Toronto child poverty di­vided along racial lines

Metro Canada (Toronto) - - Toronto -

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.

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