Groundbreaking project explores Black experience in the GTA

Good detailed coverage in the Star and Globe (not much if anything in the Sun):

Whenever he is asked about his racial identity, Carl James always says “Black” instead of Antiguan, especially in Canada, where race is often defined by skin colour.

But there is more to the York University education professor’s preferred response to the question.

“I generally see myself as a Black person who happens to be from the Caribbean,” said James, who came to Toronto in the 1970s as a university student.

“It’s the politics about being Black that we are thinking in skin-colour terms. That’s the way we have come to define and see ourselves in our struggles.”

He is not alone in feeling that way.

According to the Black Experience Project, a groundbreaking survey of 1,504 self-identified Black individuals in Greater Toronto, 53 per cent of the participants identified themselves as Black regardless of their heritage, country of origin, and ethnocultural and other identities.

The participants were sampled to represent the population across census tracts, taking into account age, gender household income and ethnic/cultural backgrounds.

The study led by the Environics Institute, released Wednesday, posed 250 questions to participants about their daily experiences as Black people in the GTA. Most interviews were conducted in person and each took between 90 to 120 minutes.

“What struck me is how the experience of the Black community is so similar,” said Marva Wisdom, the project’s director of outreach engagement, whose family moved here from Jamaica 40 years ago.

“Being Black is an important identity for us despite our diversity. It is our shared experiences that help bind us together.”

Black people make up 400,000, or 7 per cent, of Greater Toronto’s population and the community has more than tripled in size over the last three decades.

Until 2011, young Black adults living in GTA were much more likely to be born in the Caribbean than in Canada, but the trend has reversed. Black youth today are twice as likely to be born in Canada than in the Caribbean, while those from Africa have been on the rise.

While people with Caribbean heritage make up 55 per cent of GTA’s Black population, those with African origins now account for 31 per cent of the community, with the rest being a mix of both and/or with other ethnicities.

The study also found:

  • Two-thirds of survey participants said they frequently or occasionally experience racism and discrimination because they are Black;
  • Eight in 10 reported experiencing one of several forms of day-to-day “microaggression” such as having others expect their work to be inferior or being treated in a condescending or superficial way;
  • Although those with lower incomes are affected more intensively by these incidents, when it comes to getting randomly stopped in public by the police, those in the higher socio-economic stratum are not immune;
  • About four respondents in 10 said they felt accepted by their teachers “only sometimes” or “never”;
  • One-third identified challenges in the workplace linked to being Black, whether those involved explicit racism or discrimination, or an uncomfortable workplace culture in which they do not feel they are treated professionally accepted.

“Teenagers growing up feel they’re experiencing all these things on their own. You feel you have to work hard to prove Blackness is a positive thing. Now we can confirm and validate our experiences with data,” Wisdom said.

“There have been incremental changes, but things haven’t changed that much, either.”

Source: Groundbreaking project explores Black experience in the GTA | Toronto StarBlack Experience Project a heart-rending snapshot of Black lives in Toronto: Paradkar

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Carl James, an education professor at York University and one of the researchers behind the study, explains the lasting effect frequent police interactions has on the black population as a whole and how wealth and education offer little protection against profiling.

Half the black people you surveyed said they’ve been stopped by police in public but that number surges to 80 per cent when it comes to black males between 25 and 44. What’s behind the targeting of this demographic?

I think it has to do with how black males are thought about in society. These stereotypes operate to influence the relationship we’re going to have with the police, with teachers, with our neighbours. The sense [police] have of these people is that they are probably up to no good, probably mischief makers. In order to prevent any of those things that might take place, let us take pre-emptive action.

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What’s the effect of having so many of these interactions with police?

One youth sent me an e-mail where he talked about going home at 11:30 and police stopped him and searched him and in the process roughed him up. We then think we can’t be out at 11 at night or drive a nice car or live our lives. It affects how we might trust police or a teacher.

We’ve seen a lot of reports in the past couple of months prepared by judges or human-rights organizations that look at policing and the recommendations are always the same: collecting race-based data, providing implicit bias training to police. Are these the right solutions?

I think collecting the data is absolutely important and critical but what we do with it is important afterward. Even though the data might be there, in a society where institutional racism exists, people might not believe the evidence because that’s not their personal experience.

With personnel training, I’m not sure it helps unless people start thinking about how they’re complicit, and also responsible for working at the issues, instead of, “I got some training. Black people aren’t exactly all what I thought.” I think we need a deliberate attempt coming from federal policies and programs.

We need different representations in media. It’s not just when we hear about issues related to blacks that we get a black person on the radio. If a personal story is the only way that the larger society can be able to respect and understand and get to know the black person, I think that’s a very sad situation.

Your results show that black people from the GTA from all class backgrounds had negative interactions with police. Your social standing, your education, it can’t really protect you. Was that surprising?

