The National Reference Group on Visible Minorities - Voluntary Sector Initiative
Final Report - November 15, 2001
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DISCLAIMER: This paper was commissioned and endorsed by the National Reference Group of
Visible Minority Organizations on the VSI. As such, it reflects the views of the National Reference
Table of Contents:
- Summary of Key Findings
2.1 Critical Issues for VSI Consideration
2.2 Other Key Findings
3.1 Recommendations for VSI Consideration
3.2 Other Recommendations
- The Scope of the Project
- Visible Minorities in Canada
5.1 A Brief Historical Overview
- Demographics of Visible Minority in Canada
6.1 National Demographics
6.2 At the Provincial Level
6.3 At the Municipal Level
- Voluntary Organizations
- Broad/Major Issues
8.1 Systemic & Structural Barriers
8.2 Funding Needs/Charitable Status
8.3 Organization/Human Resource Capacity
8.4 Mainstreaming Visible Minority Issues
8.5 Call for Action
- Other Major Issues
9.3 Labour Market
9.4 Information Technology
9.5 Public Perception/Media Image
9.6 Immigration & Refugees
9.7 Civil Liberties
This is the final report of the Research Project on Visible Minority Communities in Canada. The
goal of the Project, commissioned and financed by the Voluntary Sector Initiative (VSI), was to
gather, consolidate and document available information on visible minority communities in Canada
with specific reference to demographics, community institutions and major issues. Information
was to be accessed primarily through secondary sources, gaps identified and recommendations made
for future work.
The methodology used to gather much of this information was through secondary sources, including
available published reports, studies and referrals. A limited number of interviews with community
leaders across Canada, including members of the National Reference Group on Visible Minorities,
provided additional information.
A mid-point report was provided to the National Reference Group on Visible Minorities at their
second national meeting on October 15, 2001, in Ottawa. Feedback from that meeting has been
integrated into this report.
2. Summary of Key Findings:
2.1 Critical Issues for VSI Consideration
2.1.1 Voluntary Organizations:
- There are numerous organizations within the visible minority community dealing with a wide
spectrum of issues - from settlement for new comers, social justice, to business, religion
and sports. A large number of these organizations appear to be locally based groups, run entirely
by volunteers and dealing with issues specific to the local visible minority communities in
which they are based. There are also numerous organizations from outside of the visible minority
community, providing a variety of services and support. However, there is no comprehensive,
easily accessible directory of visible minority organizations at the national, provincial
or municipal levels.
- Several provinces have published directories of voluntary organizations and have included
some visible minority organizations in the larger body of ethnocultural organizations. There
is insufficient descriptions/information in these directories to accurately determine the
type and/or reach of these organizations listed.
- Lists of visible minority organizations are being developed in several areas across the
country, including Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, for the National Reference Group consultations.
These lists, developed by local host organizations, would provide a good staring point for
a comprehensive directory of visible minority organizations in Canada.
- Community leaders interviewed expressed a need for visible minority communities and organizations
to become more familiar with each other through alliance building and increased collaborations.
A comprehensive directory of visible minority organizations, with regular updates, would be
a useful tool to support such a strategy.
2.1.2 Broad/major issues:
- Policy development on issues critical to the community is a major concern. Policy development
is viewed as being done in a vacuum, and too often with little regard for the knowledge or
perspectives of the community. If included, questions arise on the reasons, method, and timing
for community involvement, roles assigned become suspect, as are words such as 'partnership'.
Mainstream organizations at policy-making tables are as not adequately representing visible
- Organizational and human resource capacity are under resourced and under developed in these
communities. A serious lack of developmental financial support undermines the ability of visible
minority voluntary organizations to build and sustain capacity in both organizational and
human resource, to adequately address growing needs within their respective communities. Changes
in structure of government funding, from program to project based criteria, has had negative
impact on these organizations. Such criteria fail to take into consideration particular needs
of visible minority communities with respect to systemic and structural racism in the Canadian
society. Many organizations are also unable to raise necessary funds within their respective
community, as these tend not have the adequate financial base.
- Opportunities and mechanisms are absent or inadequate to enable visible minority organizations
with opportunities to meet, strengthen alliances/collaborations and to maximize their collective
impact on national policies and development agendas. A national visible minority network or
umbrella coalition was named as a desired mechanism.
2.2 Other Key Findings:
2.2.1 The Demographic Picture
- While visible minorities have been in Canada since the 1600s, the vast majority of this
population has come through immigration from about the 1960s. And while Europe continues to
be a key source of immigration to Canada, there has been an increasing shift, with Asia and
to a lesser extent, the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East, accounting for increasing numbers
- Immigration patterns and sources, particularly since the 1980s have resulted in visible
minorities almost doubling in numbers - from 6% of the total Canadian population in 1986 to
11% in 1996. There are projections that this number will increase to 20% within the early
years of this century.
