Violent victimization and discrimination among visible minority populations, Canada, 2014

by Laura Simpson

Release date: April 12, 2018

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Highlights

  • According to the 2014 General Social Survey on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization), the overall rate of self-reported violent victimization among visible minorities (55E incidents per 1,000 population) was significantly lower than among non-visible minorities (80 per 1,000).
  • Between 2004 and 2014 there was a significant decline (-44%) in the rate of violent victimization among the visible minority population, from 98 incidents per 1,000 population in 2004 to 55E in 2014. This decrease was much larger than that of the non-visible minority population (-25%).
  • Visible minorities reported being physically assaulted at a far lower rate than non-visible minorities (27E versus 53 incidents per 1,000 population), but were equally as likely to report having been sexually assaulted (21E and 21 incidents per 1,000).
  • Canadian-born visible minorities experienced violent victimization at a rate almost five times higher than that of their immigrant counterparts (143E versus 28E incidents per 1,000 population, respectively), suggesting that the lower rates of violent victimization observed among visible minorities are mainly attributable to immigrants.
  • One in five (20%) members of the visible minority population reported experiencing some form of discrimination in the five years preceding the survey. Of these, over three in five (63%) believed that they were discriminated against because of their race or skin colour.
  • Visible minorities expressed lower levels of satisfaction than non-visible minorities on three out of six indicators of police performance: being approachable and easy to talk to (62% versus 67%), providing information on ways to prevent crime (51% versus 57%), and treating people fairly (59% versus 63%).

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According to the 2016 Census of Population, just over six million Canadians aged 15 years and older self-identified as belonging to the visible minority population, representing 21.2% of Canada’s total population for this age group.Note In 2016, the three largest visible minority groups in Canada were South Asian (25% of all visible minorities aged 15 years and older), Chinese (22%) and Black (14%), together accounting for more than half (61%) of the total visible minority population. If current trends continue, the visible minority population will represent between 31.2% and 35.9% of the Canadian population by 2036 (Statistics Canada 2016).

Using data from the 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization), this Juristat article highlights some of the socio-demographic characteristics of visible minorities in Canada, followed by an analysis of the nature and extent of self-reported violent victimization among visible minorities as measured by the GSS on Victimization—including sexual assault, robbery and physical assault. Perceptions of crime and the criminal justice system along with experiences of discrimination among this population are also explored. Where possible, the analysis compares specific visible minority groups with the non-visible minority population to better understand visible minorities’ experiences and perceptions with crime and victimization.Note

It should be noted that the GSS is only conducted in Canada’s official languages (French and English). As such, visible minorities who do not speak either of the official languages were not able to participate in the survey. However, this Juristat article provides important information on the victimization experiences and perceptions towards the criminal justice system of visible minorities. In 2016, approximately 7% of the visible minority population in Canada did not know either English of French, compared to 0.5% of non-visible minorities (Statistics Canada 2016).

Profile of the visible minority population

Visible minority population younger, more educated and more urban

Results from the 2016 Census of Population show that the visible minority population in Canada is younger than the non-visible minority population, with 15- to 24-year-olds comprising just under one-fifth (19%) of the visible minority population (compared to 14% of the non-visible minority population).

The vast majority of visible minority individuals live in large population centres. In 2016, almost all (95%) visible minorities aged 15 years and older lived in one of Canada’s census metropolitan areas (CMAs),Note compared to two-thirds (65%) of non-visible minorities. Toronto (40%), Vancouver (16%) and Montréal (11%), the three largest CMAs in Canada, were home to the majority of Canada’s visible minority residents. Specifically, the CMA of Toronto was home to half (51%) of the South Asian population aged 15 years and older and almost 4 in 10 (39%) Black people. Meanwhile, 4 in 10 (40%) Chinese people resided in Toronto and 3 in 10 (31%) lived in Vancouver.

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Definitions

Visible minority: Refers to whether a person belongs to a visible minority group as defined by the Employment Equity Act and, if so, the visible minority group to which the person belongs. The Employment Equity Act defines visible minorities as "persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour". The visible minority population consists mainly of the following groups: South Asian, Chinese, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Arab, Southeast Asian, West Asian, Korean and Japanese and visible minority n.i.e.Note

Non-visible minority: Includes persons who gave a mark-in response of ‘White’ only, and persons who gave mark-in responses of ‘White and Latin American,’ ‘White and Arab’ or ‘White and West Asian’ only. Also includes persons who gave a mark-in response of Latin American, Arab or West Asian only, along with a European write-in response, and persons with no mark-in response who gave a write-in response that is not classified as a visible minority. This category also includes Aboriginal (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) persons.

