JAMES BAKER Ph.D.


JAMES BAKER Ph.D.

SSHRC Research

Given the recent media reports of instances of racism directed towards Syrian refugees (see, for example, CBC News, April 11, 2016; von Stackelberg, 2015) as well as on social media (CBC News, November 17, 2015) and at a school in Calgary (CBC News, February 15, 2016), there is a demonstrated need to better understand Canadian’s, especially young Canadian’s, view towards this issue. Post-secondary students are an especially important cohort to examine given that education represents a strong marker to reducing racial resentment, and, as a generation, Millennials are supposed to be uniquely tolerant (McElwee 2015; Hogan and Mallett 2005; Chang 2002). This belief, however, is contradicted by research from the United States which found that 51 percent of young whites between the ages of 17 and 34 rate blacks as lazier than whites and 43 percent say blacks are less intelligent. As these numbers are not statistically different from the views of older whites (McElwee 2015), it does suggest that research on the views of Millennials, and especially within a Canadian context, is needed in order to better understand these apparent inconsistencies. With the recent resettlement of Syrian refugees to Canada, this humanitarian response provides an excellent opportunity to better understand the views of young Canadians’ living in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador and Hamilton, Ontario towards the Syrian crisis, their observations of racism, as well as their views towards immigrants/refugees in general.

Based on a survey of white youth conducted in Newfoundland and Labrador (Baker et al. 2015), these groups of Millennials are keenly aware of the subtleties of racism - having observed it directly- but are oblivious to its tremendous impact. Representing the covert, subtle, and unintentional forms of racism, discrimination, and prejudice, racial microaggression theory (Sue et al. 2007) is well suited to better understand acts of racism as observed by white post-secondary youth. The specific questions to be explored in this proposed research are: What is the nature of racial microaggressions as observed by white post-secondary youth? What is white post-secondary youths’ view towards Canada’s response to the Syrian crisis? Are there differences in the types of opinions of the Syrian crisis among youth in these two cities? Do these youths believe that Canada’s response was appropriate? As studies have shown that welcoming communities are essential in helping with integration and retention (Esses et al. 2010), in order to ensure a successful settlement experience, negative views towards the Syrian population must be combated. As the perception of the “outsider” among local residents has the potential to play an important role in the coming years for policy-makers and for service providers tasked with the long-term settlement of the Syrian population, this research will provide them with the necessary information to combat the negative views that some Canadians may hold toward the Syrian refugee population.


This project has been generously funded by the Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development through its Applied Research Fund as well as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council through a special call related to Syrian Refugee Arrival, Resettlement, and Integration.



Interested participants attending Memorial should click here for more information.

Interested participants attending McMaster should click here for more information.