Anti-Black Racism

Blog post by Shannon Udall, MSW Student

Ending child poverty in Canada requires equity for, and the inclusion of, all communities. As Black History Month comes to a close, we must recognize that  Black history in Canada is shaped by discriminatory policies, bias in institutions and anti-Black racism. This history continues into present Canadian culture and public policies. Across Canada, anti-Black racism continues to result in higher rates of poverty experienced by Black children and families.

2016 Census data show that 30.2% of Black children under 18 in Canada live in poverty in comparison with 17% of children under 18 in Canada, overall[1]. This rate rises in Ontario, where 32.8% of Black children live in poverty compared to 18.4% of children under 18 .[2]

We  know that Black children and youth experience drastically higher rates of discipline in the school system[3]. They also represent 37% of apprehended children in care of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, despite only accounting for 8% of the population[4]. Black Canadians are also incarcerated at a disproportionate rate[5] and face discrimination in accessing housing, employment and social services.[6] These systemic factors result in Black Canadians experiencing higher rates of poverty.

Black history month reminds us to remember and acknowledge the passionate work and advocacy of Black communities to organize around these issues and to resist anti-Black racism. It is also a time to amplify the stories of resistance and resilience that have shaped Black Canadian history. Canadians of African descent have been on this land as long as British and French colonists[7]. Despite Canada’s reputation as a refuge for African Americans since the time of the Underground Railroad, Black Canadians have and continue to experience many of the same injustices experienced by Black Americans including slavery, institutional segregation, extreme public violence and housing discrimination[8]. While there has been recent progress from Government, including the Government of Canada’s recognition of the International Decade for People of African Decent and the creation of anti-black racism strategies in the province of Ontario and the city of Toronto, Black communities in Canada still experience high rates of discrimination and injustice.

An important step in moving forward to address these inequalities is the need to collect disaggregated data. The lack of disaggregated data concerning race obscures the extent of anti-Black racism in Canada. All levels of government must commit to collecting disaggregated race- based data to analyze how policies and programs support and fail racialized communities and direct resources to filling the gaps that so many families fall through. The Government must restore, enhance and strengthen Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism (CAPAR) based on community input and respond to growing concerns about racial profiling plaguing Black, Indigenous and racialized families[1].  As Canadians we must recognize ongoing and historical injustices and hold our government and ourselves accountable for ending the policies and beliefs that perpetuate anti-Black racism in Canada. Black communities have survived and thrived in their resistance to anti-Black racism. It’s now Canada’s turn to commit to equity and racial justice.

[1] A Poverty Free Canada Requires Federal Leadership
[2] Data tables, 2016 Census
[3] Canadian Education is Steeped in Anti-Black Racism
[4] Drop in number of Black children placed in care heralded as good start
[5] Statement to the media by the United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, on the conclusion of its official visit to Canada, 17-21 October 2016
[6] City of Toronto-funded ads confront anti-black racism
[7] Anti-Black Racism in Canada – A Historical Perspective
[8] Canadian Education is Steeped in Anti-Black Racism

Youth need encouragement, not disbelief

Post by MSW Student, Mallory Hilkewich

I read the article by Carol Goar quoting depressing sentiments about young people from MPP Julia Munro. While I feel a sense of optimism that issues of poverty and inequity affecting children and youth are being discussed, I fear the state of political will. As a young person I urge politicians to stop the rhetoric of youth incompetence and apathy, and start voicing belief and encouragement.

Campaign 2000 just came out with a national report card on Child & Family Poverty titled Let’s Do This: Let’s End Child Poverty for Good. A call to action is heralded in response to the new governments – platform promise to create a national anti-poverty plan. Yet the plan must be accompanied by thoughtful, targeted action.

As the report states, government must legislate change with a national Early Childhood Education and Care program, a comprehensive housing strategy and ensure the new Canada Child Benefit design reduces the child poverty rate by 50% in 5 years.

Government should take seriously the fact that nationwide nearly 1 in 5 children live in poverty. Toronto itself has eight ridings with child poverty rates over 30%. And disturbingly, entrenched poverty on First Nation reserves and systemic discrimination have created higher proportions of Indigenous youth in the care of child welfare and who are incarcerated.

It is disheartening when politicians spout one-sided stories as their proof that a generation of youth is incompetent. Easily, an alternative narrative can be shared.

Youth took action with their right to vote this election. Over 70,000 voted early on campuses and some estimates predict a 10% increase in turnout from 2011. You can find youth across Ontario and Canada working to take action and create opportunities where little exists. Take for example the nearly 700 youth that created the Y2K Strategy in Kingston to improve community environment, health, and wellness. Youth are often working hard and taking action, but their actions easily go unrecognized.

Rather than sharing criticizing stories, politicians should focus energy to combat a youth unemployment rate that is almost double the national average. Politicians should address the student debt Ontario students face from paying the highest average tuition in Canada. Politicians should know that Ontario students would have to work a full summer at minimum wage just to afford tuition (let alone food, rent, books). Politicians should create opportunities for homeless youth, a large portion who fled experiences of interpersonal violence, emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse.

Politicians should use this evidence to recognize the conditions that prevent youth from reaching their potential. That our own Prime Minister is the Minister of Youth and the Liberal platform committed to creating a Commissioner for Children and Young Persons gives a nod to the unique and pressing needs of children and young people. Let’s change the conditions of poverty. Let’s embrace encouragement rather than disbelief.