Sexual assault: Includes incidents of forced sexual activity; attempted forced sexual activity; unwanted sexual touching, grabbing, kissing or fondling; or sexual relations without being able to give consent due to drugs, intoxication, manipulation or being forced in other ways than physically.

Robbery: Includes theft or attempted theft in which the offender had a weapon or there was violence or the threat of violence against the victim.

Physical assault: Includes an attack, a face-to-face threat of physical harm, or an incident with a weapon present.

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Experiences of violent victimization

Rate of violent victimization against visible minorities has decreased since 2004

Overall, in 2014, there were approximately 271,000E incidents of self-reported violent victimization involving visible minority victims aged 15 and older, which corresponds to a rate of 55E incidents per 1,000 population. Since 2004, the rate of violent victimization among visible minorities declined by 44% (98 incidents per 1,000 population). This mirrors the general trend among the non-visible minority population and the Canadian population overall, which experienced decreases of 25% and 28% in the self-reported rate of violent victimization between 2004 and 2014, respectively (Table 1).Note

Visible minorities far less likely to be victims of physical assault

In 2014, the overall rate of violent victimization among visible minorities (55E incidents per 1,000 population) was significantly lower than among non-visible minorities (80 per 1,000) and that of Aboriginal people (163 per 1,000).Note However, differences were observed when it came to specific types of violent victimization. While visible minorities were far less likely than non-visible minorities to report having been physically assaulted (27E versus 53 per 1,000), they were equally as likely to report having been sexually assaulted in the 12 months preceding the survey (21E and 21 per 1,000) (Table 1; Chart 1).

Data table for Chart 1
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1 Visible minorities, Non-visible minorities and Total, calculated using rate per 1,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Visible minorities Non-visible minoritiesTableau de Note  Total
rate per 1,000 population
Sexual assault 21Note E: Use with caution 21 22
Robbery Note F: too unreliable to be published 6 6
Physical assault 27Note E: Use with caution Note * 53 48
Total violent victimization 55Note E: Use with caution Note * 80 76

Rates of violent victimization higher for young and non-immigrant visible minorities

Research suggests that being young is associated with an increased risk of violent victimization, and this risk decreases with age, even when controlling for other risk factorsNote (Perreault and Simpson 2016; Perreault 2015). According to the 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization), there were 141E incidents of violent victimization for every 1,000 people between the ages of 15 and 24 who identified as a visible minority, more than seven times the rate of visible minorities aged 35 and older (19E per 1,000 population)Note (Table 2).

Additional research has found that immigrants tend to report a lower incidence of violent victimization (Ibrahim 2018; Perreault 2015).Note According to the 2014 GSS on Victimization, Canadian-born visible minorities experienced violent victimization at a rate almost five times higher than that of their immigrant counterparts (143E versus 28E incidents per 1,000 population). This trend is similar among the non-visible minority population, with immigrants experiencing lower rates of violent victimization than their non-immigrant counterparts (52%E versus 83%). This means that the lower rates of violent victimization observed among visible minorities overall may be attributable to immigrant visible minorities, as Canadian-born visible minorities were just as likely as non-visible minorities to report having been the victim of a violent crime.

Visible minority females and males experience similar rates of violent victimization

The impacts and consequences of violence can be substantial, adversely affecting the victim’s quality of life and, in turn, impacting their engagement in various aspects of society (Johnson et al. 2008). Statistics Canada’s population projections estimate that more than 3 in 10 females in Canada will belong to a visible minority group by 2031 (Hudon 2016). This growth underscores the need for more research on the experiences of crime and victimization among visible minority females.

According to the 2014 GSS on Victimization, females in Canada experienced violent victimization at a higher rate than males overall (85 incidents versus 68 incidents per 1,000 population). However, among visible minorities specifically, no statistically significant differences were found between women and men when it came to rates of violent victimization (62 and 48 incidents per 1,000 people, respectively).

Weapon use, sex and age of offender similar for visible and non-visible minorities

Characteristics of violent incidents were generally similar for both visible and non-visible minorities. For instance, just under one in four (23%E) victims of violent crime who were a visible minority reported that a weapon was present during the violent incident. Most (85%) victims who were victimized by one offender reported that the offender was a male, and just under three-quarters (70%) reported that the offender was between 18 and 34 years old.Note These proportions were similar to those provided by non-visible minority victims.