No. If you’re a doctor, a lawyer, a professional, the fact is, outside of those contexts, you’re seen as who we construct you to be. We have to shift the thinking, shift the ideas to challenge the stereotypes.

You have a Ph.D. You’re a faculty chair at York University. How does that have an effect on your experience being black in this city?

There are assumptions of what my research might be about. Assumptions I might be biased based on how I come to my research. The assumptions of how I might teach or perceive some students. We all are marinated in the same stew of stereotypes and we’re going to bring that to the world and interactions we’re going to have.

Eighty per cent of the people you surveyed said that they believed that others – specifically non-black people – saw them in a somewhat negative or very negative light. Do you think it’s worthwhile trying to change the perception of adults? Or are those stereotypes too ingrained?

We have to get at the perception of adults. These are the people that set the laws, set the rules, set out the school curriculum, set out the kinds of processes that people need to live by. If they are allowed to maintain their ideas, nothing will change. Even if we worked with kids to have them see the world differently than the adults, after a while, they’re inculcated by ideas held by adults and are going to think they’re right. To be able to succeed, you might not be able to challenge the existing ideas, the status quo, so sooner or later these kids will have to fall in line.

I don’t think it’s just the individual ways it must be done. It has to be done with institutional practices. Since the police occupy a very significant place in society in which we live, the government’s going to have to play a significant role in bringing them into understanding and respecting the role that they play and their relationship with the community.

Source: Majority of black people in Toronto feel targeted and disrespected: study 

Other commentary of note, from a more activist perspective:

Black Experience Project exposes Canada’s big lie: Mochama – Multiculturalism is a national policy that promises to embrace diversity while doing nothing to address a long history of punishing Black people.,

The tragic echoes in the cycle of Black death – As a verdict loomed in the Andrew Loku inquest, Pierre Coriolan was killed in Montreal—reminders of why Black Canadians fight for change


‘Significant’ health gaps found between Canadian and immigrant seniors

Not surprising with respect to economic indicators but more so with respect to health:

With the latest census showing more seniors than children living in Canada, a new study by the Wellesley Institute has identified “significant” disparities in self-reported health and mental health between Canadian and immigrant seniors, especially those who are “racialized” — or racial minorities — and from non-English background.

“Immigrant seniors, especially those who arrived more recently, reported poorer health status, in both overall health and mental health, than non-immigrant seniors,” said the report, “Seniors’ Health in the GTA,” released Tuesday.

“While only 19 per cent of non-immigrant seniors reported fair/poor health, 34 per cent of recent and mid-term immigrants and 26 per cent of long-term immigrants rated their health as fair/poor. Similar patterns were found in self-reported mental health.”

According to census data released in May, there were 5.9 million people aged 65 and older in Canada, just above the 5.8 million children under 14 — showing the country’s elderly population surpassing its youth population for the first time.

In the GTA, nearly two in three seniors were immigrants. Among all immigrant seniors, 43 per cent were visible minorities and 69 per cent reported a mother tongue that was not English.

The composition of immigrant seniors in the region is also changing rapidly, with 82 per cent of the recent arrivals being from a racialized background and 88 per cent reported a non-English mother tongue (versus 27 per cent and 62 per cent, respectively, among long-term immigrant seniors who have been in Canada for more than 30 years).

“Two thirds of seniors in Greater Toronto are immigrants. The demographics has changed, the need for health care has changed,” said Seong-gee Um, a co-author of the study with fellow researcher Naomi Lightman.

“There has been more recognition of these changes, but not much has been done to address the gaps.”

Based on the Canadian Community Health Survey data collected between 2007 and 2014, the researchers identified a sample of 10,125 seniors and compared the five social determinants of health (income, employment, education, sense of belonging and health-care access) with the self-reported health status among Canadians and immigrants who have been in Canada for different lengths of time.

They also examined if the health status of the immigrant group varied for those who were visible minorities and have a mother tongue beside English.

Overall, 40 per cent of seniors rated their general health as excellent/very good, while 67 per cent of seniors described their mental health the same.

However, the ratings differed significantly across the diverse senior populations by immigration status, length of time in Canada, mother tongue and if the subjects are racial minorities.

Um said the disparities in health have much to do with how one’s racialized identity, English language ability and immigrant background impact negatively on the social determinants of health.

The study found:

● Racialized immigrants were nearly twice as likely as non-racialized immigrants to rely on social assistance as their main source of income (14.7 per cent versus 7.5 per cent).

● The rate of low-income for racialized seniors was 15.4 per cent, more than twice as high as the rate for non-racialized seniors (7.2 per cent).

● Three in 10 seniors with English as mother tongue have been employed or self-employed in the last year, compared to just 21.5 per cent among their non-English mother-tongue counterparts.

