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Society and community

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The 12 largest census metropolitan areas (CMAs) are home to 17.0 million Canadians, or 54% of the population in 2006. Most residents of these large cities do not perceive problems with physical or social incivility in their neighbourhoods.

Physical incivilities include garbage or litter lying around, vandalism, graffiti and other deliberate damage to property or vehicles. Social incivilities are defined as noisy neighbours or loud parties, people hanging around on the streets, people sleeping on the streets or in public places, people using or dealing drugs, people being drunk or rowdy in public places, and prostitution.

Differing perceptions

Three out of four Canadians aged 15 and older living in the 12 largest CMAs in 2004 felt there were no problems with incivility in their particular neighbourhoods. However, there is a wide continuum of perception among the 12 largest CMAs and even within CMAs.

About one in six individuals (16%) living in the 12 largest CMAs perceived a problem with a physical incivility in their neighbourhood. As well, one in five CMA residents (21%) perceived at least one type of social incivility to be a problem.

Eight percent of Québec residents perceived a problem with physical incivility, whereas 23% of Regina residents did; the rest of the CMAs ranged between 12% and 20%. Overall, 9% of residents in the 12 largest CMAs perceived garbage or litter lying around to be a problem in their neighbourhood, while 11% described vandalism and graffiti as a problem.

In 2004, the highest rates of perceived social incivility—with one in four residents seeing a problem where they live—occurred in Halifax, Montréal and Vancouver. The lowest rates were in Québec, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary, where one in six inhabitants observed social incivility.

In all 12 largest CMAs except Regina, using and dealing drugs was the most commonly perceived social incivility problem. With the exception of Vancouver, the social incivilities least often observed were prostitution and people sleeping on the streets.

In Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver, perceptions of both physical and social incivility rose as housing density increased. In all three CMAs, 80% or more of residents living in a suburban environment perceived their neighbourhoods had no problems with either type of incivility.

Social cohesion and community are also being affected by technological change, as the Internet continues to transform our lives. Some Canadians are using the Internet as an instrument to engage with their communities through volunteering. In 2007, about 10% of volunteers used the Internet to seek out volunteer opportunities, while 23% used the Internet in some way during their volunteer activities.

Youth aged 15 to 24 are the most likely to use the Internet to search for volunteer opportunities. Almost 18% of them do so, compared with 6% of adults aged 35 to 44. Moderate users of the Internet (one hour or less online per day) are more likely to volunteer, and they spend more time volunteering, than either non-users or people who spend more than one hour online per day.