Toronto child poverty divided along racial lines

November 18, 2017

By Laurie Monsebraaten, Toronto Star |

Toronto remains the child poverty capital of Canada with more than one in four kids living in low-income families, says a new report based on the 2016 census.

But even more troubling is the racial divide among the region’s poor children, according to the report being released Wednesday by a coalition of social agencies serving vulnerable families.

Children from racialized families — or families of people of colour — are more than twice as likely to be living in poverty as those from non-racialized families, or 23.3 per cent compared to 11.4 per cent, says the report. And about 84 per cent of Toronto’s Indigenous families with children are living in poverty.

When it comes to newcomer families — many of whom are also racialized — almost half of 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 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.

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