the United States. The #MeToo hashtag went viral in October 2017 after sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein became public.

Five years later, what lessons have we learned about gender-based violence in Canadian politics?

The first is that violence and harassment have not abated; if anything, they’ve escalated in the Canadian political sphere.

In response to rising threats and safety concerns for parliamentarians, Canada’s public safety minister announced in June 2022 that all MPs would receive “panic buttons” to increase their personal security.

During the 2021 federal election, analyses of tweets received by incumbent candidates and party leaders conducted by the Samara Centre for Democracy show that 19 per cent were likely toxic, meaning they were uncivil, insulting, hostile, threatening or profane.

While public officials from all backgrounds are being targeted, women, Indigenous, Black, racialized and queer politicians are bearing the brunt of current attacks on Canada’s democracy.

Freeland accosted

In August 2022, a man cornered Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and her all-women staff entourage in a city hall elevator in Grande Prairie, Alta. and hurled abuse and profanities at her.

The incident prompted other women politicians to speak out about their own experiences of harassment.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek shared her experiences of harassment on Twitter, while Québec Liberal MNA Marwah Rizqy went public with recent harassment and threats made against her.

Rizqy has received death threats, including from a man who allegedly called the police to tell them where they could locate her murdered body. She was pregnant at the time.

A few weeks later, an online harassment campaign directed at women journalists — several of whom are racialized — was underway.

Threaten violence

In all of these instances, the harassers invoked violent, misogynistic, racist language, imagery or props as a way to demean, intimidate and threaten their targets.

We’ve also learned that some political leaders seem willing to use the vitriol seeded in our political culture for partisan gain.

A man with dark hair and glasses speaks.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in October 2022. Photo credit: Adrian Wyld/ The Canadian Press

In October 2022, Global News reported that a hidden misogynistic tag was placed on 50 of Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s most recent YouTube videos.

The hashtag, “MGTOW” (men going their own way), refers to an online anti-feminist movement that advocates for male supremacy.

When pressed on the subject, Poilievre condemned all forms of misogyny but did not apologize.

Silence and exclusion

Academic research shows that when harassment is directed at female politicians, staffers, activists and journalists because they are women, it poses a threat to democracy.

Rutgers University political scientist Mona Lena Krook has argued that the goal of violence against women in politics is to silence and exclude them from public life.

As my research with the University of Windsor’s Cheryl Collier indicates, violence and harassment in politics are barriers to women in Canadian politics and undermine democratic values like equal representation and participation.

After the 2021 federal election, women held 30.5 per cent of House of Commons seats. Today, Canada ranks 61st out of 190 countries in women’s political representation.

A group of women and one man stand for a photo.
Women foreign affairs ministers, including Chrystia Freeland, who was Canada’s foreign affairs minister at the time, pose for a photo at a conference in Montréal in 2018. Photo credit: Graham Hughes/ The Canadian Press

Positive developments

Thankfully, not all of #MeToo’s lessons have been negative, and some positive strides for Canadian women have been made.

In 2018, the federal Liberal government passed a new law, Bill C-65, that updates and strengthens existing legislation to prevent and address harassment and violence across all federally regulated workplaces. That includes Parliament.

In response to Bill C-65, the House of Commons and the Senate updated their policies in 2021 to prevent and address violence and harassment.

Since #MeToo, many provincial and territorial legislatures have also adopted either codes of conduct or policies to deal with sexual harassment.

Although these codes and policies are insufficient and additional measures are needed, the media and the public’s attention on workplace harassment and violence since #MeToo have spurred changes within these legislatures.

A large crowd gathers, many wearing pink hats. A sign in the middle reads The Future is Female.
A large crowd gathers at Nathan Phillips Square for the start of the Toronto Women’s March in January 2019. Photo credit: Tijana Martin/ The Canadian Press

But more must be done. Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in harassment and violence cases need to be prohibited in all organizations and workplaces, including legislatures. Banning NDAs won’t be enough to stop unethical behaviour, however.

As my research with Collier shows, political institutions — which remain mainly white, cis-gendered and male-dominated — need to do more to uproot their sexist, exclusionary cultures.

Lawmakers must adopt strategies to disrupt the “networks of complicity” that protect powerful perpetrators and enable abusive behaviour. Fully impartial, transparent processes that address all forms of violence and impose serious sanctions on those who commit violence or harassment would help.

Attack on democracy

The harassment of journalists, political candidates, staff and elected officials by a small faction of the public must also be addressed.

An attack on any political official must be viewed as an attack on Canadian democracy, and should not be tolerated in a free and democratic society.

Finally, political parties must do better at recruiting and electing diverse people to public office.

When the 10-year anniversary of the #MeToo movement arrives in 2027, Canadian democracy will hopefully be strengthened by the steps we take today to end violence and harassment in politics.

Could tensions between Greece and Turkey lead to a second European war?

Written by Yasar Bukan, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis). Originally published in The Conversation.

The pilot of a Greek fighter jet F-16 Viper checks the aircraft before the takeoff at Tanagra north of Athens, Greece in September 2022. Greece has bolstered its air force amid increasing tensions with neighbouring Turkey.

Tensions are flaring between Turkey and Greece over the militarization of the eastern Aegean islands and a host of other issues.

Considering Russia’s military expansion across the region, it would be strategically wise for the two NATO members to de-escalate and improve relations based on mutual trust and respect.

In a recent speech, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to invade Greek territories in retaliation for alleged hostile action against Turkish jets by Greece.

This isn’t the first time the Greek army harassed Turkish jets and ships, nor the first time Erdogan has made inflammatory remarks.

Stirring up nationalism?

Both Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Erdogan are facing tough upcoming general elections. Rallying national sentiments could help them secure a win.

A man in a dark blue suit with a light blue tie stands with his hands clasped.
Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is seen in Athens in September 2022. He has warned that tensions with Turkey could escalate into a second European conflict. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

But the sources of these mounting tensions go beyond electoral calculations. Turkey and Greece have unresolved historical issues as well as a set of post-Second World War disputes that still fester. These include the status of Cyprus, access to hydrocarbon resources in the east Mediterranean Sea, the aerial and maritime boundaries of the Aegean islands and the militarization of these islands.

Assertive policies by both Ankara and Athens in the last decade have exacerbated the two countries’ already tumultuous relationship.

During the early phase of the Arab uprisings, Turkey backed the Muslim Brotherhood to expand its regional sphere of influence. The strategy did not pan out, however. Former Egyptian president Muhammed Morsi, a former Brotherhood leader, was deposed in a coup by the secular President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

The strategy damaged Turkey’s relations with leading Arab states for what they perceived to be interference in their internal affairs.

Turkey also prematurely involved itself in a great power competition by playing Russia against the United States, rather than aligning with the U.S. as it traditionally did.

Participating in both the Russia-sponsored Astana talks and the U.S.-backed Geneva process on the Syrian civil war was a reflection of an emerging independent Turkish foreign policy. This balancing act worked in Turkey’s favour at the height of the war, allowing it to become a deal-maker on a number of regional issues.

