General Articles

Are Canadians Intolerant?

They tested 500 students in Canadian colleges for racial and religious intolerance. Too many failed. Would you?

EVA-LIS WUORIO March 15 1948
General Articles

Are Canadians Intolerant?

They tested 500 students in Canadian colleges for racial and religious intolerance. Too many failed. Would you?

EVA-LIS WUORIO March 15 1948

Are Canadians Intolerant?


They tested 500 students in Canadian colleges for racial and religious intolerance. Too many failed. Would you?

HOW TOLERANT are you? If you were giving a party would you invite a Jew?

If you owned an apartment house would you rent living quarters to a Negro?

If you were a personnel manager would you employ a Canadian Indian?

Can you imagine yourself falling in love with a Chinese?

If you had your way, would you allow Hindus to enter Canada? Japanese? Italians? Finns? Dutch? Russians?

These and other questions were recently asked of some 500 Canadian university students in four prairie and eastern universities to measure their racial and religious prejudices. The test, first of its kind in Canada, was conducted by slender, dark Dr. Reva Gerstein of the psychology department of the University of Toronto.

The 500 students came from a reasonable cross section of Canadian homes in town and country. Their parents included recent immigrants and old Canadian stock, well-to-do and poor, professional men and laborers.

From their anonymous and frank answers, Dr. Gerstein regretfully drew these four immediate conclusions:

These university students pass judgment on people they know nothing about.

They generalize adversely, from the evidence of one specific case.

Their thinking is biased—-and muddled.

Prejudice was highest where love and marriage is concerned.

Fifty-one per cent of the group showed what the psychologists call “negative attitudes” toward various religious and color groups, in the first part of the test and in the second part 92% of the same group were revealed to have prejudices. The startling jump is extremely revealing.

In the first half of the test the students were asked the following question: “Nearly everyone has the feeling that certain religious, ethnic and racial groups are uncongenial to him. Name the group or groups which you z'egard in this way azzd state briefly why you feel each one to be so.” In the second part, those tested were asked to answer yes or no to such specific questiozzs as are listed at the beginning of this article. Here’s the difference.

The students could answer the first question in their own words azzd were able to rationalize and conceal their prejudices when they were talking about principles—but when faced with such concrete proposals as hirizzg a Canadian Indian, renting living space to a Negro or marrying a German, the full force of their perhaps unconscious prejudices was revealed.

As an example of strong opinons based ozz even a single personal experiezice there was a girl who wrote that she disliked Jews because a Jewish tailor had once given her a bad fitting. Similarly, one boy recalled a holiday trip to Quebec when he became so incensed over French road signs that he’d hated the French Canadians ever sizzce. Nearly everybody who answered this questionnaire admitted to being suspicious or antagozzistic toward Hindus, for instanceyet mazzy of these admitted they’d had no direct contact with Hizzdus.

Prejudice proved strongest as a barrier to love and marriage. Even where students indicated a willingness to give a man of different race or creed a job, entertain him at a private party, or rent him living quarters, they drew a distinct lizze at accepting him on more personal terms.

In many instances. Dr. Gerstein points out, what appears to be prejudice is actually fear of prejudice or fear of ostracism. That is, where a girl might be willing to marry a Negro or a Hindu or a Chinese, she is afraid her friends might cut her and that she will be left out of the social circle she has become accustomed to.

The test was presented to the students during their regular classes. To encourage honesty, no names were asked for.

Sixty-five per cent of the students questioned ’ were Protestants, 22% Jewish, 12% Roman Catholic and one per cent miscellaneous. Their ages ranged frozn 17 to 40, the majority being around 20. Forty-nine per cent were female, 51% male. Fifteezz per cent were married and 30% were veterans.

Their fathers’ occupations ranged from miners and truck drivers to business executives, surgeons, clergymen, cabinet ministers, farmers, teachers and barbers.

In the preliminary part Continued on page 53

Are YOU Intolerant?

Check the answer boxes on the basis of what you actually think and do, then turn to page 53.

Yes No

1. I would invite Jews, Catholics, and Protestants to a party in

my home.................... — —

2. I believe that the coznposition of Negro blood is different from

white blood................... —• —

3. I would attend a recreational

centre open to all people....... — —

4. I was extremely sorry when I

read about Gandhi’s death .... — —

5. As a personzzel manager, I would

hire a man for his ability and persozzality qualificatiozzs, without considering race or religion.. — —

6. If I were an apartment owzzer, skin color or religious dezzomination would be a deciding factor

in letting space............... — —

7. I feel that a certain religious group is out to get all the top

jobs......................... — —

8. I believe that uzzdesirable people

can be found in any group..... — —

9. I can iznagine myself happily married to a person of a religion

other than my own........... — —

10. As a hotel owner, I would select my guests on their ability to pay

and behave in a suitable manner. — —

11. I would not be seen going out

with a group of foreigners...... — —

12. As a landowner I would restrict

its sale to certain racial and religious groups............... — —

13. I believe that lack of cultural

and educational opportunities helps a person acquire an undesirable personality.......... — —

14. At birth, from the psychological

point of view, we are not very different..................... —

15. I believe that the same principles

of znentality are applicable to any one, anywhere. There is no such thing as a Jewish or Catholic psychology........... — —

Are Canadians Intolerant?

