The Confederation of Tomorrow surveys are annual studies conducted by an association of the country’s leading public policy organizations: the Environics Institute for Survey Research, the Canada West Foundation, the Centre D’Analyse Politique – Constitution et Fédéralisme, the Institute for Research on Public Policy and the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government and the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. The surveys give voice to Canadians about the major issues shaping the future of the federation and their political communities. The 2021 study consists of a survey of 5,814 adults, conducted online in the provinces between January 25 and February 17; and online and by telephone in the territories between January 25 and March 1.

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Executive Summary

In the early months of 2020, prior to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, news headlines in the country were focused on the protests taking place over issues relating to Indigenous Peoples’ rights and control over national resource development. These issues were soon overshadowed by the public health emergency triggered by the pandemic, but not necessarily forgotten. In the ensuing period, non-Indigenous Canadians have grown somewhat more supportive of Indigenous rights; and somewhat more concerned about the slow pace of progress being made toward reconciliation. And a growing proportion is also recognizing that individual Canadians have a role to play in efforts to bring about reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

This report presents the views of both Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous people. The results are taken from a survey conducted prior to the discovery in May 2021 of the graves of 215 First Nations children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia.

Attachment to nations and communities

Seven in ten Indigenous Peoples feel either very or somewhat attached to their Indigenous nation or community. Attachment to one’s Indigenous nation or community is stronger among younger Indigenous Peoples, especially in the case of those who identify as Métis.

Majorities of Indigenous Peoples also feel very attached to Canada, and almost nine in ten say they feel either very or somewhat attached. Younger Indigenous Peoples are more likely than their non-Indigenous counterparts to have a strong feeling of attachment to Canada. For most Indigenous Peoples, attachment to Canada and to their Indigenous nation or community overlaps: almost two in three feel attached to both.

Leadership and representation

Two in three Indigenous Peoples have a lot or some confidence in the leaders of Indigenous organizations Confidence in leaders of Indigenous organizations is highest among those who identify as Inuit, but is also relatively high among those who identify as First Nations or Métis. Indigenous Peoples are much more likely to have confidence in the leaders of Indigenous organizations than in other governments or political leaders.

Indigenous Peoples are much more likely than non-Indigenous Canadians to express confidence in leaders of Indigenous organizations; however, they are less likely than non-Indigenous Canadians to express confidence in other governments and political leaders. Compared to non-Indigenous Canadians, Indigenous Peoples are also somewhat more likely to say they have confidence in leaders of environmental groups.

When it come to the question of which government best represents one’s interests, the views of both Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians tend to be quite divided. In the case of Indigenous Peoples, a small plurality says their provincial or territorial government best represents their interests, but almost as many say it is their Indigenous government. Fewer say it is the federal government. Among those who identify as First Nations, a modest plurality say their Indigenous government best represents their interests.

Current relations between Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians

Canadians are divided in their view of the current state of relations between Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous people, though they are somewhat more likely to describe relations as negative than positive. Almost one in two describe current relations between Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous people in Canada today as either somewhat or very negative. The assessment of the state of relations soured somewhat in the first half of 2020, in the wake of the dispute over the land rights of the Wet’suwet’en nation that sparked protests and blockades across the country, but has now partly rebounded.

Currently, Indigenous Peoples are more likely than non-Indigenous people to view relations as positive. This represents a shift from the previous year, when opinions between the two groups were more similar.

Disputes between Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous governments in Canada frequently centre on the issue of control over land (or sea) and its resources. However, a majority of the Canadian public remains supportive of the principle that resource development on Indigenous lands require Indigenous Peoples’ consent. Seven in ten Canadians currently agree that the development of natural resources on Indigenous land should not proceed unless the Indigenous community that lives there agrees.

Progress toward reconciliation

By a two-to-one margin, Canadians are more likely to believe that governments in Canada have not gone far enough in trying to advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples than they are to say that governments have gone too far. The view that governments in Canada have not gone far enough to advance reconciliation is most prevalent in the North and least prevalent in the West.

The proportion saying that governments have not gone far enough has increased over the past year, both nationally and in each region of the country. The change has been most pronounced in Atlantic Canada, especially in Nova Scotia.

Seven in ten Canadians also say that individual Canadians have a role to play in efforts to bring about reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people – a proportion that is higher than in either of the previous two years.

At the same time, three in five Canadians say they are familiar with the history of Indian residential schools in Canada. Familiarity is highest among Canadians age 18 to 24. Among non-Indigenous people, those who are very familiar with this history are more likely than those who are less familiar to say that individual Canadians have a role to play in advancing reconciliation.

Finally, Canadians are somewhat more likely to express optimism than pessimism about the prospects for making meaningful progress toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Just over one in two say they are very or somewhat optimistic that we will make meaningful progress toward reconciliation over the next decade. Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous people express similar degrees of optimism.


This report was produced by Environics Institute