Always on the alert for good news, my attention was piqued recently by some stats released by the Angus Reid Institute. The numbers derived from a study by Angus Reid in partnership with Government House and the Vancouver Foundation. The new study compared Canadians’ current attitudes on a number of issues with a study done in 2016.
The results showed “a notable shift.” In the right direction. Specifically, the numbers indicated “increased enthusiasm for social supports, more concern about environmental protection, and an ever-creeping secularism in Canadian society.”
For example, the percentage of Canadians’ who prefer “more public support for the disadvantaged” increased by six points, while the percentage who prefer more emphasis on a system that “rewards hard work and initiative” fell by six points.
Support for encouraging cultural diversity, with different groups keeping their own customs and languages, has increased from 32 percent to 50 percent. The belief that minorities should do more to fit in better with mainstream society has fallen from 68 percent to 50 percent.
The percentage who believe environmental protection should be emphasized over economic growth rose by six points while those who would emphasize economic growth over environmental protection dropped six points. Environmental concern now leads economic concern by 63 percent to 37 percent.
Support for separation of church and state also increased. Sixty-four percent now believe God and religion should be kept out of public life while belief in publicly celebrating the role of faith in our collective lives has declined to 36 percent.
This increase in support for a secular nation is not surprising. Religious affiliation and the practice of religious activities in Canada has been declining for decades, along with the perceived importance of religious beliefs in how people live their lives.
One can hope that the increased concern for the environment relative to the economy is due to recognition of the harm we are doing to the planet and the need for action to create sustainable economies. If so, we must hope further that the political class is noticing.
The increase in generosity toward the disadvantaged and toward diversity indicates we are emerging from the pandemic with significantly more compassionate, more tolerant values. Perhaps the massive assistance from government that helped so many through the crisis has reminded Canadians of the value of government and the importance of collective action. A reminder that we are, as they say, all in it together.
If that’s the case, the nasty little bug may have done some good after all.