Understanding Differences in Political Trust among Canada’s Major Ethno-racial Groups

Monica Mi Hee Hwang


This paper considers ethno-racial differences in political trust, which leading scholars see as one of the two key dimensions of social cohesion in Canada. 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. Using data from the 2008 General Social Survey, I find that, compared to more established groups like the British, two of the three most culturally distinctive minorities – visible minorities and French respondents – express higher political trust. Nevertheless, the third key minority community in the analysis - Aboriginal Peoples - exhibit lower political trust than all of the other groups. The findings 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 a major exception to this conclusion, however. This underscores their unique position in Canada as the country’s original inhabitants, who have long endured processes of discrimination, exclusion, and racism that have influenced their trust in major government institutions.


political trust; Aboriginal Peoples; visible minorities; French; social distance; social boundaries

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