Turkish miscalculations

But the misreading of these short-term volatile dynamics as long-term strategic opportunities by Turkish policy-makers adversely affected its relations with both the Americans and the Europeans.

Policy decisions such as the government’s use of the refugee crisis as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with Europe and the acquisition of the S-400 Russian air-defense system after the U.S. pulled its Patriot batteries from Turkey were the result of these misreadings.

The discord between Turkey and the U.S. led Washington to seek other regional partners. That’s when Greek and American interests converged. Greece needed foreign investment to revive its economy, and the U.S. needed stable territories to position its military to watch over the Middle East, North Africa, Russia and the Balkans.

During a visit to the White House in 2017, Alexis Tspiras, the then Greek prime minister, and Donald Trump made a US$2.4 billion deal to upgrade Greece’s F-16 fighters and increase American investment in the country. This deal indicated shifting U.S. strategies in the region.

A blond aging man shakes hands with a younger dark-haired man.
Trump shakes hands with Tsipras in the Rose Garden of the White House in October 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The pace of these military relations accelerated once the centre-right Mitsotakis won the 2019 elections. An upgraded Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement was signed two years later, allowing the U.S. military to operate and train on four military bases, including one in Alexandroupoli.

The agreement was condemned by the Greek left. The opposition party SYRIZA voted against its ratification and accused Mitsotakis of reducing Greece to “a U.S. satellite.”

Turkey hemmed in

Currently, Turkey is surrounded by Russia from the south and north, and by Greece — and by extension, the U.S. — from the west. It is left with little room to manoeuvre. Its ambitions to become a regional powerhouse are stunted for the foreseeable future.

In view of this geopolitical reality, Turkey understandably shares close relations with Russia. To balance and reduce its dependence on Moscow — particularly Russian natural gas and issues concerning Syria and the Black Sea — it needs to restore and improve its relations with the Arab world, the EU, the U.S. and Greece.

Greece, meanwhile, is emboldened. With an American military presence, it is upending Turkey strategically, particularly after the recent U.S. decision to lift the arms embargo on the Republic of Cyprus. The lift lessens the burden on Greece as the military guarantor of Cyprus, and strengthens its position against Turkey in the east Mediterranean Sea, where the Turks have been conducting oil and gas exploration despite strong Greek opposition.

But there are repercussions to these developments. Greek territorial waters are now a target of global and regional anti-American forces.

A man in a suit stands on a pale blue carpet looking at a military honour guard dressed in the same shade of blue.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan salutes a military honour guard during an official welcome ceremony, in Ankara, Turkey in June 2022. Erdogan has warned Greece to demilitarize islands in the Aegean Sea. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Looking ahead

Tensions between Greece and Turkey are not new, but the future cannot be built on the grievances of the past. For greater regional stability, disputes cannot be left unresolved indefinitely.

The militarization of the Aegean islands and limiting the eastern Mediterranean Sea to an already surrounded Turkey will surely worsen relations. Turkey’s assertive policies in the last decade caused many unanticipated quandaries for the country, and similar policies may bear comparable consequences for Greece in the future.

With elections fast approaching, tensions and hyper-nationalistic rhetoric are heightened in both nations. With Turkey encircled and Greece growing assertive, it would be prudent for both to maintain close dialogue, focus on common interests and develop mutual trust in a region already engulfed by a series of ongoing conflicts.

Mothers of the movement: Leadership by alt-right women paves the way for violence

Written by Sandra Jeppesen, Lakehead University and iowyth hezel ulthiin, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren). Originally published in The Conversation.

QAnon members participate in a protest against the counting of electoral votes in Washington, DC, which affirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Only 14 per cent of Capitol riots arrestees to date have been women, and yet women played key leadership roles that are important in understanding alt-right movements. Playing into gendered assumptions, researchers of the alt-right tend to characterize women’s participation as passive, with the demographics of Capitol riots arrestees revealing the predominance of white, middle-aged, middle-class men.

However, in our research on digital media and disinformation related to the Capitol riots, we have found that women served key leadership functions in the organization and performance of the riots. They planned events, provided a gentler face for the alt-right, nurtured social cohesion among participants and shaped the direction of the riots.

The intersection of race and gender

One commonality between men and women in the Capitol riots was that the vast majority were white. Yet, white women straddle two intersectional identities, one dominant (whiteness) and one oppressed (female).

This allows them to choose when and how to enact each identity. Far-right movements tend to rely on traditional gender roles, contributing in this instance to women’s adoption of the labels “classic woman” or “tradwife” — roles based on sex-realism.

Sex-realism is the notion that women are biologically different from men and thus cannot be equal; while not considered subordinate, traditional roles for women are prescribed. Included in this alt-right form of feminism are race-based pressures to reproduce white children, associated with the racist rhetoric of “Make America Great Again.”

PBS takes a look at why women join the alt-right movement in the United States.

Women who participated in the Capitol riots performed traditional gender roles intersecting with racist rhetoric and actions. Our study of women’s participation at the Capitol riots identified four key groups: mobilizers, “QAMoms” (female QAnon conspiracy adherents), militias, and martyrs.


Women played key roles in the organization of the Jan. 6 protest, with “Women for America First” (W4AF) serving as key mobilizers of the march-turned-riot.

In the weeks before the Capitol riots, W4AF held a 20-city bus tour with Bob Cavanaugh, a county commissioner in North Carolina saying, allegedly jokingly: “We’d solve every problem in this country if on the 4th of July every conservative went and shot one liberal.”

Republican representative Marjorie Taylor Greene also served as an instigator of the riot, posting on the far-right social network Parler and inciting protesters to interfere with the peaceful transition of power. She posted she needed “a grassroots army,” in a promoted parley that garnered 39 million views, 240,000 upvotes and 12,000 comments.

Mobilizers such as W4AF and Greene are typically well-known, well-funded women who operate behind-the-scenes, exercising a great deal of agency or social power.

a woman holds a WE ARE Q sign
Women were prominent participants in a ‘Make America Great Again’ rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

Mothers of the movement

Women characterized as QAMoms, may be actual mothers and/or they may act as “mothers” of the movement. They have been introduced to conspiracy theories like QAnon, which exploit the nostalgia of an idealized past, through hashtags like #SaveTheChildren.

On the surface, this hashtag represents a movement against child sex trafficking, but it has been repurposed by QAnon and QAMoms to promote the far-fetched conspiracy that deep-state Democrats are a cabal of sex-trafficking satanists.

Women drawn to the alt-right through conspiracy theories and disinformation campaigns were seen at the Capitol riots leading prayers, providing first aid, organizing food and assuming stereotypical mothering roles. While playing into traditional gendered roles, these forms of mothering are also displays of leadership and social agency.


Alt-right women also, perhaps surprisingly, organize and participate in militias. Jessica Watkins, who served in the U.S. army in Afghanistan, was arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy for her alleged leadership role in the Capitol riots.

Watkins is transgender, and has been subjected to transphobic inhumane treatment in prison, up to and including being housed naked in a brightly lit cell for several days.