- The largest groups within the larger visible minority population are Chinese, South Asian
and Black communities, the majority of whom live in three main urban centres - Toronto, Vancouver
- Demographic characteristics differ among the multiple sub-groups within the larger visible
minority population. For example, the Black community has a larger number of younger members,
higher numbers of women than men, and lower numbers of older age groups in comparison to the
other groups. Patterns of both internal and external migration have also helped to shape its
broader demographic characteristics.
2.2.2 Broad/major Issues:
- Issues facing the community, with few exceptions, are well known through numerous studies
done over recent decades. Actions on recommendations, however, have not been forthcoming.
Also noted was that many of these studies tend to be inaccessible - housed in universities,
governmental bodies and libraries and not user friendly for the actors in the field, who often
do not have resources or capacity to make full use of findings and recommendations.
- Deepening of poverty across visible minority communities has been accelerated by liberalization
and deregulation of the free market economy, accompanied by devolution of essential social
services from upper to lower levels of government and cutbacks in social spending. There is
inadequate attention and response to this crisis as it impacts visible minority communities,
either at the level of policy or public discourse. Recent studies, cited in this report, have
raised the alarm on this issue as one of critical importance in Canada.
- Systemic and structural racism - through major societal institutions - from educational,
labour market, to justice and service delivery systems - create barriers, which prevent visible
minority communities from fully developing their potential and participating equitably in
Canadian society. These barriers also serve to rob the society of valuable human resources.
- Mainstreaming visible minority issues was viewed as critical. The standpoint from which
the communities wage their struggles for access and opportunities came into question. Despite
their growing numbers and contributions to Canada, visible minorities continue to be viewed
as a 'special interest' group. A need to reshape the community's issues from being perceived
as 'immigrant/othered', to its rightful place in the mainstream of Canadian society, was named
as a priority issue to be addressed.
3.1 Recommendations for VSI Consideration
- Return of program funding and developmental resources to visible minority organizations.
Governmental agencies need to recognize that visible minority voluntary organizations are
dealing with the impact of deep systemic and structural racism and face serious disadvantages
at the level of capacity and sustainability. Their respective communities are unlikely to
have financial capacity to make up for the shortfalls in governmental support. Developmental
support and program funding would help these organizations to build and sustain necessary
organizational and human resource capacity.
- Include visible minority organizations/leaders in policy-making: Despite the fact
that visible minority leaders are knowledgeable, experienced and insightful on the multiple
issues facing their communities, there is a persistent exclusion of their presence at the
tables of policy-making, or if included, are peripheral to decision-making structures. It
is critical that policy-making bodies examine the inherent systemic and structural barriers
that work to exclude the experiences and knowledge of these communities and ensure that visible
minority leaders are included.
- Support the creation of a national mechanism for visible minority communities. The
visible minority community in Canada has deep roots in the society and is growing at a fairly
rapid rate. However, it is still perceived as an 'immigrant' and 'special interest group'
and the community has not found a cohesive voice within the larger society. Visible minority
leaders view a national voice and visibility as critical in its reach for equitable participation
in Canadian society. A mechanism - such as a national network of organizations would facilitate
the communities meeting, sharing and bringing a cohesive voice on national policies and development
- Support the development of directories/website of visible minority voluntary organizations
at national, provincial and municipal levels. Directories of visible minority organizations
are rare in Canada. These organizations, when listed, are subsumed within larger ethnocultural
listings. This project has made a good start in building such a directory by developing lists
of visible minority organizations in several regions.
3.2 Other Recommendations
- Take action on past recommendations: Visible minority communities and leaders have
provided input into numerous studies and reports on multiple issues facing the communities.
It is now necessary for the respective agencies to become familiar with and take action on
recommendations made in these past studies and consultations.
- Mainstreaming of visible minorities and their issues into the Canadian society. It
is recommended that visible minority communities/leaders engage in dialogue to critically
evaluate how they understand and view their issues and place within the larger mainstream
society. The perception of their communities as 'othered groups' with problems shaped elsewhere
and their persistent location at the margins of Canadian society, contribute to their exclusion
from tables of national policy making and development agendas and an inability to participate
equitably in society.
4. The Scope of the Project:
The goal of the project, from August 15th to October 31st, 2001, was to gather, consolidate and
document available information on visible minority communities in Canada with specific reference
to demographics, community institutions and major issues. Specifically, the terms of reference
called for research and documentation to include:
- Demographics: On a national level, general demographics and trends in visible minority
communities - including identification of different communities and demographics in national,
provincial or city populations by broad age groups.
- Voluntary Organizations: Identification of voluntary organizations, institutions
and networks serving visible minority communities, by types/category, size and geographic
reach, and with contact information. Voluntary Sector networks/alliances to include: a) those
within visible minority communities, and b) those in which visible minority communities play
a major role. Agencies which primarily address needs within visible minority communities,
but which are not of those communities.