Continued from page 12

of the test, students were asked to name only those groups which were found “uncongenial”—a fairly mild term. However, Dr. Gerstein says previous tests seem to prove that about 90% of the people who feel uncongenial to a minority group also dislike the group. And even this preliminary question turned up some extreme answers. One 22-year-old veteran wrote:

“Hitler and I agree on some things. Since I’ve come home I have seen the noticeable domination of the Jewish race in Canada . . .” Apparently Canada is far from free of Nazi racial bigotry.

Clergymen’s children appeared to have a much stronger sense of prejudice than their contemporaries from more secular homes. One clergyman’s 19-year-old daughter confessed her uncongeniality to French Canadians, whom she had met at school from the age of 14 up. “One of my history teachers had felt this way too,” she recalled, trying to find a basis for her antagonism. “But mostly their burning the Union Jack during the war set me against them.”

Nowhere in the first part of her questionnaire did this girl record any personal conflict, or even close social contact with any of the several groups (Oriental, Dutch, Jews, etc.) to whom she later admitted she would hesitate to rent an apartment. Her antipathy, apparently, was based on nothing more substantial than an insular person’s fear of the unknown, or the foreign. At the end of the questionnaire she stated her parents were free from prejudices.

Reasons for Prejudice

A 19-year-old girl enrolled in a sociology and philosophy course provided the most temperate and humorous answers. She wrote:

“I don’t feel uncongenial with any of these groups. In fact I am very interested in all types of people. Sometimes I have the vague suspicion that those in another group are fundamentally a little more virtuous than 1. Probably because I’m not as well acquainted with the mass of them as I would like to be.

“Right now my Chinese laundryman refuses to give my laundry back. I am suspicious it is for mean reasons, hut it probably is because he doesn’t understand me. If he continues to he disagreeable I’ll probably he suspicious of all yellow men for the rest of my life. I hope not.”

This girl’s “yes” and “no” answers bore out her generalized feeling of tolerance, although even she couldn’t imagine herself falling in love with a Negro, or marrying a Canadian Indian, a Chinese, or a Japanese.

Answers to


1. Yes. 2. No. 3. Yes. 4. Yes. 5. Yes. 6. No. 7. No. 8. Yes. 9. Yes. 10. Yes. 11. No. 12. No. 13. Yes. 14. Yes. 15. Yes.

Score 5 for each answer that tallies. A total of more than 60 indicates that you think in a broad-minded manner. A score from 50-60 indicates an average tolerance level. A score below indicates a highly prejudiced person.

Some of the students tried to rationalize their beliefs. Others, while admitting that their reason for a discriminatory attitude was slight, seemed unable to be swayed by logic.

A girl student objected to Negroes and Jews because at the age of 16 she once saw “a drunk Negro running down I the street in N. Y. with a big knife, after a white girl. When 1 was 17, Jews ! in our chemistry lab used to come over j to me smelling of garlic, making sensual remarks. Also, these same boys cheated in exams.”

She made no qualifying statements; she ignored any other experiences she had had with Negroes and Jews. Her own interpretation of these incidents, it appears, she will let serve her as the basis of her opinions for the rest of her life.

A typical prejudiced answer came from a sociology and philosophy student.. “I am an anti-Semite,” he wrote,, “because I feel that the Jews are out to gain control of all the capital in the country. Note the miserable effort they performed during the war.”

Note that he offers no facts to support this view; it is obviously based purely on his “feeling” without further enquiry.

“As for Catholics,” he continues, “1 feel they show discrimination against ; other churches. The people are fanatical believers of their religion and refuse to talk openly about it. Believe that their religion is the true one, when 1 feel that no one can be sure, it reminds me of a Nazi puppet state.

“I also feel uncongenial toward the French Canadians because they are j mostly Catholics and on account of the illiteracy in Quebec. Feel also they are plugging up Canada’s progress.”

Dr. Gerstein comments here on the fact that so many prejudiced people, like this student, rarely limit their dislikes to one group.

A 21-year-old student, son of a civil servant, listed himself as belonging to a i “minority group; veteran.” He declared that “I feel uncongenial toward the French Canadians because to my mind they don’t co-operate and are too independent. I’m uncongenial toward Catholics because 1 feel their Catholicism is a partial cause of the French j Canadian attitude. There is a lack of tolerance evident and the religion itself is too domineering.” This student recognized no lack of tolerance in himself.

“I met Catholics during early high school, (14-15),” he reported. “Didn’t dislike their religion, which I tolerated, but their lack of toleration of mine.”

Blames it on Radio

A prairie farmer’s daughter wrote; “I feel there are good and bad in all and I have friends, or have met nice people, in all categories. I do not believe in marrying across color lines as it may he harmful for the children. I believe as you continue into the field of education the learning and teaching tend to give you a broader outlook on all classes.”