She is alleged to have actively recruited members from the Ohio State Regular Militia that she had founded, and to have planned a military style takeover of the Capitol. Watkins was seen during the riots dressed in military garb and moving with militia members in military stack formation.

Shaped by military training, women who participate in and lead militias performed skilled leadership activities in the riots, such as directing and leading others to attack police lines or scale walls, in their alleged attempt to overthrow the state.


At the Capitol riots, some participants dressed up and performed the roles of famous patriotic women. Others like Watkins were at the forefront of the incursion into the Capitol building.

One of the most dramatic deaths of the day was such a woman. Ashli Babbitt, a business owner and self-styled QAMom, was shot attempting to climb through a window to gain access to lawmakers in the House lobby.

Babbitt was immediately claimed as a martyr by far-right groups, barely moments after her death and against the wishes of her family. The outgoing POTUS Trump himself characterized her as having died at the hands of a corrupt government — despite the fact that he himself was President at the time of her death.

Working against their own interests

It may seem nonsensical for women to work against their own interests in supporting Trump, a man accused of sexual assault and misogyny. An explanation is contained within sex-realism, a particular worldview that many QAMoms hold. Instead of pointing to structures of patriarchy as oppressive, sex-realism is used by alt-right women to scapegoat immigrants and people of colour — those below them in society’s constructed racial hierarchies.

For tradwives, it may be easier to blame outsiders than to confront the fact that oppressive structures and behaviours may be enacted within their very families.

three white women holding signs that read WE ARE Q, Q ARMY and WE ARE DIGITAL SOLDIERS.
Women in Bucharest, Romania, participate in a protest. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

Yet, with the rise of global populism, we should not risk overlooking the contained agency of women participating in alt-right movements, where they mobilize disinformation, reinforce the traditional gender binary, promote conspiracies and enact racism.

The leadership of alt-right women ultimately paves the way for the escalating racist violence of male counterparts within the groups they lead, nurture and “mother.”

An economist explains: What you need to know about inflation

Written by Nicholas Li, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit (Shutterstock). Originally published in The Conversation.

A number of factors have contributed to the recent rise in inflation, including supply chain disruptions, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and labour shortages.

Inflation is one of the most pressing political and economic issues of the moment, but there are many misconceptions about how inflation is measured, where it comes from and how it impacts the average person.

In June, inflation in Canada reached a 40-year high of 8.1 per cent. While there are signs inflation may be moderating, many Canadians have dealt with the surging cost of living by cutting back on expenses, working more to increase their income, drawing on their savings or taking on more debt.

As an economics professor who conducts research on prices and consumption, I would like to provide some insight into how inflation is measured and how it is impacting Canadians and the economy at large.

What is inflation?

Inflation refers to a general increase in prices and the resulting decline in the purchasing power of money. While most of us can sense whether inflation is high or low from everyday purchases, the inflation rate that gets reported in the press and discussed by policy-makers is a specific measure created by a small army of statisticians and data collectors.

Statistics Canada constructs the Consumer Price Index (CPI) used to track inflation through a two-step process. In the first step, Statistics Canada collects over one million price quotes on virtually anything purchasable in the country.

Prices are recorded in a variety of ways, and the frequency and geography of price collection depends on the item. For example, items with prices that change quickly like food or gasoline, or vary across locations like rent, are collected more frequently than items that are collected once a year, like university tuition or insurance rates.

Gas prices are displayed behind a close up shot of a gas pump.
While constructing the Consumer Price Index, Statistics Canada collects price quotes on items with prices that change quickly, like gas, more frequently than items with steadier prices, like insurance. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick.

In the second step, Statistics Canada aggregates these prices to generate the all-item Consumer Price Index by weighing each item’s price change by its share of total consumer spending. These weights are occasionally updated to reflect changes in consumer spending patterns.

The most recent update in 2021 reflects some pandemic-related spending changes, such as a lower weight for food (15.75 per cent) and transportation (16.16 per cent), but a higher weight for shelter (29.67 per cent).

Statistics Canada and the Bank of Canada also measure “core inflation” which removes items with the most volatile prices (food and energy) from the CPI to provide a better sense of slower-moving, long-term cost pressures.

What causes inflation?

Prices are determined by supply and demand. High inflation is a sign that, across the economy, demand for goods and services exceeds their supply.

Demand has been strong due to strong employment and wage growth, cheap credit, pandemic-related payments from governments and pandemic-related shifts in demand towards goods consumed at home.

Supply has been disrupted by the pandemic’s effects on Chinese factories, international supply chains, container shipping, trucking and the Russian invasion of Ukraine that led to recent spikes in food and energy prices around the world.

Inflation feels higher than it is

Many Canadians feel like prices rose by more than 8.1 per cent in the last year. Beyond specific criticism of the CPI methodology in Canada, there are at least two reasons for this.

First, consumer spending is measured through surveys that capture the diversity of spending patterns in the population, but collapse this diversity into a single set of weights that treats each dollar of spending equally. Spending patterns vary with age, income, location, household composition and taste, and your personal budget might bear little resemblance to the weights used for the CPI.

Second, we are more likely to notice price changes for items we purchase frequently, and we tend to notice price increases more than decreases. The items with the highest price increases in the last year — energy and food — have these characteristics, and we are less likely to notice the (lower) inflation rate for furniture, electronics, education and health goods that balance these out.

Cereals and cereal products displayed for sale at a grocery store.
We tend to notice price increases for items we purchase frequently, like groceries. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick.

We also pay a lot of attention to soaring house prices and interest rates — especially in big cities — but the cost of owned accommodation in the CPI is based on historical averages of housing prices (25 years) and interest rates (five years) that reflect long-term financing costs for the average homeowner, not someone buying a house today.

How does inflation impact us?

There are winners and losers when it comes to inflation. While it can hurt businesses that end up passing cost increases onto their customers, it can benefit others by allowing them to raise their prices without customer backlash because “everyone else is doing it.”

High inflation is often, but not always, accompanied by high wage growth. Individuals who earn no or below-inflation wages are hurt, while individuals with wages indexed to inflation or who are able to negotiate better wages can benefit. Individuals like seniors on fixed incomes are often hurt by inflation, although many government benefits are indexed to inflation.

Some asset prices are better at keeping pace with inflation. Prices of housing, stocks, art and precious metals may go up, while assets with fixed dollar values like cash and bonds do not.

Inflation can make it easier to repay debts, as long as wages or other asset prices keep pace. Inflation can also benefit government finances as tax revenues rise relative to the dollar value of the debt.

While the source of our current inflation is irrelevant to consumers, it matters for economic policy. Central banks and governments must decide whether to curb demand and risk recession by raising interest rates, cutting spending or raising taxes, or wait and hope that supply-side inflation pressures ease up on their own.

We can only hope that it will not take a major recession to end this period of high inflation (unlike the last major effort by the Bank of Canada to lower inflation) and that Canada avoids “stagflation,” the combination of high inflation and high unemployment that afflicted many economies in the late 1970s.

