TORONTO -- A new national survey shows that Canadians are “in denial” about racism, says one Toronto activist.

The Environics Institute for Survey Research and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation released the Race Relations in Canada 2019 Survey on Tuesday, outlining Canadian views on racial discrimination.

While the online survey of 3,111 adult Canadians found that one in five say they experience racism “from time to time if not regularly,” that number rose to slightly over 50 per cent with black and Indigenous respondents.

Canadians were optimistic reporting on other aspects race and discrimination. Eight in 10 Canadians said race relations in their own communities are “generally good” with the largest majority of positive views held by white respondents (84 per cent), and the smallest majority among Indigenous respondents (69 per cent).

The survey also found that Canadians were more likely to view racial discrimination as the attitudes and actions of individuals, not a systemic issue embedded in Canadian institutions. Two-thirds of respondents said people from all races have the same opportunities to succeed in life.

“That is a fantasy,” said Toronto activist and writer Desmond Cole in an interview on CTV News Channel. “Unsurprisingly, a lot of Canadians are in denial that racism is a systemic thing.”

Cole said while many Canadians may acknowledge that racism exists in the country, many of those same people might oppose government action to address the treatment of people of colour.

“That is why we are still where we are today. That’s why I have to write a book about this topic,” said Cole, who wrote the forthcoming “The Skin We’re In,” about racism in Canada. “It’s not just a few people’s nasty or racist, bigoted opinions. It’s not just Don Cherry spouting off on Coach’s Corner. It’s us not getting jobs. It’s us being kicked out of the education system. It’s us being disproportionately the victims of violence. Until that stops, do all the studies we want to. Those are the real issues.”

The experts behind the new survey said in a news release that the results can serve as a means for measuring progress over time.

“With the loosening of the bonds of civility, it becomes all the more essential to provide pragmatic, evidence-based and non-partisan data such as this,” said Lilian Ma, executive director of the Canadian Race Relation Foundation, in a news release. “This study provides factual information based on lived experience and is meant to serve as a reference point for cross-cultural interchange.”