Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Forum to probe negative perceptions of aboriginals

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A federal Crown corporation is hosting a panel discussion Wednesday at the University of Winnipeg on why attitudes are growing more negative against aboriginal Canadians, especially in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The event, in advance of Thursday's International Day to Eliminate Racism, is intended to serve as a dialogue on perceptions of aboriginal people, said an announcement from its sponsors, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

The dialogue comes in the wake of a survey that found one in four Canadians says during the last year, their trust has dropped and they have a low level of trust of aboriginal people. Some of the highest levels of distrust anywhere in Canada were reported among immigrants in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

"One interesting phenomenon we found is the more contact people had with aboriginal people, the more sympathetic people were with aboriginal people, except in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. That's the one place where more contact didn't have any effect. We don't understand it, but we want to find out more about it and hopefully we will from the people in Winnipeg," said a senior foundation board member Rubin Friedman in an interview from Toronto Monday.

The foundation conducted the survey in late February and early March across the country and found negative perceptions are also growing among the general population, most markedly in English Canada.

Attitudes of distrust are equally negative in three distinct categories that factor into the overall souring of relations with aboriginal people: the federal government, aboriginal leaders and a host of historical and social disadvantages linked to aboriginal people.

The survey was conducted after a wave of rallies and protests this winter linked to the Idle No More movement and Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence's liquid fast to protest federal omnibus budget bills.

Panellists include the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples executive vice-president Ron Swain and Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba executive director Abdikheir Ahmed. The panel starts Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the U of W's Wesley Hall.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 19, 2013 A4

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Updated on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 11:43 AM CDT: Corrects typo.

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