In Canada, alcohol abuse and problem gambling run rampant in Aboriginal communities. The issue has gone largely ignored, but a new study shines some light on it. According to researchers at the University of Lethbridge, racism is a main factor in driving Edmonton Aboriginals to drinking and gambling.
The study finds that 83% of Aboriginal people in Edmonton had experienced racism at least once in the past year. When compared to African-Canadians and Latinos, it is a far bigger issue, as studies have shown that they experience racism less frequently. The study found that 16% of discrimination occurred because the victims were “non-white”. 20% of discrimination occurred because “they were aboriginal”.
According to the study, racism mostly occurs in public places. Schools, shopping areas, restaurants and other public areas are where racist activity mainly takes place, heightening the embarrassment for victims. As such, those who fall subject to racism in Edmonton and across Canada are likely to develop stress disorders. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a common diagnosis for victims of anti-Aboriginal racism, which often leads to alcohol abuse and problem gambling.
“It’s the first study to show a link between racism and gambling among any population in the world that we’re aware of,” said Cheryl Currie, the Lethbridge professor who led the study.
Currie’s study found that a third of Aboriginal adults have gambling addictions while one in twenty are addicted to prescription drugs. The drug dependency is five times higher than the national average while the Aboriginal community presents the highest problem gambling population in the country.
“In an urban environment, there are a lot of stressors that can lead to people turning to gambling”, Currie said at the Alberta Gaming Research Institute Conference last year. “People have learned to cope by gambling.”
Addiction is often a form of escapism, and it could not be truer in this situation. Facing racism and prejudice every day causes Aboriginals to take part in activities that allow them to escape the stresses of everyday life. However, problem gambling and alcoholism are dangerous activities that bear no positive outcomes for those who are afflicted.