No differences between visible and non-visible minorities in reporting to the police

The ‘dark figure of crime’ refers to the proportion of criminal incidents that are not brought to the attention of the police. The 2014 GSS on Victimization found that overall, about two in ten (20%) violent victimization incidents that occurred in the 12 months preceding the survey were reported to the police, either by the victim or by someone else—a proportion which remained unchanged from 2009. This pattern was the same among visible minority populations.

Reasons for not reporting to police given by visible minority victims included: believing the crime was minor (65%), not wanting the hassle of dealing with the police (54%), feeling that the incident was unimportant (43%), thinking that the police would not have been effective (35%E) and believing there to be a lack of evidence (34%E).Note There were no statistically significant differences between the reasons provided by visible and non-visible minorities.

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Experiences of discrimination and perceptions of safety and disorder

One in five visible minorities report experiencing some form of discrimination

In 2014, one in five (20%) visible minorities reported experiencing some form of discrimination in the past five years, a significant difference from the non-visible minority population (12%). Of the visible minorities who had experienced discrimination, 63% believed that they were discriminated against because of their race or skin colour, and 63% said it was because of their ethnicity or culture.Note The remaining reasons included sex, physical appearance, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, language, or other reasons. Both visible and non-visible minorities most frequently reported the work environment and banks, stores or restaurants as the places where they had experienced discrimination. Further, visible minorities were twice as likely to feel discriminated against when dealing with the police (13% versus 7% for non-visible minorities) and three times more likely to experience discrimination when crossing the border into Canada (Table 3).

Among the visible minority population, those who identified as Arab and Black were most likely to report experiencing discrimination (29% and 27%, respectively) (Table 4). Specifically, four in five (81%) Black people who had experienced discrimination perceived their race or skin colour as a basis of their discrimination.

Female and male visible minorities equally likely to experience discrimination

Overall, 14% of females aged 15 and older reported experiencing some form of discrimination in the five years preceding the survey, compared to 12% of males. About one in five (21%) visible minority females reported being a victim of discrimination—a significantly higher proportion than their non-visible minority counterparts (13%). Of those who reported experiencing discrimination, 61% of visible minority females perceived the discrimination as based on their race or skin colour, compared to 17% of non-visible minority females (Table 5).Note There were no statistically significant differences between visible minority males and females with regard to experiencing discrimination.

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Visible minorities report feeling less safe after dark

The 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization) found that most (88%) Canadians were satisfied with their personal safety from crime and this was similar among visible minorities (86% versus 89% for non-visible minorities).

However the data also noted that visible minorities felt less safe in 2014 than they did ten years previously. Specifically, visible minorities were less likely to rate their satisfaction as being “very satisfied” or “satisfied” in 2014 (86% compared to 93% in 2004).

Respondents were also asked questions about their feelings of safety in specific situations, such as when walking alone at night, waiting for or using public transportation alone at night, and being home alone at night. In general, visible minorities were more likely than non-visible minorities to report feeling “somewhat worried” or “very worried” when waiting for or using public transportation alone at night (40% versus 31%), when home alone at night (14% versus 10%) and when walking alone at night (10% versus 7%). There were also some notable differences between visible minority groups (Table 6).

Experiencing discrimination has been found to be linked to a greater fear of crime (Skogan 1976). Of the visible minorities who reported experiencing discrimination in the five years preceding the survey, 21% reported feeling “somewhat worried” or “very worried” when home alone at night, compared to 13% of visible minorities who had not experienced discrimination. The same was true for non-visible minorities, among whom feeling “somewhat worried” or “very worried” in this situation was more common if they had experienced discrimination (18% versus 9%).

Visible minorities more likely to report signs of social disorder in their community

Research suggests that individuals are likely to draw conclusions about a neighbourhood’s level of crime based on its visible characteristics (Drakulich 2012; Stein 2014). As part of the 2014 GSS on Victimization, respondents were asked a series of questions about social disorder in their community, including: noisy neighbours or loud parties; people hanging around on the streets; garbage or litter lying around; vandalism, graffiti or other damage to property or vehicles; people being attacked or harassed because of their skin colour, ethnic origin or religion; people using or dealing drugs; and people being drunk or rowdy in public places. Respondents were asked to rate each individual problem as being “a big problem”, “a moderate problem”, “a small problem” or “not a problem at all”.

With the exception of noisy neighbours or loud parties, visible minorities were significantly more likely than non-visible minorities to report all of these signs of social disorder as being a big problem in their neighbourhood. Approximately 1 in 10 (11%) visible minorities perceived one or more of these as being big problems in their neighbourhood, compared to 1 in 15 (7%) non-visible minorities. Among the visible minority population, those who were Arab and Black were most likely to report one or more big problems (15% and 14%, respectively).

