LogoStatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada Perceptions of safety of Indigenous people during the COVID-19 pandemic

by Paula Arriagada, Tara Hahmann and Vivian O’Donnell

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The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting social disruption have left many to struggle with feelings of uncertainty, stress, and fear. A sense of personal safety, whether in the home or in public, is an important aspect of this uncertainty. A perceived lack of safety can have a significant adverse effect on individuals and communities (Perreault 2017), particularly among more vulnerable populations.

Recent studies based on crowdsourced data have highlighted some of the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic among Indigenous participants, including greater mental health and economic impacts compared to non-Indigenous participants (Arriagada et al. 2020a, 2020b). Building on these findings, this article focuses on the perceptions of safety, both at home and in public, among Indigenous people.

The analysis is based on two crowdsourcing data collection initiatives. From May 12 to May 25, approximately 1,400 First Nations people, Métis and Inuit aged 15 and older participated in our online questionnaire “Impacts of COVID-19 on Canadians: Perceptions of safety”. Between April 24 and May 11, 2020, another 1,400 participated in the online questionnaire “Impacts of COVID-19 on Canadians:  Mental Health”. Readers should note that crowdsourcing data are not based on sampling principles, and as such, these findings cannot be applied to the overall Indigenous population. However, these findings provide important insight into the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the well-being of Indigenous participants as measured by their perceptions of safety.

Concern about the impact of confinement on family stress highest among Indigenous women participants

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians have been spending more time at home. Higher rates of overcrowding among the Indigenous population (Statistics Canada, 2020) and greater mental health impacts of COVID-19 (Arriagada et al., 2020a) combined with shelter in place recommendations may further increase vulnerability to victimization (Bradbury-Jones & Isham, 2020).

Concerns about the impact of confinement on family stress can provide insights on perceptions of safety at home. Among Indigenous participants, 41% reported that they were “very” or “extremely” concerned about the impact of confinement on family stress, compared to 28% among non-Indigenous participants (Chart 1). Indigenous women participants (47%) were more likely to report this concern than Indigenous men (33%).

Chart 1 Concern about the impact of COVID-19 on family stress due to confinement, Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants, April 24 to May 12, 2020

Data table for Chart 1 
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1 Indigenous, Non-Indigenous, All, Women and Men, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Indigenous Non-Indigenous
All Women Men All Women Men
percent
Not at all concerned 23 20 26 31 29 33
Somewhat concerned 37 33 41 41 40 42
Very/extremely concerned 41 47 33 28 31 25

Indigenous participants were more likely to report being concerned with the impact of COVID-19 on violence in their home

Participants were also asked about their level of concern regarding the impact of COVID-19 on violence in their home. This is an area of developing concern due to self-isolation measures that are found to increase risk of interpersonal conflict (Bradbury-Jones & Isham, 2020). While most Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants expressed that they were “not at all” concerned, 11% of Indigenous participants reported some level of concern (somewhat/very/extremely)Note  regarding the impact of the pandemic on violence in their home, more than twice the corresponding percentage among non-Indigenous participants (5%) (Chart 2). The level of concern among participants surrounding violence in the home was higher among Indigenous women (13%) than among Indigenous men (9%).

Chart 2 Percentage reporting some level of concern about the impact of COVID-19 on violence in the home, Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants, April 24 to May 11, 2020

Data table for Chart 2 
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2 Indigenous, Non-Indigenous, All, Women and Men, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Indigenous Non-Indigenous
All Women Men All Women Men
percent
Percentage reporting some level of concern about the impact of COVID-19 on violence in the home 11 13 9 5 5 4

Indigenous participants report lower sense of safety in their neighbourhood compared to non-Indigenous participants

Participants were asked whether they believe crime in their neighbourhood since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic had increased, decreased or stayed the same. While perceptions of crime are not necessarily consistent with police-reported crime trends, these perceptions are important because fear of crime can impact upon an individual’s sense of well-being and can impact community cohesion (Perreault, 2017).

Among Indigenous participants, 17% reported that they believed crime had increased in their neighbourhood since the start of the pandemic, compared to 11% among non-Indigenous participants (Chart 3). There was little gender difference among Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants.

Feelings of safety when walking alone after dark in their neighbourhood is another aspect of perceptions of safety, and Indigenous women participants were least likely to report feeling very safe when doing so. Among Indigenous participants, 24% of women reported feeling very safe when walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark, compared with 43% of men. Among non-Indigenous participants, 30% of women and 49% of men reported feeling very safe. This is consistent with previous results from representative surveys; generally, higher percentages of men feel safer walking alone after dark than women (Perreault, 2017).