Women are too tired and time-strapped for board games due to shrinking leisure time

Written by Tanya A Pobuda, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit National Cancer Institute/Unsplash. Originally published in The Conversation.

The loss of leisure time is partially attributed to longer work hours and unpaid overtime.

Women don’t enjoy as much leisure time as men, and during the pandemic, it’s been particularly bad. According to the American Time Use Survey, women have nearly an hour less leisure time than men each day.

And sadly, the numbers add up. Women often did three times as much childcare as men during the pandemic.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has been tracking the steady decline of leisure time since the 1970s. North Americans are now spending anywhere from 1.5 to 1.8 times more on paid work than leisure activities, and this loss of leisure is attributed in part to longer work hours and unpaid overtime.

My doctoral research in communication and culture had me interview hundreds of board gamers and game industry professionals who regularly fill their leisure time with gaming — they all said they’d board game more if they had the energy or the time.

Need more time to board game

When I asked my research participants what prevents them from gaming more, nearly a quarter cited a lack of time in general, childcare and household and work responsibilities — but there were also other reasons like racism, sexism, bullying, gatekeeping and interpersonal social drama.

The growing leisure gap, according to my research participants — 60.4 percent of my respondents identified as women — has had a huge impact on women’s ability to engage with the board game hobby.

Women reported that they often don’t have the time, nor the energy at the end of a long day to engage with particularly complex or lengthy board games.

They were asked for their relative levels of agreement or disagreement with the statement, “I would board game more if I had the time” and three quarters of participants either agreed or strongly agreed.

A pie chart showcasing if respondents would play a board game if they had time. Strongly agree is the highest in green, then agree, neutral, disagree and strongly disagree.
74.6 per cent of respondents would board game more if they had more time. Photo credit: Tanya A Pobuda
Women are time-strapped

I interviewed people who spoke to the issues surrounding access to leisure time, with competing work and household responsibilities getting in the way of play and gaming.

Briar (pseudonym) is a parent, and acknowledges that running her own business on top of a full-time job leads to fatigue that impacts her ability to game. Briar shared, “we play at least one game every week and I try to play games with my kids as often as I can, but we’re usually tired.” She added that the competing demands of online learning during the pandemic have impacted her time and inclination to game.

Another parent, Micha (pseudonym), said access to leisure time is a huge factor in her busy life. When she attends gaming conventions she can play for 12 hours a day with only “exhaustion” stopping her, but when she’s at home, it’s another story:

“True leisure time is a massive barrier. Free time to play games with adults is very, very challenging for me to find. You’re rushed or you’re stopping to juggle the kids in the background or you have to fight the kids getting to bed early…”

A woman laying in bed.
Women are often too tired after all their added responsibilities to game. Photo credit: Kinga Cichewicz/Unsplash

For Ciel (pseudonym), having a full-time job and a relationship means she doesn’t have the mental energy to play board games:

“I am finding it’s not just the time but it’s also the brain power because it is an actively engaged hobby. It takes more from you in terms of commitment than watching TV. I could stick on the Great British Bake Off and watch that. This takes no participation whatsoever from me. Because gaming is active rather than passive, it’s about the time and the energy.”

Briar adds that the often-repeated trope of “women don’t like gaming and particularly heavy games” often comes down to ignorance. She says “so-called ‘male games’ are like these heavy games, and then ‘female games’ are like these light games, but it’s not because we can’t handle the heavy games. It’s because that is just not our go-to because we don’t have the time and energy.”

While women have statistically less leisure time, they tend to enjoy their limited time for fun and relaxation more.

Health researchers Shota Noda, Kentaro Shirotsuki and Mutsuhiro Nakao examined multiple board gaming studies and found a common thread of benefits: board game play can enhance interpersonal connections, increase players’ motivation and promote learning. Women’s ongoing inability to find the time to rest, relax and engage in play activities such as board gaming has wide-reaching implications to both women’s health and life-long learning.

Could you help any women in your life find more leisure time by sharing the load at work or at home, and perhaps, letting them enjoy a game or two? Food for thought.

Why a universal job guarantee beats the basic income pipe dream

Written by Daniel Tsai, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit: Shutterstock. Originally published in The Conversation

In theory, a universal job guarantee could help stabilize inflation by providing stable, full-time employment, addressing unemployment, enhancing economic productivity and reinforcing price stability.

With the current cost-of-living crisis resulting in dramatic inflation, higher interest rates and a looming recession, people have been searching for solutions to the economic crisis. A universal job guarantee may just be the answer we’re looking for, especially since Canada lost 43,000 jobs in June.

While most people are familiar with the idea of a universal basic income — the notion of giving every citizen a basic income, irrespective of their income level or need — few are familiar with the idea of a universal job guarantee.

Instead of a guaranteed fixed income, a universal job guarantee policy provides jobs — and wages — to people who aren’t able to find work on their own. In theory, a universal job guarantee could help stabilize inflation by providing stable, full-time employment, addressing unemployment, enhancing economic productivity and reinforcing price stability.

Job guarantee programs are crucial for a number of reasons. They keep people in the labour force, alleviate poverty, improve health and well-being, add meaning to people’s lives and help the most vulnerable. They also provide crucial non-monetary benefits that have historically been associated with universal basic income, including improvements to “health, education, social cohesion and productivity.”

Economic stabilizer

There are a few unique barriers that undermine universal basic income and its ability to be implemented. As we have seen with government support programs related to COVID-19, government stimulus in the form of direct cash can cause inflation. These programs reduce the supply of lower skilled employees in the job market, as some people invariably decide to stay at home, rather than work.

Like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, universal basic income might take away the incentive to work for some, resulting in a labour market bereft of workers. This would result in a vicious cycle: employers would raise wages to attract those willing to work, which would increase inflation and cost of living, causing businesses, in turn, to raise costs to be able to afford higher salaries for their workers.

A 'Now Hiring' sign hanging in the window of a building.
Government stimulus programs can reduce the supply of lower skilled employees in the job market, as some people invariably decide to stay at home, rather than work. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

The effects of cash stimulus without controls can be far reaching. To take the resulting steam out of the economy, policy-makers often resort to blunt counter measures like increasing interest rates, which can lead to a recession.

In contrast, a universal job guarantee would generate revenue for the government through taxable income, thereby reducing the cost of the program while simultaneously enhancing other sectors of the economy, such as the environment or infrastructure. It would ensure that people are able to earn money and, therefore, be able to spend money.

More politically feasible

Part of the reason why universal basic income hasn’t been successful in Canada is because it hasn’t been championed by any mainstream Canadian political party. A program like that would require either the Liberal or the Conservative Party of Canada to make universal basic income part of their electoral platform.

On the contrary, a universal job guarantee would be more appealing to voters because it addresses labour shortages while guaranteeing minimum wage. Considering there are already programs that help people find fulfilling jobs, it isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine a scaled-up version run by the federal government.