- Broad/Major Issues: Published studies and reports, clarify broad/major issues within
visible minority communities, indicating a) those which are common across the communities
and b), those that are specific to particular communities. These studies and reports, and
short interviews with some key individuals are used to identify major strengths and challenges
within visible minority communities.
- The methodology: Much of this information was gathered through secondary sources
- through available published reports, studies and referrals. A limited number of interviews
with key community leaders provided additional information. The studies, reports and a list
of people interviewed are included with this report.
5. Visible Minorities in Canada
5.1 A Brief Historical Overview:
Visible minority communities, contrary to popular notions, have been in Canada for the last four
centuries. The Black community established roots in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, and elsewhere
in Canada, from as far back as the early 1600s. Chinese and South Asian communities have been
in Canada since the 1800s, and significant numbers of immigrants from the Caribbean and elsewhere
arrived prior to the 1960s. However, accelerated by liberalized immigration policies, the vast
increase within the visible minority population occurred from the 1960s onwards,. A recent study
by Grace-Edward Galabuzi (2001) estimates visible minorities will make up one fifth of the Canadian
population early in this century.
An accurate demographic picture of visible minorities in Canada was difficult to assess until
about 1986, when questions in the national census begun to focus on these communities in Canada.
Naming this growing body of people continues to be a challenge and cause for debate, with labels
such as visible minorities (at times referred to as the invisible visible minorities), racialized
communities and people of colour, among others.
Naming the Diversity:
With the rich diversity in the community, some studies have pointed out that the use of such
broad categorization as 'visible minority' tends to gloss over the complex cultural identities
within this larger community and the differential ways in which racial sub-groups experience
the dominant culture. For example, Ornstein identifies 89 ethno-racial groups with at least
2500 members in Toronto. The McGill report highlights the complexities within the Black community,
brought about by internal and external migration, moving from being characterized by its old
roots in Canada to one with an overwhelming Caribbean presence.
The largest sub-groups within the visible minority population are Chinese, South Asians and
Black and they are mostly located in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
The Chinese Community:
A preliminary study of the Chinese community by SUCCESS (2000) points out that while Chinese
have been in Canada since the mid 1860s, it was not until the 1960s that there was considerable
growth in numbers due to more liberal immigration policies and high birth rate. The 1980s provided
for a much larger increase, stimulated by both the return of Hong Kong to China and the creation
of an investor class within business by Immigration Canada in 1985. Hong Kong and Taiwan accounts
for the larger numbers followed by Mainland China.
The Chinese population accounts for the largest visible minority community in Canada, with
the majority based in Toronto and Vancouver. A much more comprehensive study of Chinese immigration
patterns to Canada can be seen in Peter S.Li's study (1998.)
The South Asian Community:
Significant demographic changes have also taken place within the South Asian Community in
Canada since their arrival in the early 1900s. The immigration of South Asians to Canada occurred
in three distinct stages of immigration - the first in the period 1903-1920 with predominantly
males in BC and mostly from the Punjab area. The second phase of the late 1960s, buoyed by more
liberalized immigration policies, brought both skilled and semi-skilled immigrants from places
such as Uganda, Kenya, South Africa and the Caribbean. The third phase in the 1980s brought
large groups of Tamils from Sri Lanka, resulting in significant changes in the complexity of
the larger South Asian community and its needs.
The Black Community:
The McGill Study (1997) focuses on the Black community at the national level in Canada. Using
the 1991 census, this study looks critically at the complexities within the larger Black population
in Canada and points out key differences between this community and the larger Canadian population.
Some of these highlights include:
- With roots in Canada dating back to the 1600s, the Black community has undergone significant
demographic changes in the latter half of the last century. High rates of immigration since
the 1960s, particularly from the Caribbean - (7 out of 10 members of the total Black population
were born in the Caribbean at the 1991 census), has significantly altered the characteristics
of the larger community.
- Age differentiation within this population has serious implications for understanding the
community and for allocation of public resources and services. The Black community is considerably
younger, with almost 2 out 3 under the age of 35 (64.2%), - the larger Canadian population
has about 53% in that age group. The Black population over age 55 is 1 in 10, while the larger
Canadian population is 1 in 5.
- Immigration trends and patterns have resulted in an unequal male-female ratio with substantially
more women - accounting for 52.1 % and men 47.9% in 1991. Though males are in slightly larger
numbers up to age 25, this changes in the older age group where women outnumber men, accounting
for 20,000 more women than men in 1991.
The demographic characteristics of the Black community, particularly in cities such as Toronto,
Montreal and Ottawa are undergoing further changes brought about by the large numbers of recent
immigrants and refugees from the Horn of Africa - from countries such as Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia,
Rwanda and Burundi.