Chart 3 Percentage reporting feeling crime in neighbourhood has increased since the start of the pandemic, May 12 to 25, 2020

Data table for Chart 3 
Data table for Chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 3 Indigenous, Non-Indigenous, All, Women and Men, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Indigenous Non-Indigenous
All Women Men All Women Men
percent
Feel that crime in neighbourhood has increased since start of pandemic 17 16 18 11 11 11

Indigenous participants twice as likely to feel that people are being harassed or attacked because of their ethnicity or skin colour

Perceptions of safety at the time of COVID-19 might also be impacted by perceived or experienced discriminatory or racist responses to fear directed at marginalized groups (Devakumar et al., 2020). Over 1 in 5 Indigenous participants (22%) felt that people are being harassed or attacked because of their race, ethnicity or skin colour “often” or “sometimes” in their neighbourhood. In comparison, 11% of non-Indigenous participants felt the same. Differences in perceptions between Indigenous men and women participants were small.

Experts have highlighted how social isolation and quarantine measures can lead to increases in domestic violence with options for support being reduced and/or forced to change their mode of delivery (Usher et al., 2020, Illesinghe, 2020). Therefore, while participants expressed concerns about their safety at home and in public, their access to support services may be limited during the pandemic. Still, 22% of Indigenous participants and 9% of non-Indigenous participants contacted resources (excluding police) for reasons related to crime, with counselor, psychologist and social worker services the most commonly reportedNote .

This article is the fifth of a series of releases aimed to inform on the economic, social and health challenges facing Indigenous people during the COVID-19 pandemic. A first Daily article examined health and social vulnerabilities among Indigenous people living in rural, remote and northern communities, while a second article focused on vulnerabilities to socioeconomic impacts among those living in urban areas. A third article reported on the mental health of Indigenous people during the pandemic, and a fourth article reported on employment and financial impacts of the pandemic among Indigenous people. Over the coming months, Statistics Canada will continue to report on the impacts of the pandemic on Indigenous people.

Methodology

The analysis is based on two crowdsourcing data collection initiatives: Impacts of COVID-19 on Canadians - Mental Health was collected between April 24 and May 11, 2020, and Impacts of COVID-19 on Canadians - Perceptions of Safety was collected between May 12 and May 25, 2020. These are two separate crowdsource initiatives with different sets of participants.

Unlike other surveys conducted by Statistics Canada, crowdsourced data are not collected under a sample design using probability-based sampling. Methodological adjustments have been made to account for age, sex and provincial differences. However, these adjustments are for the general Canadian population and do not take into account the differences in age structure and geographic distribution of the Indigenous population. Because of these limitations, it was not possible to report findings separately for First Nations people, Métis or Inuit or for diverse subpopulations within the Indigenous population (for example, those living on reserve or those living in Inuit Nunangat). Caution should be exercised when interpreting the findings.

References

Arriagada, P, Hahmann, T., & O’Donnell, V. (2020a). Indigenous people and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. StatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 45-28-0001. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.

Arriagada, P, Frank, K., Hahmann, T., & Hou F. (2020b). Economic impact of COVID-19 among Indigenous people. StatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 45-28-0001. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.

Bradbury-Jones, C. & Isham, L. (2020). The pandemic paradox: the consequences of COVID-19 on domestic violence. Journal of clinical nursing, 29:13-14. DOI: 10.1111/jocn.15296.

Devakumar, D., Shannon, G., Bhopal, S., & Abubakar, I. (2020). Racism and discrimination in COVID-19 responses. The Lancet, 395:10231, 1194.

Illesinghe, V. (2020). The connection between social isolation, entrapment and domestic violence were apparent long before the pandemic. Policy Options, Feature Series, The Coronavirus Pandemic: Canada’s Response.

Perreault, S. (2017). Canadians’ Perceptions of Personal Safety and Crime, 2014. Statistics Canada. Catalogue no. 85-002-X. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.

Statistics Canada. (2020). First Nations people, Métis and Inuit and COVID-19: Health and social characteristics. The Daily. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 11-001-X. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.

Usher, K., Bhullar, N., Durkin, J., Gyamfi, N. & Jackson, D. (2020). Family violence and covid-19: Increased vulnerability and reduced options for support. International Journal of mental health nursing. DOI: 10.111/inm.12735.

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