Changing Winnipeg’s perception



One of the scariest lessons I’ve learned as a student is that perception is reality. It doesn’t matter whether perceptions are based on fact or not, because people are going to believe what they believe.

Solidifying this lesson for me, Mainstreet/Postmedia released the results of a poll asking more than 4,000 Canadians what they perceived to be the least safe Canadian city.

The poll found Canadians consider Winnipeg the least safe city, despite Statistics Canada recently announcing that Saskatoon had the highest crime rate in Canada in 2015.

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised of Mainstreet/Postmedia’s poll.

Between finding baby remains in storage lockers and being dubbed Canada’s most racist city, Winnipeg hasn’t had the best reputation.

I’ve spent countless hours defending the city where I was born and raised. I’m not saying Winnipeg is perfect, of course there are things to work on, but when the results of Mainstreet/Postmedia’s poll came out, I immediately felt a sense of pride — an aggressive sense of pride. I was going to use the results, and Statistic Canada’s findings, to argue with anyone who has a bad opinion of Winnipeg. In particular, I was going to use the poll to argue with my best friend who lives in Saskatoon. She and I are constantly having arguments as to which city is superior. “Saskatoon?” I’d say. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

I had spent numerous hours arguing the pros of Winnipeg over those of Saskatoon, and I finally had evidence to show Winnipeg’s poor reputation may not be rooted in truth.

After I sent her the poll results demonstrating Winnipeg’s misperceptions, I started packing for my final trip of the summer. As I packed, I thought of my lesson on perception — maybe it wasn’t as scary of a lesson as I initially thought. If perceptions are reality, regardless of whether they’re based on fact or not, then maybe Winnipeg isn’t a lost cause. Maybe we can change those perceptions.

As Winnipeggers we need to continue to advocate for our city. We need to show the many wonderful and positive things our city has to offer, so perceptions of the city become rooted in truth.

It might take some work, but perceptions can be changed.

After all, I am a walking case study of changed perceptions.

Out of all the places I could choose to spend my final week of summer, I chose the city I spent hours arguing against: Saskatoon. My best friend had promised to break my preconceived notions of Saskatoon so long as I gave the city a chance.

I decided to give Saskatoon a chance, because as Winnipeggers, all we need is for someone to give us a chance too. After that, our city’s positive qualities will speak for themselves. And if advocating can work for Saskatoon, then surely it can also work for Winnipeg.


Shaylyn McMahon is an aspiring communications professional, an avid coffee drinker and a wannabe world explorer.

She’d rather be cuddling her cat at any given moment, and if you can’t see her, you can probably hear her laugh.

Follow her on Twitter @ShaylynMcMahon.