A man attending a virtual job interview using a laptop.
Job programs keep people in the labour force, alleviate poverty, improve health and well-being, add meaning to people’s lives and help the most vulnerable. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

Consider Canada’s summer student work programs, where the Canadian government subsidizes businesses to hire students, or other employment programs, such as building infrastructure to last generations or tree planting. A universal job guarantee would build on these established programs and be more likely to garner political support based on precedent.

A path toward a universal job guarantee

People want better jobs and a consistent source of income. Economies with full employment operate at their full potential with higher productivity and stability than those with high unemployment.

When I worked as a senior policy advisor for the government of Canada, the most effective bureaucrats that were able to implement policy were aware of politics and ideology and how governments of the day are driven by them and the likelihood of votes. They knew how to frame good policy within a party’s platform to attract voters.

Other countries are already taking the plunge. In October 2020, Austria announced they were running the world’s first universal jobs guarantee experiment. Canada would do well to keep an eye on the pilot program and see how it unfolds.

However, I caution us to be realistic: we cannot throw out fantastical ideas of universality of a job guarantee or a universal basic income without understanding how governments, democracy and politics inform policy making. For a country as large as Canada, this kind of transformative change needs to take place in steps.

While it remains to be seen whether a sensible and practically implementable universal job guarantee program can be implemented in Canada, building on existing programs that have already proven to work is a good place to start.

Russian propaganda is making inroads with right-wing Canadians

Written by Philip Mai, Toronto Metropolitan University; Alyssa N. Saiphoo, Toronto Metropolitan University; Anatoliy Gruzd, Toronto Metropolitan University and Felipe Bonow Soares, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit: Stefani Reynolds/Pool Photo via AP. Originally published in The Conversation

While attending the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced sanctions against Russia. 

On July 8, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced new sanctions against Russia as a counter to the Kremlin’s disinformation activities aimed at Canada.

Ukraine and the West have long been a target of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaigns. Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia has used a variety of information warfare tactics to destabilize the Ukrainian government and undermine the legitimacy of democratic governments around the world.

In recent years, as part of its bid to shape public perception of their action on the world’s stage, Russia has deployed an army of bots, trolls, hackers and other proxies across social media and the internet. These tactics are being used as a part of a concerted effort to curate a more favourable information environment for their agenda in Ukraine and other areas of geopolitical interest.

In the lead up to the 2016 U.S. federal election, the Kremlin used the now infamous “Internet Research Agency” to sow discord online and off-line.

Online warfare tactics

Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the Social Media Lab’s Conflict Misinformation Dashboard has tracked over 1,000 false, misleading and unproven claims. Some of these false and misleading claims were spread by Russian government officials and their proxies. For example, in the early months of the war, the Kremlin was actively spreading the unsubstantiated claim that chemical and biological weapons are being covertly developed in Ukraine.

And Canada’s Communications Security Establishment has raised concerns about Russian online state-sponsored disinformation campaigns aimed at distorting Canada’s effort to help Ukraine defend itself.

As part of our ongoing research into how misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories spread online, we conducted a survey in May 2022 to examine the extent to which Canadians are exposed to, and might be influenced by, pro-Kremlin propaganda on social media. Among other questions, we asked participants about their social media use, news consumption about the war in Ukraine, political leanings as well as their exposure to and belief in common pro-Kremlin narratives.

The data we collected shows that Canadians are being exposed to pro-Kremlin propaganda. Slightly over half of Canadians (51 per cent) reported encountering at least one persistent, false claim about the Russia-Ukraine war on social media pushed by the Kremlin and pro-Kremlin accounts.

The most prevalent claim, encountered by 35 per cent of Canadians, was “Ukrainian nationalism is a neo-Nazi movement,” a false narrative that has long been debunked by numerous fact-checkers.

table showing percentage of Canadians who have encountered particular Russian disinformation claims.
Canadians are encountering various pro-Kremlin propaganda claims online. (Social Media Lab/Toronto Metropolitan University), Author provided

However, it is the claim about NATO expansion that gained the most traction with the Canadian public. Specifically, nearly half of Canadians (49 per cent) believed at least to some extent that “since the end of the Cold War, NATO has surrounded Russia with military bases and broken their promise to not offer NATO membership to former U.S.S.R. republics, like Ukraine.”

Pro-Kremlin propaganda

Next, we looked for a connection between political ideology and people’s propensity to believe in pro-Kremlin propaganda. We used the Ideological Consistency Scale developed by the Pew Research Center. The scale is designed to determine one’s political ideology on a scale between -10 (mostly liberal) to +10 (mostly conservative). It is based on 10 questions about social issues, military and homosexuality, which correlate with a traditional left/right political affinity.

Our analysis shows that left-leaning Canadians are consistently less likely to believe in pro-Kremlin propaganda overall, as compared to Canadians who hold mixed or right-leaning views. Conversely, those who hold right-leaning ideologies are more likely to believe in pro-Kremlin propaganda overall, as compared to Canadians who hold mixed or left-leaning views.

Reliance on social media

A table showing how Canadians' political ideology correlates with the likelihood of believing Russian propaganda.
A table showing how political ideology correlates with the likelihood of believing Russian propaganda. (Social Media Lab/Toronto Metropolitan University), Author provided

Another important factor that we found to be associated with belief in pro-Kremlin disinformation was a preferred source for getting news about the Russia-Ukraine war. Particularly concerning is the fact that those who believe in one or more of the pro-Kremlin claims are more likely to rely on social media for news about the war than those who do not believe in any.

For instance, 57 per cent of Canadians who believe the claim that “Ukrainian nationalism is a neo-Nazi movement” reported preferring social media as a source of news about the Russia-Ukraine war. In contrast, only 23 per cent of those who do not believe in this claim favour social media when accessing news on this topic.

This stark difference in social media consumption between those who believe versus those who don’t believe in this and other persistent claims stresses the importance of doubling down on efforts to combat misinformation in online spaces, especially misinformation seeded by foreign adversaries.

The perils of pro-Kremlin propaganda are real, and we should not underestimate its potential to shape public perception in Canada. The aim of an information operation is not necessarily to make everyone believe. It is often sufficient to sow doubt and confusion, as well as to delay or derail consensus amongst one’s adversaries, their allies and bystanders.

Our research provides evidence that the Kremlin’s disinformation is reaching more Canadians than one would expect. Left unchallenged, state-sponsored information operations can stoke tensions and undermine democracy.

The war in Ukraine: A no-win situation for the left

Written by Christopher Powell, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit Nariman El-Mofty/AP Photo. Originally published in The Conversation. 

Rescue workers stand on the rubble following a Russian rocket attack on a residential apartment block, in Chasiv Yar, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine on July 10, 2022.

Those on the left of the political spectrum are floundering over what to say about the war in Ukraine.

Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro supports Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who has been his ally since 2018.

Socialists have denounced high-profile American leftists Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders for backing the United States. Fightback, the Canadian section of the International Marxist Tendency, supports neither Ukraine nor Russia, declaring this a “reactionary war on both sides.”

The leading radical-left magazine in the United States, Jacobin, tries to have its cake and eat it too, issuing moral condemnations of Russian aggression (the left’s equivalent of “thoughts and prayers”) while opposing actual material support for Ukraine.