“In some circumstances I am opposed to my parents’ opinions. I believe I am just as literal minded as they are if not more so despite my lack of experience. We were never very strict church goers. At an early age 1 was taught about God and Jesus, etc. i later entered rituals etc. of church, j Mother always taught us to lead a Christian life.”

Here is the reason a 21-year-old j sociology and philosophy student gave for disliking members of the yellow j races: “1 was about 10-12 and listened j to radio thrillers where the hero was always getting knifed by an Oriental. 1 I became biased.”

Í Flow a close personal conflict can

make a person dislike a whole group of people is exemplified in the statement of a boy in the commerce and finance course.

“In my home there was an antagonism against Roman Catholics,” he wrote, “but it did not influence me because I felt that as long as they minded their own business it was strictly their own affair.

“The break came when I fell in love with a Roman Catholic girl and had to either give her up or submit my children to their institutions for the molding of their souls.”

And another one: “At the age of 18, while living above a hardware store in a small prairie town, I occasionally came down to wait on customers as a help to the proprietor. Every Canadian Indian that came into the store was clothed in dirty garments which had an unpleasant odor. Naturally I was glad to see them leave the store. While at Normal School the FrenchCanadian girls always assembled in the locker rooms and jabbered away in French, regardless of all the other girls present.”

Dr. Gerstein points out that through all these cases runs a consciousness on the part of the student, of belonging to the majority and a resenting of all “others”-—of people who are different.

The Minority View

Among the students tested were a number belonging to groups against which the others discriminated. It seems that they too have their prejudices.

A 20 - year - old business - course student, Jewish Canadian, reported, “I have no feelings of uncongeniality, due perhaps to the fact that I have not felt the prejudice of others on account of my religion.”

Yet he would hesitate to invite to a party Canadian Indians, Chinese, Dutch, Finns, Hindus and Japanese. He could not see himself falling in love with or marrying a Canadian Indian, Hindu, Japanese or Negro.

He felt his parents’ attitude had influenced him only moderately and stated, “I’ve come into contact with a more agreeable majority than my parents (did in the old world) and therefore am less prejudiced than they.”

A 21-year-old Japanese-Canadian student in an English course wrote, “I do not regard any group as uncongenial to me, only certain individuals.”

She was undecided on whether she would invite any but Japanese to a party she was giving, but would rent rooms to all and employ all but Canadian Indians. She is definite about not marrying a Negro or a Canadian Indian, cannot imagine herself falling in love with anyone from those two groups as .well as a Dutchman, Finn, Chinese, German, Hindu, Russian and a native of Switzerland.

One Catholic Irish-Canadian student wrote: “My parenta have never tried to influence my opinion as to Jews, but I have a slight prejudice against them all the same. My prejudice against them

has been built up over a period of years at school, work, and in the service.”

This 22-year-old, taking a commerce and finance course, felt definitely only about the Jews, but also showed a tendency to discriminate against Negroes. If be were giving his hypothetical party he would not invite members of these two groups or French, Germans, Italians or Japanese. And he couldn’t imagine himself marrying a Canadian Indian, Chinese, Hindu, Japanese, Jew or Negro. Also he would shut the gates of Canada to Jews, Japanese, Italians, Hindusand French.

A French-Canadian student wrote:

“I do not feel that any group of people are uncongenial to me. Certain people are, but they do not. fall into any special group.” And after making that statement she left the rest of the test blank.

The intolerance shown by the group Dr. Gerstein tested is the more striking when it is realized that these students cannot he considered an average cross section of young Canadians. They are j all attending university, where the emphasis of their training would naturally be put on scienl ific and objective study of any question. Despite this, they cling to their preconceived opinions, usually based on limited personal experience. They seem uninfluenced by today’sscientificknowledge which exposes most racial myths, and which knowledge should be more available to university students than others.

Dr. Gerstein sums up the problem in t his way : “The roots of prejudice are deep. Too little attention has been given below college level to teaching the fallacies of racialism or the virtues of religious t-olerance. Mere lip service to tolerance is far from enough. We must j start our education for tolerance in our homes and continue from there on.”

And tolerance, she points out, is far from an absolute term. People aren’t “tolerant” or “intolerant” but may reveal varying degrees of intolerance in different situations—hence the students who would willingly rent an apartment to someone of another race but draw the line at love or marriage. Facing this fact, we can try to establish a sort of minimum level of tolerance in our communities.

“A man’s right to a job, to a place to live with his family, to worship in his own way,” Dr. Gerstein sets as a practical target. Along wit h tins should go public condemnation of people who refuse to appraise an individual on his own merits—who instead condemn a man in advance because his skin has a different color or because he goes to a different church.

“We must recognize that there is good and bad in all groups of men and that characteristics we don’t like may be due to a person’s lack of education and opportunity, rather than to race.

“Tolerant persons,” says Dr. Gerstein finally, “have an important job to do. They must speak up . . . express (heir tolerance. People with the blackest prejudices are the most, outj spoken. Now is the time to stand up and be vocally tolerant.” ir