Victimization rate lower among visible minorities who report a strong sense of belonging to their community

Social cohesion generally refers to the forces that bond individuals to their community and promote a sense of belonging (Government of Canada 2017; Charron 2009). Low social cohesion has been associated with an elevated risk of violent victimization, particularly due to less social control in the neighbourhood (Perreault 2015; Sampson 2012; Charron 2009). Although the majority (92%) of Canadians believed that they lived in a welcoming community, there was a slight difference observed between visible and non-visible minorities. Similarly, visible minorities were less likely to report having a “somewhat strong” or “very strong” sense of belonging to their community than non-visible minorities (72% and 76%).

Further, when asked how likely it is that their neighbours would call the police if they heard or witnessed what seemed like criminal behaviour in their neighbourhood, visible minorities were significantly less likely to believe that it was “very likely” (57% versus 67% for non-visible minorities). Visible minority residents who said they had either a “very strong” or “somewhat strong” sense of belonging to their community were half as likely as those who said they had a “weak” sense of belonging to have been violently victimized (42E versus 85E per 1,000 population).

Perceptions of the criminal justice system and the police

Public perceptions of the criminal justice system can be used to evaluate the performance of the police and the courts to determine whether these institutions are being responsive to the communities that they serve and whether they are treating all citizens in a fair and equitable manner (Wortley and Owusu-Bempah 2009).

Visible and non-visible minorities equally likely to have confidence in the police

Research has demonstrated that citizens are more willing to report crime, share information about criminal activity, and comply with the law if they have confidence in the police (Brown and Benedict 2002). The 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization) asked respondents to rate their confidence in the police ranging from having “no confidence at all” to having “a great deal of confidence.” In general, the majority of Canadians had either “some confidence” or “a great deal of confidence” in the police. Levels of confidence were the same among visible and non-visible minorities (both 91%).

Canadians can come into contact with the police for many reasons, not only after a criminal act. The 2014 GSS on Victimization asked respondents whether they had come in to contact with the police during the 12 months preceding the survey for a variety of reasons ranging from attending public information sessions to being arrested.Note People who come into contact with police in these various ways may have differing perceptions of the police. For example, visible minorities who had come in to contact with the policeNote for emotional, mental, or alcohol or drug use problems were significantly less likely to have confidence in the police than visible minorities who had not come in to contact with the police for these reasons (64%E versus 91%).Note These proportions were similar among the non-visible minority population.

Visible minorities less likely to think local police are doing a good job at being approachable and easy to talk to

Respondents were asked a series of questions relating to their perceptions of local police when it came to enforcing the laws, promptly responding to calls, being approachable and easy to talk to, providing information on ways to prevent crime, ensuring the safety of citizens, and treating people fairly.

According to the 2014 GSS on Victimization, visible minorities were less likely than non-visible minorities to think that the police were doing a good job at being approachable and easy to talk to (62% versus 67%), at providing information on ways to prevent crime (51% versus 57%), and at treating people fairly (59% versus 63%). There were no significant differences between visible and non-visible minorities with regard to the remaining perceptions of police criteria (enforcing the laws, promptly responding to calls, and ensuring the safety of citizens).

Among the visible minority groups, Black (47%) and Korean (45%) individuals were among the least likely to report feeling that their local police were doing a good job of treating people fairly, compared to just under two-thirds (63%) of non-visible minorities.

Over time, the proportion of visible minorities who think that the local police are doing a good job of treating people fairly increased from 49% in 2004 to 59% in 2014. This trend is similar among non-visible minorities with 61% in 2004 believing that the police are doing a good job of treating people fairly compared to 63% in 2014.

Summary

The 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization) measures three types of violent victimization: sexual assault, robbery and physical assault. In 2014, visible minorities reported experiencing approximately 271,000E incidents of violent victimization, corresponding to a rate of 55E incidents per 1,000 population. This rate of violence against visible minorities marked a decline of 44% from 2004.

Data from the GSS on Victimization show that rate of violent victimization is higher for Canadian-born visible minorities who experienced violent victimization at a rate almost five times higher than that of their immigrant counterparts (143E versus 28E incidents per 1,000 population).

Visible minorities were more likely than their non-visible minority counterparts to report experiencing discrimination (20% versus 12%), with two-thirds (63%) believing that they were discriminated against because of their race or skin colour, or because of their ethnicity or culture. Visible minorities were twice as likely as non-visible minorities to report experiencing discrimination when dealing with the police and three times more likely when crossing the border into Canada.

