You are here: Key Issues > Racial Inequality

Racial Inequality

Overview

If you live in Toronto and you're not white, you stand a greater chance of living in poverty.

A recent report released by the City of Toronto revealed terrifying inequality in a city whose motto is "Diversity, Our Strength". York University Professor Michael Ornstein researched poverty levels among racialized minorities based on data from the 1996 census. The report, "Ethno-Racial Inequality in the City of Toronto: An Analysis of the 1996 Census", has received scant attention from media and politicians, prompting local community groups to begin a campaign to pressure the municipal government to address Toronto's increasingly polarized reality.

The report found that "While 14% of European families live below the Low Income Cut Off, the percentage is much higher for non-Europeans: 32.1% for Aboriginals; 35% for South Asians; 45% for Africans, Blacks and Caribbeans; and 45% for Arabs and West Asians." In addition, of all children, 34% live in poverty; and, of all women, 41% live in poverty; and, of all female lone parents, 60% live in poverty.

Toronto's average unemployment rate is 7%, but the rates for many racialized groups can be up to six times higher - for Ethiopians, the rate is 24%; for Ghanaians, 45%; and for Somalis, 25%.

Even when education levels are the same, racialized groups are under-represented in managerial, professional and high-income occupations and over-represented in low-end occupation and low-income jobs. And the higher the rates of poverty, the lower a person's civic participation and the higher their health risks.

This growing income and unemployment gap between racialized groups and white Canadians is the result of systemic racial discrimination ' discrimination that our governments just aren't taking seriously. Our governments are failing to take the racialization of poverty seriously.

Can we have a democracy premised on equality but actually live another reality - tolerating inequality increasingly based on racial lines? The rhetoric of multicultural harmony over the last 20 years in Canada is masking rising inequality in income and wealth between racialized communities and other Canadians.

We can't build a 21st Century society on such unstable ground.