6. Demographics of Visible Minorities in Canada
An accurate demographic profile of the visible minority population at the national, provincial
and municipal levels in Canada is necessary for the determination of, and access to, public resources
and opportunities. Using the 1996 census data as the main information source, this report provides
brief demographic information at these three levels. It also identifies a number of studies based
on the 1996 census and other data sources, and which provide more comprehensive analyses.
The most recent statistical information available on visible minority communities at the national
level in Canada is from the 1996 census data. Questions specific to visible minority population
in Canada are asked and computed at the national census - every five years. Questions on visible
minorities were asked for the first time in the 1991 census, using the Employment Equity definition
of 'visible minority'. The 2001 census figures on this population, is slated for January 2003.
Numerous studies have been done on ethnocultural communities in which racialised groups are
subsumed, while a smaller number have focused specifically on visible minorities across Canada.
The 1997 McGill Study: Diversity Mobility & Change - The Dynamics of Black Communities in Canada,
using the 1991 census data, and the Ornstein 2000 study on Toronto: Ethno-racial inequality
in the City of Toronto, using the 1996 census data, are two examples of the latter.
6.1 The National Picture:
Key points taken from the 1996 census include the following:
- The visible minority community in Canada has almost doubled between 1986 and 1996, increasing
from 6% of the population in 1986 to 11% in 1996.
- The major centres of growth are Toronto, which grew from 17 to 32% of the total population;
Vancouver 17% to 31%, and Montreal 7% to 12%, during this period.
- In 1996, 85% of all immigrants and 93% of those who came between 1991-1996 live in a metropolitan
centre - mainly in three large cities: Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
- Sources of immigration to Canada have changed significantly over the last 50 years. European
immigrants continue to account for the largest proportion of all immigrants living in Canada
in 1996, but for the first time they were less than half the total number of the immigrant
population. While in 1981, 67% of all immigrants in Canada were born in Europe, by 1996 this
percentage had declined to 47%.
- The 1996 census reported that over one million persons in Canada were immigrants who arrived
between 1991-1996 with people born in Asia accounting for more than 57% - up from 33% in 1970s,
12% in 1960s and only 3% prior to 1961. Asia, including Hong Kong, China, India, the Philippines
and Sri Lanka headed the list of recent newcomers.
- Following Europe and Asia, immigrants from Central and South America, Africa and the Caribbean
Region accounted for the third largest group.
The National Picture: Visible Minority Communities in Canada (1996)
||28,528,125 -total population
||Includes Black Canadians and immigrants
from Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere.
|South East Asian
|NIE (not identified elsewhere)
||Likely visible minority - identified
by nationality- e.g. West Indian, Fiji, etc.
||More than one visible minority group
Note: see Appendix 1 for more details on the visible minority population at the national
Source: Statistics Canada, 1996 http://www.statcan.ca-english
6.2 At the Provincial Level:
The major provincial centres of visible minority populations in Canada are Ontario, British Columbia,
Quebec and Alberta. Nova Scotia has the oldest visible minority community in Canada, with the
Black community dating back to the early 1600s.
The following chart provides the number of visible minorities in each province, the percentage
of each provincial population and the main visible minority groups within the provinces.
||% of total provincial population
||Largest Visible minority Groups
||Chinese, South Asian, Black, Arab, Filipino,
||Toronto, Ottawa,Hamilton, Windsor
||Chinese, South Asian, Filipino, Japanese,
||Black, Arab, Latin American, Chinese,
||Chinese, South Asian,Black, Filipino
||Filipino, Chinese, South Asian, Black
||Chinese, Black, South Asian, Southeast
||Black, Arab, South Asian, Chinese
||Black, Chinese, South Asians
||Chinese, South Asian, Black
||Filipino, Chinese, South Asian,
||Arab, Chinese, Black
||Southeast Asian, South Asian
Source: A Graphic Overview of Diversity in Canada - Department of Canadian Heritage 2000
While Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec have the largest numbers of the visible minorities
in Canada, the majority of these groups live in the main major urban centres of Toronto, Vancouver
- A brief demographic profile of British Columbia:
- Of the 660,545 visible minorities in the Province, 564,600 or 85% live in the Greater
Vancouver Regional District (GVRD), accounting for 31.3% of the urban population.
- 93% of the Chinese population of British Columbia live in the GVRD area.
- Among visible minority population in the GVRD area, 70% are from only two main groups
- Chinese with 49.4% and South Asians at 21.3%.
- Over one quarter of all visible minorities in Skeena-Queen Charlotte area are Filipinos,
while in Central Kootenay, 19% of the population are Black.
Source: BC Statistics. August,1998.
- A brief demographic profile of Ontario:
- Ontario has 1,682,045 visible minorities, accounting for 42%of the visible minority
population in Canada.
- The largest group is comprised of the Chinese community with 391,095, quickly followed
by the South Asians at 390,055 and the Black community at 356,220.