An elderly man with grey hair and glasses looks to the right.
Noam Chomsky is seen at a conference in this 2021 photo. Photo credit: Hatem Moussa/AP Photo

Renowned linguist and anti-war activist Noam Chomsky is, as always, focusing on the harms of American imperialism to the exclusion of almost every other consideration.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian intellectualssocialists and even anarchists have chided the North American left for its lack of a coherent solidarity with Ukrainians.

The reason for this floundering is simple: supporting military aid to Ukraine involves siding with U.S. imperialism, but opposing military aid means condoning Russian imperialism and probable genocide in Ukraine.

Much is made of the need for a diplomatic solution, potentially involving Ukrainian neutrality. But Ukraine requires foreign aid to defend itself militarily, and Russia has no incentive to accept a diplomatic solution or to honour it down the road.

The left seems to be trapped in a no-win situation, ideologically speaking. There is no morally pure position to take.

To climb out of this trap, the left needs to move beyond the notion of good versus evil and similar moral binaries while shifting its focus to the economic issues at the root of the crisis.

Good Ukraine vs. evil Russia?

The dominant media narrative in the West is one of a heroic Ukraine and its allies fighting virtuously against a villainous Russia. There are obvious facts that support this narrative: Ukraine is a liberal-democratic country with an elected Jewish president; Russia is a fascist dictatorship committing a war of aggression and war crimes.

But some facts don’t fit this narrative. Ukraine has a strong fascist movement itself, which has played an influential role in its antagonism with Russia.

Since 2015, the Ukrainian government has restricted Russian-language rights while also committing human rights abuses in the Donbas. Black and brown Ukrainian residents have suffered severe discrimination during this crisis.

Meanwhile, western media coverage of Ukraine’s plight has been much greater and more sympathetic than its coverage of non-white countries, and sometimes overtly racist, revealing how Ukraine benefits from white privilege in international relations.

And of course the United States, Ukraine’s main ally in this war, is the most dominant imperial power in the world, with a long history of subverting democracysupporting authoritarianism and abetting or committing genocide.

U.S. support for Ukraine certainly could have more to do with its pursuit of geopolitical power than with democratic values.

Good Russia vs. evil West?

Given these facts, it’s tempting, as some have done, to position Russia as merely defending itself against the U.S., imperialist aggression. But this narrative also ignores important facts.

Russia is a regional power with its own long history of imperialism and genocide, including the deliberate suppression of Ukrainian culture, the artificial famines of 1932-33, the ethnic cleansing of Crimean Tatars in 1944, and, more recently, war crimes during the first and second Chechen wars.

An elderly woman weeps as she stands near rubble with her hand on a tree.
Chechen citizens look over the rubble of destroyed houses during a lull in the fighting in Grozny in 1995. Photo credit: Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo

Putin’s government has denied the existence of Ukraine as a nation and has called for a violent “de-Nazification” of Ukraine that clearly amounts to a program of cultural erasure.

Russian attacks on civilians and the infrastructure of civilian life have been consistent with genocide as defined in the United Nations genocide convention.

Meanwhile, the Putin government itself is overtly fascist in all but name: an authoritarian state headed by a hyper-masculine strongman, committed to an ideology that is not only ultra-nationalist, supremacist and imperialist but also deeply sexisthomophobic and transphobic.

For these qualities, Putin is admired by the global far right. A Putin victory in Ukraine would likely strengthen fascist movements around the world.

From good vs. evil to changing the system

During the Second World War, Ukraine became a battleground between two genocidal powers. Ukrainians faced impossible dilemmas, made morally compromised choices and suffered horrifically. Today that situation is repeated.

At the moment, western socialists are struggling to articulate a position on the Ukraine war that opposes both fascism and liberalism. This is genuinely difficult. Opposing imperialism, in this instance, requires military and economic support for Ukraine, even if it comes from the U.S. But this is also the liberal position.

What else can socialists bring to the table?

Ukrainian and Russian socialists emphasize the need for economic measures, including humanitarian support for refugees and a cancellation of Ukraine’s foreign debt.

Rows of beds are seen under the domed ceiling of a convention centre.
Beds are prepared for an influx of refugees fleeing the war in neighbouring Ukraine inside the Romexpo convention centre in Bucharest, Romania, in April 2022. Photo credit: Andreea Alexandru/AP Photo

Outside Ukraine, the war is already having global economic impacts, and most likely will exacerbate economic inequality. As with the COVID-19 pandemic and most other disasters, this crisis causes pain for workers while corporations find ways to profit.

Economic inequality is also the root of the war, the enabling condition for Putin’s rise to power and the fuel for the far right in general.

Ending fascism and imperialism for good will require building a more equitable system to replace capitalism. Doing that will require building global networks of solidarity among working people. And doing that requires moving out of good versus evil narratives, in this case by recognizing why Ukrainians actually want western support — and why they should receive it.

How to talk about climate change: Highlight harms — not benefits — to alter behaviour

Written by Eugene Y. Chan, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit: Shutterstock. Originally published in The Conversation.

Using language that stresses the “seriousness” or “importance” of climate change in protests and campaigns can lead to counterintuitive results.

Climate change is slowly, but drastically, influencing how we live, work and play. Governments, as well as for-profit and non-profit organizations, are now seeking ways to limit the effects of human actions on the planet. In many parts of the world, including Australia and Canada, governments are limiting the use of single-use plastics.

To get people to be more sustainable in their daily lives, governments and environmental advocates have been communicating the harms of climate change for humans, animals and the planet. However, there is a right and wrong way to spread this message.

Research has recently begun examining how to best convey the importance of human action to the masses. While people are frequently bombarded with appeals to reduce water use and bring reusable bags to the grocery store, studies are now analyzing the language that should be used to make such appeals effective.

In a recent paper I co-authored with Jack Lin, a student at the California State University Northridge, we found that stressing the “seriousness” or “importance” of climate change could lead to counterintuitive results.

The experiment

We recruited randomly selected 762 Americans and had them read a passage outlining the effects of climate change. But, in the passage given to half of the participants, we added words such as “serious” and “grave” to stress the importance of the harmful effects of climate change.

We then asked the participants how likely they were to engage in various sustainable behaviours such as eating locally grown foods, taking public transportation and using less water.

You would think that saying that climate change is serious would promote more sustainable behavioural intentions. Instead, we found that using “serious” and other similar adjectives lowered behavioural intentions to make sustainable efforts. This effect was especially pronounced among participants who identified supporting the Republican Party.

Word choice can trigger your sense of free will

How could these results be explained? Well, Republican supporters generally are higher on “psychological reactance.” Meaning they are typically more averse to restrictions on their individual freedoms and sense of free will. Therefore, to say that climate change effects are “serious” are seen by these individuals as an attempt to influence their perceived views of climate change. Conservatives in other parts of the world also tend to score higher on psychological reactance.

