Does poverty have color? UN called out Canada on growing racialized poverty

Poverty is not colorless in Canada. Racialized Canadians are more likely to live in poverty than their non-racialized counterparts in spite of having higher educational qualifications. In Canada’s two of the most populous cities Vancouver and Toronto, more than half of all persons living in poverty are from racialized groups.  According to Canada without Poverty, 1 in 5 racialized families live in poverty in Canada, as opposed to 1 in 20 non-racialized families. Aboriginal peoples (including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples) are overrepresented amongst the homeless population in virtually all urban centers in Canada.

A coalition of organizations made up of Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change (COP-COC) Steering Committee members – the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (MTCSEALC), the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) and the African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC) – presented their growing concern to UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva.  They highlighted to the committee “the growing colour-coded poverty rates and other race related disparities experienced by Canada’s First Peoples and peoples of colour, as well as how these inequities are disproportionately shouldered by immigrants and migrants.”

In response, the UN-CESCR called upon the government of Canada to adopt recommendations that are provided by the coalition. In the press release that the coalition released on March 7, the government of Canada is asked to take urgent action “to address growing racialized and related immigration-based inequalities”. Some of the proposed actions include:

“strengthening the Federal Employment Equity Act, building capacity for more robust ethno-racial and other socio-demographic data collection and analysis, expanding family reunification, creating pathways to permanent residency for all temporary foreign workers, and reforming child welfare programs to address the over-representation of Indigenous and African Canadian children in those systems.”

The UN Committee also urged the government to formulate human-rights based national anti-poverty and homelessness strategies. These recommendations are released as part of the Committee’s Concluding Observations for Canada’s 10 year review at the 57th Session of the CESCR, which took place on February 24th and 25th, 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland. Read the full press release here.


Yohana Otite

Yohana Otite is the co-founder of BornBlack and writers on issues that revolve around the intersection of race, gender and class. Yohana also manages the Hamilton DiverseCity onBoard program at Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion.

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