Canada is the second-largest country in the world by land area. It’s home to over 38 million people, hundreds of languages, and some of the most beautiful natural landscapes. Like every nation, Canada has social issues related to climate change, the rights of marginalized people, gender equality, and healthcare. Here are fifteen examples:
|Examples of Social Issues|
|#5.||Violence against Indigenous women|
#1. Climate change
In 2020, Canada was the 11th largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. This represents a decrease from 2005, but Canada still has lots of work to do. It’s the top public financier of fossil fuels among G20 nations. It also consistently approves new oil and gas pipeline expansions and fails to enforce regulations that reduce emissions. According to Climate Action Tracker, the country’s climate goals aren’t enough to meet the Paris Agreement.
#2. Gender inequality
Canada ranks as one of the best countries for women. In 2023, it ranked in 30th place out of 146 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index Rating. Acts like the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Pay Equity Act establish the importance of gender equality. There are still gaps to close, however. According to Canadian Women, women still make just 89 cents to every dollar a man makes. In 2020, 10x more women than men left the workforce. Surveys show Canada’s ongoing commitment to gender equality, so the future looks promising.
#3. Immigration policy
Canada has welcomed immigrants for many years. Most people in the country have favorable views of immigrants, and according to a 2022 survey, less than 30% of Canadians thought immigration levels were “too high.” This doesn’t mean Canada does everything right. A 2021 Human Rights Watch report found that thousands of people were being incarcerated on immigration-related grounds. Despite being held for non-criminal reasons, immigrant detainees faced brutal conditions in maximum security jails and solitary confinement. Despite its good reputation regarding immigration, Canada has a lot of work to do.
#4. Indigenous rights
Canada has a long history of colonization and violence against Indigenous people. Reconciliation has been slow. According to an Amnesty International report, Canada has been “significantly failing in its obligations” to Indigenous people. Issues like territorial theft, resource extraction, systemic discrimination, and inequality are persistent. The Amnesty report echoes findings from the UN and other human rights organizations. You can learn more about indigenous rights by taking part in an online course.
#5. Violence against Indigenous women
Canada’s reputation as a safe place for women only applies to certain women. First Nations women and girls with registered or treaty Indian status make up 2-4% of Canada’s female population, but they’re kidnapped and assaulted at disproportionate rates. According to data from Human Rights Watch, 81% of Indigenous women in the child welfare system were physically or sexually assaulted. From 2001-2015, the homicide rate for Indigenous women was almost six times as high as the rate for other Canadian women.
#6. Gender-based violence
Gender-based violence includes physical violence, emotional abuse, stalking, manipulation, and so on. According to Canadian Women, 184 women and girls were killed (mostly by men) in 2022. Women who’ve experienced gender-based violence are more likely to have depression, anxiety, and other mental health diagnoses. Children who witness violence are also more likely to struggle and experience mental health effects. Dealing with gender-based violence – specifically spousal violence – costs the Canadian government over $7 billion a year. While certain people are at a higher risk of gender-based violence, it can affect anyone.
#7. LGBTQ+ rights
Canada has long been praised as one of the most welcoming countries for the LGBTQ+ community. In 2023, it ranked first on the Equaldex Equality Index. Gay marriage was legalized first in British Columbia and Ontario in 2003, and in 2005, same-sex marriage became legal across Canada. The past decades have seen even more progress regarding anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws, adoptions, blood donation laws, and more. In 2021, Canada banned conversion therapy, which is any service, treatment, or practice designed to “cure” or suppress a person’s sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity. The country still has work to do regarding trans rights, safety, and freedom.
#8. Anti-Black racism
While Canada may have had a smaller role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade compared to other nations, the legacy of slavery and anti-Black racism is still present in the country today. According to statistics, 41% of Black people in Canada experienced discrimination based on their skin color in 2019. Stores, restaurants, and banks were common places of discrimination, while Black respondents also reported discrimination by police. Another study found that Black Canadians in Toronto dealt with “service deserts,” which are areas with fewer safe, affordable, and effective healthcare and community services.
#9. Education inequality
Canada’s education system is well-respected around the world. Each of the 13 territories and provinces have their own system, although they must follow government standards. Students aged 6-18 years old must attend school. In recent years, tuition for secondary education has been increasing, especially for international students. There are also stark gender differences in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). In 2017, women made up just 26% of new entrants in engineering, manufacturing, and construction, and 20% of the new entrants in information and communication technologies. Unequal government funding for Indigenous students has also been an issue for many years. Canada has been making slow progress on funding gaps.
#10. Water rights
The right to safe water is a human right, but in Canada, Indigenous people have faced persistent violations. Why? The federal government has had jurisdiction over Native lands for centuries. First Nations are owed certain protections, but federal neglect has led to issues with safe drinking water. In 2016, a Human Rights Watch report found that discrimination regarding water is a “legal fact” in Canada. While Canadians living off-reserve have enjoyed safe water, First Nations deal with contamination and long-term boil-water advisories. Solutions, which can include removing colonial-era laws, are urgently needed.
Canada uses a publicly funded healthcare system. Instead of having one national plan, there are 13 territorial and provincial healthcare insurance plans. Through these plans, Canadians get free medically necessary hospital and physician services. This fragmented system has had problems over the years, but the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the cracks in the foundation. According to Reuters reporting, Canada’s healthcare system has strained to a “breaking point” with staffing shortages, closed emergency rooms, and increasingly long waiting times. Things won’t improve overnight, so Canada’s healthcare system will likely be a social issue for a long time.
#12. Mental health
In Canada, mental illness affects more than 6.7 million people. It’s a leading cause of disability, suicide, and other health issues. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the economic burden of mental illness costs around $51 billion each year. Funding and access are major issues. Just half of Canadians who experience a major depressive episode get “potentially adequate care.” ⅓ of Canadians 15 years and older report a need for mental care, but say their needs weren’t met. 75% of kids with mental disorders can’t access specialized treatment at all. These statistics expose a striking gap between need and care.
#13. Opioid crisis
Opioid addiction and overdoses have been an issue for several years in Canada. In 2016, more than 30,000 people died from opioid-related overdoses, which was more than other major accidental death causes combined. A 2022 NPR article reported that deaths related to fentanyl more than doubled in the past five years. British Columbia has endured the most issues and declared fentanyl a public health crisis in 2016. In 2022, the province instituted a decriminalization policy. Under this policy, possessing small amounts of opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamines remains illegal, but no longer comes with prosecution. Canadian officials hope this shifts focus to healthcare instead of punishment.
#14. Income inequality
Income inequality refers to the gap between those with the highest incomes in society and those with the lowest. Wide gaps lead to a host of issues such as political instability, reduced economic growth, and weakened social cohesion. In Canada, income inequality has been on the rise. According to data, the gap in net worth between the richest and poorest households grew by 1.1 percentage points in the first quarter of 2023. That represents the fastest increase since 2010. The reasons for this increase are complex. Relevant factors include low wages and growing gaps between different types of households, like younger and older households, and immigrants and Canadian citizens.
#15. Housing affordability
Having a place to live is a human right, but when housing becomes expensive, many people struggle to find adequate shelter. Canada is facing a housing crisis. According to a BBC article, the average home in Canada costs C$750,000 in 2023, which is around £435,000. That’s an increase of 360% from 2000. The cost of houses and rent is especially high in large cities. Young people, who are spending huge chunks of their incomes just on shelter, are changing their life plans because of the crisis. Canada has promised to build 3.5 million homes by 2030 to address the issue, but plans are falling behind. The housing crisis is unlikely to get resolved anytime soon.