- Significant number of Arabs/West Asians and Filipinos live in Ontario - 118,660 and
- The largest numbers reside in Toronto with 1,338,095 or 32% of the city's population,
followed by Ottawa-Hull at 115,460 and Hamilton at 48,910.
- A brief demographic profile of Quebec:
- Quebec has a visible minority population of 433,985 or 12% of the total provincial population.
- Quebec's largest group of visible minorities is the Black community with 131,970.
- Arab/West Asians at 79,710 is the second largest group, followed by the Latin American
community at 51,440, the Chinese at 50,360 South Asians at 47,590 and Southeast Asians
- The majority of the visible minority community in Quebec, 401,425, live in Montreal.
Source: Statistics Canada, Census 1996.
6.3 At the Municipal Levels:
The majority of the visible minority communities across Canada live in major urban centres. The
1996 census figures show these to be Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, followed by Calgary, Edmonton
and Ottawa-Hull. Most visible minority immigrants who came between 1991-1996 went to Toronto,
Vancouver and Montreal. While comparable analyses of the visible minority communities in either
Vancouver or Montreal were not located, Michael Ornstein's critical study: Ethno-Racial Inequality
in the City of Toronto: An Analysis of the 1996 Census, 2000, provides a picture of the demographic
complexities within one major urban centre.
Toronto - example of a major urban centre:
Toronto is home to approximately 42% (1996 Census) of the visible minority population of Canada,
with over 89 ethno-racial groups according to the Ornstein's study. It highlights wide demographic
variations within the larger visible minority community in Toronto and also points out significant
demographic differences between these communities and European ethno-racial groups in Toronto.
The study found that the largest visibly minority community in Toronto, 15.3%, is made up
of people from East, South East Asia and Pacific Islanders (including Filipinos), with 9% of
all Torontonians being Chinese. Ten percent of people in Toronto describe themselves as from
African, Black or Caribbean origins, with Jamaicans at 3%, as the largest sub-group. South Asians
account for 8.4 %, with the majority, 5.4 % of Indian origin - Bengalis, Gujuratis and Punjabis.
Tamils, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis make up the rest. About 2.9% of the population have Arab
and West Asian roots, with Iranians making up the largest single group and significant numbers
with Afghans, Armenians, Egyptians, Lebanese and Turkish origins. Latin Americans make up approximately
2.8% of the Toronto population.
The study also notes significant age differentiation between visible minority and Euro-Canadian
population as significant and with serious implications for programs. With the exception of
East and Southeast Asians, all visible minority groups have younger than average age profiles.
For example, differences can be found even within the sub groups, as in the larger Black/African
population - while 44.1% are under age 15, the Jamaican population has 26.8%, while the Ghanaian
group has 42.8% in this age group. In the Arab and West Asian group, demographics differ yet
again, with Afghans being the youngest - over one third are under 15, Armenians are the oldest
group, while similarities in age distribution can be seen in the Egyptian, Iranian, Lebanese,
The study done by SUCCESS on Chinese in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) points
out that this community is the largest visible minority population in the area with an age breakdown
showing 20.5% under 15 years. The bulk of the population, 67.3% were between 15 and 64, and
approximately 12% over 65 in 1996. The shift of immigration sources from Hong Kong to Mainland
China provides specific settlement challenges.
The Municipal Picture
|Provincial Total Visible Minorities
|Diverse Communities in the Municipalities
Note: See Appendix 2 for other demographic information, including gender breakdown within
Source: Statistics Canada, 1996 Census website: http://ceps.statscan.ca/english/profil/
7. Voluntary Organizations:
Identification of voluntary organizations, institutions and networks serving the visible minority
communities, by types/category, size and geographic reach, and with contact information, is a
key element of the project. As noted earlier, this has certainly been the most challenging aspect
of the research. The National Reference Group, at their October 15th meeting, agreed that more
time is required on this aspect of the project than was allocated. This meeting requested that
I developed a file on the organizations identified this far. The main points on this aspect of
the project are as follows:
- Directories of visible minority organizations are rare in Canada. Black Pages, which focus
on the Black community and publishes directories of organizations in some regions.
- For the most part, visible minority organizations are subsumed in larger listings of ethnocultural
organizations, for which, there are some provincial directories as in British Columbia, Manitoba,
Ontario and the Atlantic Provinces. A number of umbrella networks, working with immigrant
and ethnocultural populations at provincial levels, have membership lists, which provide information
on some organizations in, and/or serving visible minority communities.
- Several groups across the country, including Toronto, Montreal and Nova Scotia, are developing
lists of visible minority organizations for consultations of the National Reference Group
on Visible Minorities.
- As pointed out earlier, more time than has been allocated to this project is needed to develop
lists of organizations as required in the terms of reference for this research project. The
lists being developed for the cross country consultations, as well as the others put together
for this report, provide a good starting point for a comprehensive directory of visible minority
organizations across Canada.