Detailed data tables

Table 1 Victims of violent victimization, by visible minority status and type of offence, Canada, 2004, 2009 and 2014

Table 2 Victims of violent victimization, by visible minority status, sex and selected characteristics, Canada, 2014

Table 3 Situations in which discrimination was perceived, by visible minority status, Canada, 2014

Table 4 Perceptions of discrimination, by visible minority status, Canada, 2014

Table 5 Perceived reason for discrimination experienced, by visible minority status, Canada, 2014

Table 6 Perceptions of safety, by visible minority status, Canada, 2014

Survey description

General Social Survey on Canadians' Safety (Victimization)

In 2014, Statistics Canada conducted the victimization cycle of the General Social Survey (GSS) for the sixth time. Previous cycles were conducted in 1988, 1993, 1999, 2004 and 2009. The purpose of the survey is to provide data on Canadians’ personal experiences with eight offences, examine the risk factors associated with victimization, examine rates of reporting to the police, assess the nature and extent of spousal violence, measure fear of crime, and examine public perceptions of crime and the criminal justice system.

The 2014 GSS on Victimization was also conducted in Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut using a different sampling design. The GSS on Victimization was also conducted in the Territories in 2009 and was preceded by test collections in 1999 and 2004.

In 2009, comparisons between the data from the territories and the provinces were to be made with caution primarily because the Inuit population was underrepresented in the territories. In 2014, as a result of advancements made to the frame and higher response rates, data in the territories can be compared, or combined, with data for the provinces. It is noteworthy, however, to keep in mind differences in survey methods and weighting strategies for the provinces and territories when analyzing GSS on Victimization 2014 data at the Canada level. This report combined 2014 GSS on Victimization data from both the provinces and territories.

The target population for the GSS on Victimization is the Canadian population aged 15 and over, living in the provinces and territories. Canadians residing in institutions are not included. Once a household was contacted an individual 15 years or older was randomly selected to respond to the survey. With funding from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Public Safety Canada, an oversample of immigrants and youth was added to the 2014 GSS on Victimization for a more detailed analysis of these groups.

In 2014, the sample size for the 10 provinces was 33,127 respondents. Of that number, 2,787 were from the oversample. In 2014, the sample size for the three territories was 2,040 respondents, about twice the number of respondents in 2009 (1,094).

Data collection

Provinces

Data collection took place from January to December 2014 inclusively. Responses were obtained by computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI). Respondents were able to respond in the official language of their choice.

Territories

Data collection took place from August 2014 to January 2015 inclusively. The method of collection was a mixture of computer-assisted telephone (CATI) and personal interviews (CAPI). Most cases started as CATI at the regional office and could be transferred to a CAPI-interviewer depending on the community and collection constraints. Respondents were interviewed in the official language of their choice.

Response rates

Provinces

The overall response rate in 2014 was 52.9%, down from 61.6% in 2009. Non-respondents included people who refused to participate, could not be reached, or could not speak English or French. Respondents in the sample were weighted so that their responses represent the non-institutionalized Canadian population aged 15 and older.

Territories

The overall response rate was 58.7%, up from 50.7% in 2009. Non-respondents included people who refused to participate, could not be reached, or could not speak English or French. Respondents in the sample were weighted so that their responses represent the non-institutionalized territories population aged 15 and older.

Data limitations

As with any household survey, there are some data limitations. The results are based on a sample and are therefore subject to sampling errors. Somewhat different results might have been obtained if the entire population had been surveyed. This article uses the coefficient of variation (CV) as a measure of the sampling error. Estimates with a high CV (over 33.3%) were not published because they were too unreliable. In these cases, the symbol “F” is used in place of an estimate in the figures and data tables. Estimates with a CV between 16.6 and 33.3 should be used with caution and the symbol “E” is used. Where descriptive statistics and cross-tabular analyses were used, statistically significant differences were determined using 95% confidence intervals.

References

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Skogan, W.G. 1976. “Citizen reporting of crime: Some national panel data.” Criminology. Vol. 13, no. 4. p. 535-549.

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Stein, R.E. 2014. “Neighbourhood residents’ fear of crime: A tale of three cities.” Sociological Focus. Vol. 47, no. 2.p. 121-139.

Wortley, S. and A. Owusu-Bempah. 2009. “Unequal before the law: Immigrant and racial minority perceptions of the Canadian criminal justice system.” International Migration and Immigration. Vol. 10, no. 4. p. 447-473.

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