Toronto child poverty divided along racial lines
Toronto region children whose parents arrived in Canada within the past five years live in poverty. That is almost three times the rate of poverty experienced by children in non-immigrant families, according to the report titled “Unequal City: The Hidden Divide Among Toronto Children and Youth.”
The report is particularly worrying in light of recently released census data that shows more than half of city residents identify as members of visible minority communities.
“In a city whose motto is ‘Diversity Our Strength,’ we must ask ourselves whether we are supporting this diversity if we are allowing children who are racialized, Indigenous, and newcomers to live with rates of poverty that are several times higher than (what) other children experience,” the report says.
Children are considered to be living in poverty if their family income is below Statistics Canada’s Low-income Measure, after taxes, which in Toronto was $31,301 for a household of two and $44,266 for a household of four in 2015, based on the census. The measure is calculated as 50 per cent of the median after-tax family income.
For newcomers Jotika Hossain and Drabir Khan, who came to Toronto from Bangladesh under the federal skilled worker program, the report sends a sobering message about their future in Canada. “We are very happy to be here and are ready to work hard,” said Hossain, 28, a banker in her home country. “We just need a little help to make the transition a little bit smoother.”
Khan, 30, who was marketing manager for the largest retail chain in Bangladesh, took an employment bridging program for newcomers when the family arrived in May.
But with no affordable child care for their one-year-old daughter, Hossain went back to Bangladesh so her extended family could help while she continued working at the bank to earn more money.
When Hossain returned to Toronto in August to prepare for the birth of the couple’s second child, Khan took a minimumwage job at Staples to support the family. But he had to quit to help his wife when their son was born in October.
Children in a city divided along racial and income lines have unequal access to basic supports and services such as child care, education, good housing, social and recreational opportunities and decent transit services, says the report.
“Poverty is not inevitable. It should not be the reality for children and youth. The choices we make, as a city, can prevent and reduce poverty,” the report concludes.