A group of people protesting with placards against poor climate change action.
If the words used in awareness and social messaging sound restrictive, they can trigger individuals’ sense of free will. Photo credit: Shutterstock

According to this theory, when people experience a sense of restriction, they can take opposite actions to re-assert their sense of free will. Consistent with this premise, Republicans’ higher scores on psychological reactance explained why they said they would, for example, use even more water when they see an appeal that uses adjectives like “serious” to convey the effects of climate change.

Other research has found similar results. For example, you would think that telling people that 97 per cent of the world’s prominent scientists believe that human-caused climate change is real. Yet Republican-aligned research participants who see a statement like this become even less likely to act on it, compared to those that don’t see it.

These findings might seem to say that climate change communications and appeals might be futile, especially for Republicans. Research published a decade ago found that scientists consider the terms “global warming” and “climate change” to mean different things, while most lay people use them interchangeably. This research showed that Republicans are less likely to believe that “global warming is real” but more likely to believe that “climate change is real.”

Democrats are more likely to take action against climate change than Republicans, but Democrats themselves are more likely to act against “global warming” than “climate change” — the opposite effect among Republicans.

The power of words

Whether one is conservative or liberal, research has found that highlighting losses is better at promoting behaviours than highlighting gains. For example, indicating the harms to humans, animals and the environment from not acting is more effective than indicating the benefits from acting. Other research has also found that using pie charts to communicate statistics and figures is better at promoting comprehension than writing those figures down in text form.

A sign that reads 'There is no planet B'.
Words that highlight losses are better at influencing behaviours than those that highlight gains. Photo credit: Shutterstock

What does this all mean? The way we communicate the effects of climate change needs to be considered. How we communicate — and the language we use — are just as important as what we communicate.

People process the information they receive through their own lens — a lens that is shaped by individual as well as cultural histories, differences and expectations. In order to drive our message through to all these individuals of diverse perspectives, we need to ensure that the way we communicate is adapted to those recipients’ histories, differences and expectations.

Newcomers to Canada are supportive of Indigenous Peoples and reconciliation

Written by Andrew Parkin, University of Toronto; Anna Triandafyllidou, Toronto Metropolitan University; Seyda Ece Aytac, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit Justin Tang/The Canadian Press. Originally published in The Conversation

People stand on Parliament Hill in July 2021 alongside a makeshift memorial for children who died at Indian Residential Schools during a rally to demand an independent investigation into Canada’s crimes against Indigenous Peoples. 

Public education about Canada’s treatment of Indigenous Peoples is an important component of the process of reconciliation.

Knowing the history can better help citizens understand current challenges and equip them with the tools to work respectfully with Indigenous Peoples to build a better future, in keeping with the section on “education for reconciliation” in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report.

Much of this public education occurs in schools, through the media and even via discussions among friends and within families. But new immigrants to Canada might miss some of this socialization (depending on their age of arrival) because they’ll have less exposure to Canadian schools and media in their formative years.

This could affect their attitudes to Indigenous Peoples and support for the process of reconciliation itself. Given that one in five Canadians was born abroad, this would pose a significant political risk.

Alternatively, it’s possible that, despite less exposure to Canadian schools and media, immigrants might be more supportive of Indigenous Peoples because they could be more aware of the legacies of colonialism worldwide, more open to learn about their new country or more conscious of their responsibility as newcomers to learn Canadian history.

Supportive of Indigenous Peoples

The question of how immigrants perceive Indigenous Peoples in Canada, and vice versa, is therefore relevant but rarely explored.

But data from the Confederation of Tomorrow 2021 survey, conducted by the Environics Institute and including sufficiently large samples of both immigrants and Indigenous Peoples, allows us to examine these issues.

Specifically, we can explore perceptions of immigrants towards Indigenous Peoples and reconciliation, and look at responses to three questions:

  1. How familiar do you feel you are with the history of Indian Residential Schools in Canada?
  2. In your opinion, have governments in Canada gone too far or have they not gone far enough in trying to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples?
  3. Do you believe that individual Canadians do, or do not, have a role to play in efforts to bring about reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people?

The survey results generally show that, despite less familiarity or certainty about these issues among new immigrants compared to those born in Canada, they are more likely to support Indigenous Peoples.

Gap in knowledge

The survey shows a big gap between how familiar Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous people — both immigrants to Canada and non-immigrants — are with the history of Indian Residential schools.

The findings suggest first-generation immigrants are less likely than non-Indigenous Canadians to say they’re “very familiar” with this history, and are more likely to express no opinion.

These results indicate that first-generation immigrants don’t know as much as other Canadians about the history of Indian Schools in Canada. It is notable, however, that second-generation Canadians are more likely than third-generation Canadians to feel “very familiar” with the history of Indian Residential Schools.

A graph shows how familiar immigrants to Canada feel they are with the history of Indian Residential Schools in Canada compared to Indigenous Peoples.
A graph shows whether Canadians believe governments have gone far enough in trying to advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. Photo credit: Author provided.

This lesser familiarity among first-generation immigrants, however, does not translate into lower support for efforts to advance reconciliation.

Government response

This support is evident when they were asked about whether governments have gone too far, or not far enough, to advance reconciliation.

The most striking difference — not surprisingly — is that Indigenous Peoples are much more likely than non-Indigenous Canadians to say that governments have failed to go far enough to advance reconciliation.

But first-generation immigrants are just as likely to hold this view than second- or third-generation Canadians. First-generation immigrants are also less likely to say that governments have gone too far in their efforts to promote reconciliation — a result that’s significant when controlling for education (which is an important step since first-generation immigrants are more likely to be university-educated than the rest of the population).

First-generation immigrants are also less likely to take a definitive position either way, and are more likely to say “neither” or “cannot say.”

A graph shows whether Canadians believe governments have gone far enough in trying to advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
A graph shows whether Canadians believe governments have gone far enough in trying to advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. Photo credit: Author provided.

The role of Canadians

Similarly, Indigenous Peoples are unsurprisingly the most likely to say that individual Canadians have a role to play in reconciliation.

But first-generation immigrants are just as likely as second- or third-generation Canadians to hold this view (although first-generation immigrants are also more likely to have no opinion on this question).

A graph shows whether individual Canadians have a role to play to bring about reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples.
A graph shows whether individual Canadians have a role to play to bring about reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples. Photo credit: Author provided.

These results are encouraging because they suggest that even if immigrants aren’t socialized in Canada at a young age, that’s not an obstacle to building understanding and support for reconciliation.

Indigenous support for immigration

Interestingly, the survey also allows us to explore the other side of the relationship between immigrants and Indigenous Peoples in Canada, namely support among Indigenous Peoples for immigration.

This is a potentially contentious issue. On the one hand, diverse sources of immigration in the post-Second World War period have already disrupted the narrative of Canada as a nation of two founding peoples (British and French). That in turn suggests a view of Canada that is not only multicultural but multi-national, and inclusive of Indigenous Peoples and nations.

In this sense, the interests of immigrants and Indigenous Peoples could be aligned. But at the same time, the ongoing arrival of newcomers can be seen as a continuation of the settler/colonization process.