The attached file contains lists of visible minority groups from Nova Scotia, Montreal and
Toronto developed for the National Reference Group's consultations. It also includes lists of
ethnocultural and/or visible minority organizations from several regions, including British
Columbia, Manitoba, the Atlantic Provinces and Saskatchewan.
The following are estimates of the number of organizations identified for each of the following
categories. Some of these are yet to be determined as to status, reach and category.
- National: 30 groups identified.
- Provincial/Municipal/local: In the attached file are 387 visible minority organizations
and networks from Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec, developed for the consultations. In addition,
there are approximately 716 organizations listed as ethno-cultural and/or visible minorities.
Further details are required to assess the type and reach of these organizations. See the
excel file attached to this report for details.
8. Broad/Major Issues:
Based on some published studies and reports, as well as interviews with key leaders in the communities,
the following broad/major issues within visible minority communities were identified:
8.1 Systemic and Structural Barriers:
- Systemic and structural racism play a major role in shaping issues facing all visible minority
communities across Canada, but there are significant differences in the impact across the
different racialized groups. For example, Ornstein (2000) concludes that while no ethno-racial
group is immune from poverty, there are groups in which more than half of all the families
live below the poverty line - Ghanaians are the poorest in Toronto with adult unemployment
rate at 45%, followed closely by Afghans, Somalians and Ethiopians. Unemployment rate for
African and Black youth is at 38%, compared to 20% for all youth.
- Grace-Edward Galabuzi's study, Canada Creeping Economic Apartheid (2001) based on Statistics
Canada's Survey of Labour Income Dynamics for incomes for 1996, 1997, and 1998, sheds light
on the growing racialization of the gap between the rich and poor in Canada. He found a 'persistent
and sizeable gap between economic performance of racialised group members and other Canadians
over the period 1996-1998. The report notes that even as these groups become demographically
more significant - visible minorities are set to become one fifth of the national population
early in this century - they continue to confront racial discrimination in many aspects of
their everyday life. This, Galabuzi points out, is widening with little public or policy attention.
He concludes that historical patterns of systemic racial discrimination is key to understanding
the persistent over-representation of racialised groups in low paying jobs, low income sectors,
higher unemployment, poverty and social marginalization.
- The absence of representation from the visible minority communities at the policy-making
tables also means an absence of their specific issues in such critical spaces. This is a major
concern to community leaders. Inaccessibility to policy and decision-making is seen to be
exacerbated when mainstream organizations do not adequately represent issues of visible minority
communities in their absence at tables of decision-making.
8.2 Funding Needs /Charitable Status:
- Voluntary organizations within visible minority communities are finding it difficult to
raise necessary funds. Not only are financial resources vital to meet the increasing demands
of the community, but such resources are equally important to meet capacity developmental
needs of organizations serving the communities. Concerns raised include governmental funding
drying up and/or becoming more difficult to access. The move from funding at the program to
project level has left many organizations scrambling to find core support, and some are forced
to compromise their projects to meet funding requirements at the expense of community needs.
Public and private foundations, which can add to the pool of resources and make up short falls,
are underdeveloped in Canada, unlike in the USA.
- Changes in governmental funding criteria have led to some organizations dedicated to visible
minority communities 'disappearing off the map'. A particular need in the visible minority
community, and one which had been previously recognized by the government, was that of developmental
funds to help organizations build capacity and strategies to overcome structural and systemic
barriers in the wider Canadian society.
- Most visible minority communities do not have financial capacity to provide much needed
support to their respective community based organizations and many of these organizations
do not have charitable status to help in this respect. Most organizations have to develop
funding strategies to reach beyond their communities for support. Some visible minority communities
have limited capacity in this respect and are thus able to meet only some of their needs from
within their communities.
- The question of obtaining charitable status poses great difficulty for some organizations,
as they are unable to meet the strict qualifications and thus are precluded from supporting
themselves in these times of shortage. Those engaged in lobbying and advocacy find that charitable
status is beyond their reach and is not desirable in some cases, as this is likely to compromise
their ability to meet their mandate.
8.3 Organizational/Human Resource Capacity:
- Organizational and human resource capacity are areas of significant concern within the communities,
with issues of survival and sustainability named as high priorities. While visible minority
organizations provide much needed services and leadership in their communities, they do so
at great odds. Interviewees felt that there was a failure on the part of funders to appreciate
that visible minority organizations do not have access to financial or training resources,
necessary to build and sustain capacity.
- Attracting and maintaining qualified personnel, both staff and volunteers is a serious challenge
in many of these organizations. Low salaries and benefits for staff are persistent problems
within the voluntary sector and particularly in visible minority communities. Exhaustion and
stress in trying to cope with sustaining the organization can and often lead to a high turnover
of, or inability to attract qualified staff. It was pointed that several older organizations
are barely able to maintain operations, facing serious challenges in attracting and maintaining
qualified personnel and volunteers. Some of these are still overly dependent on volunteers.
