Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

Exploring the Roots of Prejudice toward Aboriginal Peoples in Canada

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

Exploring the Roots of Prejudice toward Aboriginal Peoples in Canada

Article excerpt

European colonialism in Canada served to systematically erode Aboriginal culture and place Aboriginal peoples at a considerable socioeconomic disadvantage relative to the white majority (Shepard, O'Neill, & Guenette, 2006). Morrison, Morrison, Harriman, and Jewell (2008) discuss the history of the Canadian government's implementation of several oppressive and assimilative policies, such as the residential schooling system, all of which had deleterious consequences for Aboriginal peoples (e.g., the loss of their culture and language, and experiences of sexual and physical abuse at residential schools). The intergenerational impact of these practices also has been documented (see Bombay, Matheson, & Anisman [2009] for a review). Prejudice toward Aboriginal peoples in Canada has recently received mainstream media attention, with Maclean's magazine publishing two articles on the issue (Gilmore, 2015; Macdonald, 2015). One of these articles opens with the following Facebook quote from a teacher living in Winnipeg, Manitoba: "Oh Goddd how long are Aboriginal peoples going to use what happened as a crutch to suck more money out of Canadians?...They have contributed NOTHING to the development of Canada. Just standing with their hand out. Get to work, tear the treaties and shut the FK up already" (Macdonald, 2015, para. 1). Such negativity points to a need to investigate the social psychological underpinnings of Canadians' attitudes toward Aboriginal peoples.

Old-fashioned and Modern Prejudice

This study was guided by the constructs of old-fashioned and modem prejudice. Old-fashioned prejudice involves the perceived innate inferiority of a social group (Morrison et al., 2008) as well as overtly prejudiced attitudes (Clark & Tate, 2008). Modem prejudice is said to reflect moral concerns that minority groups are "making illegitimate (or unnecessary) demands for changes in the status quo" (Morrison & Morrison, 2002, p. 18) or that they receive unfair advantages (e.g., preferential government spending; Durrheim & Dixon, 2004).

Research on Prejudice toward Aboriginal peoples

The scant literature focusing on stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination toward Indigenous persons in countries such as Australia and Canada suggests that this research may be placed in one of two broad categories: (1) the white majority's attitudes and behaviours toward the minority group, and (2) the minority group's personal accounts of prejudice and discrimination (e.g., Bombay, Matheson, & Anisman, 2010). Research illustrative of the former category, stratified by geographic location, will be reviewed briefly.


Researchers have identified the role of values (e.g., egalitarianism) and negative personal experiences in non-Aboriginal Australians' prejudice toward Aboriginal Australians (e.g., Pedersen, Griffiths, Contos, Bishop, & Walker, 2000). Other research has found that a number of factors may play a role in white/non-Aboriginal Australians' attitudes toward Aboriginal Australians, including level of empathy, level of collective guilt over injustices against Aboriginal peoples, number of friendships with Aboriginal peoples, symbolic (cf. modern) racism coupled with perceiving the in-group as deprived relative to Aborig- inal peoples, group-based guilt for majority group wrongdoings, and perceiving non-Aboriginal peoples as relatively advantaged compared to Aboriginal peoples (Barlow, Louis, & Hewston, 2009; Leach, Iyer, & Pedersen, 2007; McGarty et al., 2005; Pedersen, Beven, Walker, & Griffiths, 2004).

With regard to qualitative research, Augoustinos, Tuffin, and Rapley (1999) analyzed university student group discussions surrounding the topic of Aboriginal social issues. Some of the resultant themes reflected old-fashioned and modem prejudice. Another study involving university students focused on affirmative action programs (Augoustinos, Tuffin, & Every, 2005). In two group discussions, opposition to such programs was frequently rationalized on the basis of meritocratic ideals (i. …

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