● Sixty per cent of recent immigrant seniors reported a strong sense of belonging, compared to 75 per cent for Canadians, 64 per cent of those who have been here for 21 to 30 years and 73 per cent who had been here for 31-plus years.

“There is definitely a need for more targeted approaches in service planning and delivery to improve health equity and make sure we have proper ethnospecific care,” said Um.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean we need additional resources. It just means we need to redeploy some of our existing resources to cater to the changing needs and be creative.”

Source: ‘Significant’ health gaps found between Canadian and immigrant seniors | Toronto Star

More women, minorities running in GTA in federal election

Election_2015Encouraging but will see how many elected (47 percent of the GTA are visible minorities):

Many GTA voters can look forward to voting for either a woman or a person from a diverse background during this year’s federal election.

While the nomination process is ongoing — the deadline for candidates isn’t until Sept. 28 — there has already been a concerted effort by the federal parties to court women and minorities to run in Toronto-area ridings.

When it comes to women, the NDP leads the way with 21 of its 50 nominated candidates being women. The Liberals trail closely behind, while about one-in-four Conservative and Green Party candidates are female.


Incumbent NDP MP Peggy Nash, who is running again in Parkdale-High Park, said it’s positive to see so many women in the race.

“I think that a strong slate of women, really offers Canadians a full choice and broad representations so that they’re full range of views are getting heard,” Nash said.

While the number of female candidates in the GTA and the rest of Ontario is going up, the co-founder of Equal Voice — an organization that encourages women to run — says there’s still work to be done, especially given the fact that just 25 per cent of the 41st Parliament was female.

“That doesn’t nearly approximate the percentage of women in the population. And it does suggest that our democracy is not fair,” said Donna Dasko.

The number of minority candidates also appears to be on the rise, with the Liberals leading the way.


Ratna Omidvar, of Ryerson University’s Global Diversity Exchange, said growth in this area is inevitable given Toronto’s diversity, particularly in the suburbs.

“Think of Brampton, think of Scarborough, it is then inevitable that all parties will be running candidates from these communities,” Omidvar said.

More women, minorities running in GTA in federal election – Toronto – CBC News.

Conservatives received most election coverage in GTA ethnic newspapers – New Canadian Media – NCM

Interesting but not surprising research:

[April] Lindgren’s research, which will be published in the December 2014 issue of the Canadian Journal of Political Science, focused on coverage of the 2011 federal election in five ethnocultural publications in the Greater Toronto Area – the Russian Express, Korea Times Daily, Canadian Punjabi Post, Punjabi Daily and Ming Pao. All are daily publications except for the weekly Russian Express. The study concluded that while there was no overwhelming pattern of stories or photos skewed explicitly in favour of the Conservatives, the party did benefit in that more of its politicians were featured in photographs, it was the sole focus of more stories and photos than its competitors, and it was mentioned first most frequently in news coverage.

“The degree to which a candidate or party can consistently earn first mentions in stories…is a measure of campaign effectiveness in that it means party strategists are choosing the topic and framing the discussion, leaving the competition to react in later paragraphs,” Lindgren observed in the paper, entitled “Toronto-area ethnic newspapers and Canada’s 2011 federal election: An investigation of content, focus and partisanship.”

Lindgren said she was interested in investigating election coverage in the ethnic media because language barriers have limited the amount of research done in this area. During the 2011 election, the Conservative Party, in particular, also launched a media strategy that targeted ethnic communities, because a “growing number of ridings in and around major Canadian cities were home to concentrations of potential supporters from single ethnic groups,” Lindgren wrote.

In almost all cases the ethnic papers filled in gaps left by mainstream media by providing more extensive coverage of the local races of interest to their readers.

Most Canadian voters do not participate directly in political events and therefore depend on the news media to help them make informed decisions, Lindgren noted. In addition to examining whether the Conservative party’s courtship of ethnic media paid off in terms of coverage, the research also examined how much election-related news the ethnocultural publications carried, the subject matter dealt with in the coverage and the geographic focus of the reporting local campaigns versus national campaigns.

The results showed that interest in the election varied by publication. The Punjabi Daily carried the most election-related coverage – a total of 123 stories and photos, or 32 per cent of all news items the paper published during the study period. The Russian Express, on the other hand, published just 19 election-related stories and photos, which made up a mere 5.9 per cent of their total news items. The study also observed that both the Punjabi Daily and the Punjabi Post were more similar to mainstream news coverage in that both publications ran more stories about election strategy and poll results than issue-related articles.

Analysis of the election coverage also suggested that individual newspaper’s commitment to election coverage seemed to be influenced by the number of candidates from the publication’s readership community. The Punjabi newspapers, which carried the most election news, also had the most in-group candidates to cover.

Conservatives received most election coverage in GTA ethnic newspapers – New Canadian Media – NCM.