Our organization recently completed an online survey of more than 600 Iranian-Canadians on racism and discrimination faced by them in their daily lives. A large majority of respondents (65%) report experiencing discrimination personally. Respondents cited discriminatory experiences in their workplace, in social settings, and at border crossings and air travel. Importantly, many of these experiences are tied to, and a result of, hostile and antagonistic policies and rhetoric against Iran on the international stage.
Incidence of Discrimination
Currently, Iranian-Canadians experience high rates of discrimination, with 65% of polled individuals reporting to have personally experienced discrimination because of their ethnicity or country of origin. When asked if they have had experience with discrimination, 65% of respondents responded yes to this question and 21% of respondents responded no, with 14% of respondents indicating that they were not sure. Clearly this means that Iranian-Canadians face a significant degree of discrimination in Canada, with a clear majority reporting that they had personal experience with discrimination. Taking this into account, it is important to determine what forms this discrimination takes.
Where and How do Iranian-Canadians Experience Discrimination?
Specifically, Iranian-Canadians cite significant challenges with discrimination in employment/business settings, in social settings, and by airlines or airport security. 50% of respondents signalled that they had experienced employment/business discrimination while 44% indicated that they had experienced discrimination in social settings, while 27% report discrimination during air travel. These findings show that discrimination in employment and business are significant issues for Iranian-Canadians, as is discrimination faced at the social level and in travel. This is a concerning finding, as it indicates that Iranian-Canadians’ livelihoods, social well-being, and right to travel freely is threatened by discrimination against them. It is important at this point to determine the type and reasons behind the discrimination that Iranian-Canadians experience.
Categories of and Reasons Behind Discrimination
Iranian-Canadians define the reasons behind the discrimination they face as an intersection of different prejudices, but the biggest cause is seen as anti-Iranian sentiment, or Iranophobia. Largely, our respondents categorized their experiences of discrimination as Iranophobia (i.e. discrimination specifically targeting Iranians, or anti-Iranian sentiment), Islamophobia, racism, and xenophobia, with Iranophobia being the largest selection, by 49% of respondents. This result shows that Iranians are not only facing discrimination facing other Muslim-majority and racialized groups, but are also facing a discrimination specific to them (i.e. anti-Iranian sentiment or Iranophobia). Upon exploring this issue further, we found that Iranian-Canadians believe that there is an international dimension to this specifically anti-Iranian sentiment.
The International Dimension of Anti-Iranian Discrimination
Importantly, 77% of polled respondents indicated that policies and rhetoric against Iran on the international stage, including by the Canadian government and its officials, resulted in an increase in the discrimination experience by Iranian-Canadians in their day-to-day lives. This is an important result when taken in combination with the fact that respondents saw specifically anti-Iranian discrimination as the biggest reason behind the discrimination they face.
The results above show that discrimination is a significant issue facing the Iranian-Canadian community. Iranian-Canadians feel discrimination in employment, business, socials settings, and travel. They feel that this discrimination specifically targets them because they are Iranian, though typical racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia also contribute. They feel that this discrimination is to a significant extent caused by the treatment of Iran on the world stage, especially by the Canadian government’s policies and rhetoric. We believe that these are important findings that need to be addressed by Canadian governments. Specifically, the Canadian government should explore how its rhetoric and policies regarding a specific country affect the discrimination that Canadians who are affiliated with that country experience in Canada.