People look at a mural painted on the ground that reads More Justice More Peace.
People look at the More Justice More Peace Mural created by 17 artists to raise awareness of injustices suffered by Black and Indigenous people in Victoria, B.C., in August 2020. Photo credit: Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press

Thoughts on immigration

We can explore this issue by referring to a question in the survey asking Canadians whether they agree or disagree that “overall, there is too much immigration to Canada.”

The results show that there are significant differences in attitudes about immigration between the general population and Indigenous Peoples. Thirty per cent of Indigenous peoples “strongly agree” with the statement, the highest proportion among all groups.

A graph shows whether Canadians and Indigenous people believe there is too much immigration to Canada.
A graph shows whether Canadians and Indigenous people believe there is too much immigration to Canada. Photo credit: Author provided.

However, this general difference about immigration levels is driven in large part by the difference in views between Indigenous Peoples and first-generation immigrants. While Indigenous Peoples, compared to first-generation immigrants, are more likely to strongly agree than strongly disagree that there is too much immigration to Canada, there are no statistically significant differences between Indigenous Peoples and second- or third-generation Canadians.

This suggests that the key factor influencing attitudes towards immigration might not be Indigenous identity, but being born in Canada.

Nonetheless, this finding is important because it’s a reminder to proponents of more immigration that they should be open to and engage with Indigenous Peoples’ perspectives on this issue. Immigration, as a policy objective, should be pursued with an eye on how it might be perceived by those who were displaced by the earlier arrival of settlers.

Canada shouldn’t be smug about gun violence — it’s a growing problem here, too

Written by Wendy Cukier, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press. Originally published in The Conversation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces new gun control legislation in Ottawa on May 30, 2022.

The Canadian government has tabled new legislation to strengthen the screening process of individual firearm owners, institute a mandatory buyback of banned semi-automatic military style firearms and to ban the sale, import and transfer of handguns.

This new legislation, Bill C-21, is a potential game-changer, but it’s been a long time coming. Calls for a ban on semi-automatic, military-style weapons date back to the Montréal massacre more than 30 years ago.

Anne McLellan, then the Liberal justice minister, promised a ban on the gun used in that tragedy — the Ruger Mini 14 — as well as the notorious AR-15, but it never came to pass.

In 2005, when Liberal Leader Paul Martin promised a ban on handguns as he ran for re-election, there were about 350,000 restricted weapons in Canada. Now there are more than a million. The proliferation of handguns is partly the result of the relaxation of laws, but even more the lack of implementation of the laws that exist.

While some people are rejoicing about the new legislation, others are asking why it took so long.

The simple answer? The gun lobby. But perhaps there’s more to it than that.

More guns, more gun deaths

The evidence is clear — in industrialized countries where there are more guns, there are higher rates of firearms crime and gun-related deaths.

A comparison of Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States is instructive: While rates of homicide without guns are comparable (although the U.S. is slightly higher), rates of homicide with guns are dramatically different.

The U.K. has a rate per capita of gun homicides that is one-tenth of Canada’s. There were just 33 gun murders in the U.K. in 2019. In Canada in 2020, police reported 277 firearm homicides.

An important difference about the U.K.? It banned handguns after the Dunblane massacre in 1996 that left 16 young schoolchildren dead.

A police officer walks on the grass outside a school. Ambulances sit in the parking lot behind him.
A police officer walks on the grounds of the Dunblane Primary School in Dunblane, Scotland, after a lone gunman killed 16 children, a teacher and himself in 1996. It resulted in a ban on owning handguns in the U.K. Lynne Sladky/AP Photo

While mass shootings can occur in countries with strict laws, they occur far less frequently. The U.K. rarely sees them. Canada has about one a year. The United States had more than 600 in 2021 and has seen more than 250 this year, leaving hundreds dead and injured. In 2020, almost 20,000 Americans were murdered with guns.

Rural rates of gun violence

Despite the rhetoric about gun control being an urban or gang-related issue, Statistics Canada data shows rural rates of gun crime are higher in most provinces. Rates of domestic homicides, murders of police officers and suicide are also generally significantly higher in rural areas and the west.

Gun advocates complain that stricter gun laws punish law-abiding gun-owners. But handguns and semi-automatic military-style assault weapons are not used for hunting or by farmers for legitimate purposes.

A man wearing a mask holds a sign that reading Legal Gun Owners Are Not The Problem.
A gun owner holds a sign at a rally organized by the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights against new government gun regulations on Parliament Hill in September 2020. Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

While smuggled handguns play a role in the illegal network of drugs and human trafficking, they are not the entire problem. Legal handguns are often stolen, illegally sold and diverted. Many firearms recovered in crime in Canada that have been traced back by authorities reportedly came from Canadian sources.

The firearms used in the Montréal massacre, at the Québec Islamic Centre and at Dawson College, for example, were all legally acquired.

Others, such as the 2018 Toronto Danforth mass shooting, involved guns that were stolen from legal owners.

American-style arming for self-defence is also rising in Canada. Colten Boushie’s killer, who was acquitted of murder and manslaughter, used a semi-automatic pistol. He also had two handguns he claimed were for “shooting coyotes,” not a legal purpose.

And the links between right-wing and white supremacists groups and the gun lobby are troubling.

Guarding against smugness

The gun control debate has been waged for decades, but we have reached a tipping point. Canadians shouldn’t feel smug watching the carnage unfold in the U.S., where there are almost as many guns as people and more than a third of the firearms are handguns.

Countries in the European Union, Australia, New Zealand and even Switzerland have strengthened their laws in recent years. Canada, meantime, is ranked fourth among countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in the rate of gun death.

The Supreme Court of Canada has said unequivocally that there is no American-style right to own guns in Canada, but many politicians echo gun lobby rhetoric about gun owner rights.

A red-haired woman holds up a placard with assault-style weapons on it.
Meaghan Hennegan, who was shot twice during the Dawson College shooting, holds up a board showing assault-style weapons as she joins other gun control advocates at a news conference on proposed federal gun control legislation on Parliament Hill in 2018. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Having researched gun violence and advocated for stricter laws for more than 30 years, I argue that the problem has not actually been resistance by the gun lobby and its political allies. There are fewer than 300,000 legal handgun owners in Canada and even fewer collectors of semi–automatic, military-style weapons.

The gun lobby in Canada is remarkably well-resourced and has in the past hijacked the public agenda. But for decades, most Canadians have supported a ban on semi-automatic military-style assault weapons and handguns.

Canadians need to take action

The uncomfortable truth is, however, that unless they are directly affected by gun violence or on the front lines, most Canadians do not actively lobby for gun control. The gun lobby, meantime, will put up billboards, donate to the cause, organize protests and even stalk politicians on the campaign trail.

Politicians are far more likely to hear from gun control opponents than supporters. Public meetings on gun control tend to be swarmed by the gun lobby and many politicians were targeted during the election.

While only one per cent of Canadians own handguns, handgun owners dominated consultations on gun control proposals despite polls showing clearly that the majority of Canadians support gun control.

Canadians will need to take action to ensure the new proposed laws become a reality.