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UBC Theses and Dissertations

In Canada we trust? understanding ethno-racial variations in social and political trust Hwang, Monica, Mi Hee Clara


This thesis considers ethno-racial differences in social and political trust, which leading scholars see as the two key dimensions of social cohesion in Canada. Although not directly addressing problems of prejudice and intolerance, the analysis relates to this same research tradition. I compare trust among eight ethno-racial groupings: British, French, “Canadians,” other Europeans, Aboriginal Peoples, visible minorities, mixed-origins respondents, and all others. Building from the concepts of “social distance” and “social boundaries,” I test three sets of factors for explaining ethno-racial differences in trust: (1) three ethno-cultural “markers” – religion, language, and immigration status; (2) two socioeconomic influences –education and income; and (3) two social engagement indicators – voluntary association activity and ethnic diversity of friendships. Models also include controls for region, age, and gender. Based on the 2008 General Social Survey Public Use Microdata file, findings indicate that a perspective employing concepts of social distance and social boundaries helps in understanding many, though not all, of the differences in trust across ethno-racial communities. The results show that, compared to more established groups like the British, the most culturally distinctive minorities – visible minorities, French, and Aboriginal Peoples – express less social trust. This is consistent with the interpretation that groups subjected to more social distance/social boundaries experiences are less likely to develop social trust. Nevertheless, these same groups, except for Aboriginal Peoples, exhibit relatively high political trust. The latter finding suggests that some minorities, when treated or perceived by others as different or distant from the “mainstream,” may see government agencies as defending their minority rights and interests against discrimination. Aboriginal Peoples are an exception in being the only minority grouping to express lower levels of both social and political trust. This underscores their unique position in Canada. Despite being the country’s original inhabitants, they have long endured processes of discrimination, exclusion, and racism that understandably contribute to lower trust in other people. At the same time, historical and present-day governments have ignored, exacerbated, or created many of these injustices, giving Aboriginal Peoples far less reason than other groups to trust Canadian political institutions.

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Attribution 2.5 Canada