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Racialization of Poverty In Canada

For Black History Month, we are taking a look at the history of discrimination faced by black individuals and how it is still present in today’s society.

In 2005, a study showed that there were 6.4% of white families that lived in poverty, whereas 19.8% of non-white families lived in poverty in Canada. Now looking at 2016, 12.2% of white families live in poverty, compared to 20.8% of non-white families in Canada.These facts show the clear divide in poverty numbers for the races, even for youth. This divide can increase the normalization of certain groups being in poverty, and then racist structures and stereotypes being formed. These stereotypes are seen to be prevalent in our schooling systems, incarceration numbers, labour market, and more.


Although these groups may not be directly excluded, many factors go into poverty being more common for races of colour.


The first factor is the history of the urban working-class youth in Canada. During the postwar era, black Canadian veterans that fought in the war of 1812 were given smaller land of poorer quality. Despite also sacrificing their lives for our country, they were still treated differently from their white counterparts. Our country also has a history of black slavery that went on for more than 200 years and was not abolished until 1834. Even slaves from America had travelled to Canada in hopes for a better future. However, there was still a racial divide in our structural system. The anti-black racism continued within society with segregated schools, which were not closed in Canada until the 1960s.


Social exclusion is the term used to define a group of people being discounted from rights, opportunities, and resources. These social and economic resources range from housing and employment to education and mentorship. Canada is seen as a well-diverse country that strongly agrees with immigration. However, immigrants are likely to face even more inequality with these social and economic resources with the chronic low-income rate being 2.6 times higher among immigrants than the Canadian-born in 2000, and 3.3 times higher in 2012. In 2015, 23% of those living in low-income areas were immigrants. Also, 47% of those living in low income were newcomer children that arrived between the years of 2011-2016 . Therefore, immigrants represent a large portion of youth in poverty in Canada. Even many of the youth R.E.S.T Centre supports are either immigrants or refugees.


Many factors are associated with youth homelessness in Canada, and particularly in Toronto. Some of the most common factors are cost of living, violence and abuse and mental illness. Looking at the racialized youth in poverty, 74% of youth in Toronto shelters identify as part of a racialized group. Particularly African Canadian children living in poverty under the age of 18 account for 32.8% of the whole group.


For youth of colour, there are many misconceptions about what led them to poverty. Many people believe lack of education leads to youth being paid less. However, in reality racialized individuals are 13.5% more likely to have a university degree than non-racialized people. Also, 46% of racialized people living in poverty in Canada were 25 years or less, whereas 36% of non-racialized people living in poverty were less than 25 years old. Racialized children also make up 33% of those living in low-income areas of Toronto.


Other social attributes also link to youth homelessness. Looking at Toronto alone, it is the “most expensive major city in which to live in Canada”. Associated costs such as housing, childcare, and tuition have all increased. It is also the second highest in terms of child poverty from ages 0 to 17, and highest for working age adults from 18 to 64. Now when looking at race, visible minorities in Toronto made up 26% of those living in low income in 2015. These minorities were primarily West Asian, Arab, Korean, and African-American. When just looking at black individuals, they made up 31% of all races living in low-income areas in Toronto.That is more than one quarter of the entire population. When looking at employment in Toronto, women of colour faced the most inequality. The average employment income for a racialized female from 25-64 was $39,861 in 2015 while for a white female it was $57,454, from the 2015 Census.The average income has also only increased by 1% from 1980 to 2015 for racialized individuals while it grew 60% for white individuals in Toronto. There was also a lack of change when looking at youth, with absolutely no income change in the last 35 years after adjusting for inflation.


Being Canadian means, it is important to recognize these social and economic inequalities to create a better future. By helping youth, we are able to give them equal opportunities as other individuals, so they can achieve their goals and aspirations. It is not just about treating everyone with equality - it’s also about giving to those who suffer greater losses in society. For there to be change, we must become aware and fight for racial justice and give back to our community.





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