- Visible minority voluntary organizations continue to deal with challenges of building and
sustaining effective and efficient governance and management structures. Leadership development
is seen as a critical issue in the community, with succession planning named as a particular
concern and the inability to attract and sustain young leaders. Need for resources to enable
a range of skills training, including leadership/board development, community needs assessment
and program planning and delivery, was raised as a priority in several interviews.
- Systems of accountability and transparency are equally high priority in the community. The
need for more effective organizational structure and systems - including governance, management,
financial and membership are viewed as necessary to questions of relevance, sustainability
and community ownership.
8.4 Mainstreaming visible minority communities/issues in Canadian society:
- Where/how visible minority struggles are located and expressed within the Canadian socio-political
landscape was noted as a key concern. The communities and their issues persist at the margins
of the society - such at the edge of the poverty debate. This is seen to be informed by systemic
and structural racism, and also through internalization within visible minorities, of an 'othered'
space in the Canadian social structure. Issues that are 'made in Canada' are perceived as
coming from elsewhere and as 'immigrant/refugee' issues.
- That the visible minority communities must engage in a 'paradigm' shift in how the communities
view and understand their issues and standpoint within the larger society, was raised as a
timely issue. Visible minority communities need to engage in dialogue and to develop strategies
to move their issues into the mainstream of the society.
- Strengthening alliances and building mechanisms across visible minority communities in order
to develop and move from a position of strength was also noted as a pressing concern. One
recommendation made is to develop a national umbrella network to bring a cohesive and strengthened
voice national policy making and development agendas.
- Alliance building and networking with mainstream organizations was recognized and named
as important to advance the struggles and issues of the visible minority communities.
8.5 Call for Action: Many Consultations / Little Follow-up:
- Visible minority organizations and leadership are knowledgeable and experienced on the numerous
issues facing their communities, and provide vital leadership and programs to address these.
They have shared this knowledge and experience in numerous consultations, studies and reports
conducted on their respective communities over the years. But they are deeply concerned that
very little action followed up on recommendations made.
- Knowledge of the communities and issues, they believe, are available at many levels in the
society. And the need to constantly make the case for inclusion or action is found to be a
tiring process, leading to a sense of frustration and one of being studied continuously. Changes
within the government and/or lack of institutional memory too often mean that issues are once
again either not known or understood and communities are caught in a recurring state of raising
awareness - of making the case over and over again. Consultations therefore become problematic
and understanding of concepts such as 'partnership with communities' become blurred. Some
felt that the 'community has spoken too many times and the need is to become familiar with
what they have said'.
- It was however recognized that there are some gaps. Credible research in areas such as violence
against women, and health concerns specific to visible minority communities, is seriously
- Another concern named by community leaders is the manner in which visible minority communities
are consulted and the roles they are allocated at the tables of policy making. Several felt
that policies are often developed in a vacuum and without input from the communities, or that
representatives from the communities are integrated late into the process and in areas and
roles which have little impact or decision-making power.
- The inclusion of the National Reference Group on Visible Minorities within the Voluntary
Sector Initiative was one example cited - done late in the process and members unable to access
roles and space in critical areas of decision-making.
9. Other Major Issues
The social issues facing visible minority communities and organizations in Canada are multiple,
far-reaching and complex. Structural and systemic racism has thrown up major barriers to these
communities finding an equitable space in the society. The following list touches briefly on some
of these critical issues visible minority organizations are working on.
- A triple bind: Racism, sexism and classism, structurally integrated into mainstream
service delivery agencies, compound the inequities faced by women within visible minority
communities. Visible minority women face a triple bind in their attempt to negotiate Canadian
society: as women dealing with gender-based inequity, as immigrants facing settlement issues,
and as women of colour facing systemic and structural racial barriers. Gender based violence,
single parent status, and overrepresentation in the low-income sector of the economy, are
serious concerns for a significant number of women in visible minority communities.
- Gender base abuse and violence: This issue is viewed as both an internal and external
one. While some work has been done on the issue and women leaders from within the community
have been active in naming and taking action, much more work is needed for the communities
to talk and take action on the issues. External influences including economic inequity, contribute
to the cycle of violence and abuse, through limiting their ability to leave violent relationships.
Under funding of organizations contribute to the inadequacy of responses on these issues within
the community. One negative aspect attached to this issue is the perception within the mainstream
that violence, including sexual abuse, as a cultural trait of some of these communities. As
noted by the FREDA report (2000), 'discussions of violence in Aboriginal and immigrant and
refugee communities use an essentialist notion of culture to explain violence'. Interviewees
pointed out the need for credible research and information on the different forms of violence
and abuse in different visible minority communities - including violence and abuse against
women and girls, sexual violence, elder abuse and violence among youth.
