The Colour of Poverty
Racism is not just an individual problem of attitude toward a particular group: it is also systemic and structural, inherent in institutions such as the education, health, and justice systems. The Colour of Poverty Campaign (www.colourofpoverty.ca) raises awareness of these inequalities and suggests ways to work toward equality and inclusion in Ontario, explains Kathryn Hunt
The campaign argues that racism and poverty are inextricably linked, feeding into each other and into racialized disparity and inequality more generally, and need to be considered in relation to each other.
An increasing proportion of the population of Ontario come from what the Colour of Poverty Campaign calls ‘racialized groups’ – those of non-European background or heritage. Currently, 13% of Canadians are non-European, and projections suggest that ten years from now, people of colour will make up a fifth of Canadians and well over half of Toronto’s population.
However, among Canadians of colour, poverty levels are disproportionately high, affecting their quality of life on all levels, including education, health, employment, housing, immigration and integration, and interactions with the justice system. In Toronto, people of colour are three times more likely to be living in poverty, and one study indicates that between 1980 and 2000, while poverty rates among non-racialized Canadians dropped by 28%, the poverty rates among racialized families rose by a startling 361%. Related studies show that people of colour are routinely discriminated against in schools, in the workplace and the courts, making the cycle of poverty even more vicious.
The Colour of Poverty Campaign was launched in September of 2007, from several ethno-specific and community-based service providing organizations as well as human rights advocacy groups who recognized these trends and felt the need to address them collectively. With initial funding support from the Department of Canadian Heritage, they are building knowledge and awareness through a series of educational fact sheets, a short documentary film available on DVD, their website (an expanded version of which will be re-launching around March 21, 2008 – the UN International Day For The Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination ), an e-list and other advocacy tools available online.
In their series of fact sheets, the Campaign gives statistics, gathered from dozens of sources (which are listed on their website for reference) showing the imbalances and growing disparities between racialized and non-racialized Canadians, and the relationship between the colour line and the poverty line. While many people may have heard that, for example, a large number of newcomers to Canada arrive with education and qualifications that are not recognized by governments, institutions, self regulating trades and professions as well as other potential employers, thereby restricting them from working in their particular fields of expertise – while most people know the story of the janitor with a Ph.D. – these fact sheets give numbers to the stories, fleshing out the reality.
Members are travelling to communities around the province, beginning with Hamilton, London, Ottawa, Toronto, and Windsor, to build partnerships with other equity advocacy and anti-poverty organizations. The goal is to create an engaged community that can share knowledge, experience, strategies and assistance among each other and with the general public. From that initial dialogue, a multi-sectoral work group will be created that will involve members of the affected communities, governments and social development policy institutes and anti-poverty representatives, the media and other affected people.
The work group will develop an implementation plan to ensure that the ongoing and accelerating racialization of poverty in Ontario becomes a major focus in the relevant institutions and government ministries and departments – to make change happen across in the system, on a causal rather than a symptomatic level. The long term goal of the campaign is to eliminate racially rooted poverty as well as the underlying racialized inequality and disparity across Ontario.
CHECK IT OUT>> http://www.colourofpoverty.ca is the campaign’s site where you’ll find lots more on their work.