- Labour Market and women - as noted in studies including Galabuzi (2001), systemic
and structural racism impedes visible minority women in the workforce through unemployment,
under-employment and in the changing structure of work. The Contingent Workers Project in
Toronto: Breaking the Myth of Flexible Work (2000), notes that racialised women are over represented
in low paid, low end occupations, low income sectors and in the growing unregulated temporary
or contingent work. 'And We Still Ain't Satisfied' -Gender Inequality in Canada (2001) notes
that 'women in racialized groups are much more likely to be poor. In 1995, 37% of women of
colour had incomes below Statistics Canada's Low Income Cutoffs, compared with 19% of other
women and their unemployment rate was 15.3%, compared to 9.4% for other women'. The domestic
worker category adds another dimension to the plight of visible minority women in the Canadian
labour market. In a report by the Philippine Women's Centre in Vancouver, the deskilling of
the Filipina immigrant women in the Canadian labour market is described as socio-economic
violence - low wages, insecure working conditions and separation from families left back home.
- Healthcare issues specific to visible minority women are viewed as being neglected,
with practitioners lacking a vested interest in the specific needs of visible minorities.
HIV/AIDS is a growing concern in several communities. While the communities continue to play
critical roles, lack of resources, information and credible research on diseases unique to
different visible minority populations, are concerns in the community. Information targeted
to women and girls in visible minority communities, particularly with regard to domestic violence
as a healthcare issue, is seen as inadequate. A study is currently being undertaken by Women's
Health in Women's Hands to examine the impact of racism on women's health.
- For a significant number of visible minority young people - both newcomers and Canadian
born, poverty is a reality in their lives - this has a deeper impact on some communities than
others, as pointed out in Ornstein's study. While many of these young people continue to make
some gains despite structural inequities in the education system and labour market, a significant
number struggle with issues such as high drop out rates especially of male students, teenage
pregnancy and dead end jobs, sometimes leading to illegal activities.
- Streaming and de-streaming continue to be critical issues facing some communities. Systemic
barriers which include selection criteria for academic streams, bias in school curriculum,
shifting of funding from public to private schools, teacher indifference and/ or overt racism
and high drop out rates are some of the elements facing young people from visible minority
communities within the education system.
- Inadequate access to apprenticeship programs, skills development and support initiatives
in entrepreneurship, as well as mentoring opportunities and role models, contribute to the
marginalization of young people. Community leaders point out serious lack of facilities to
provide a safe and nurturing space for young visible minority members and inadequate responses
from the older generation to include and listen to them.
- A recent study by the Canadian Council on Social Development on immigrant youth in Canada,
Immigrant Youth in Canada (1999), estimated that 230,000 immigrant youth and children arrived
in Canada between 1996 and 1998. About 44% were from Asia and the Pacific region and 22% from
Africa and the Middle East, with most of these heading for the major urban centres in Ontario,
British Columbia and Quebec. Settlement and acculturation issues are high on the agenda for
these young people, including language skills, which the report points out that over two thirds
of these recent immigrants age under 15 spoke neither of the two official languages. The study
found that most new immigrants interviewed reported experiences of racism and bigotry and
found that their accents and features created barriers to being accepted as Canadians, with
normal problems associated with the school system becoming magnified for them. Challenges
encountered by these young people included overcoming social isolation and inter-generational
9.3 Labour Market:
- Employment equity, unemployment and under-employment are key issues across visible minority
communities. But the focus differs across them - some are dealing with newcomers' needs, such
as language skills, acculturation, and skill training/retraining. Others are facing issues
such as recognition of qualifications and work experience gained outside of Canada, employment
inequity informed by race and gender, and access to the job market for young members, especially
those who are school dropouts and/or lack marketable skills.
- Henry and Ginzberg's Who Gets the Work (1985) provided concrete evidence of substantial
racial discrimination against visible minorities in the job market. It appears that little
has changed since that report, as new studies have demonstrated.
- Galabuzi (2001) points out that racialised practices in employment persist among those with
low or high educational levels and that the demand for above average immigrants to Canada
has not translated into comparable employment and earnings. Ornstein (2000) also points out
that the 'labour market plays the central role in economic inequality' and that unemployment
and underemployment are key features facing visible minorities. Bauder (2001) cites several
studies making the link between visible minority status and varying degrees of disadvantages
in the labour market in British Columbia and across Canada.
- The study by the Contingent Workers Project in Toronto (2000) underscores the overrepresentation
of visible minority women in this growing sector of the labour market, characterized by temporary,
part-time and shift work and an absence of job security. Low wages and the lack of health
and safety benefits are some of the other concerns facing visible minorities in the workforce.
- Lack of recognition of foreign credentials and work experience leads to the de-skilling
and under-employment of foreign-trained professionals. This obviously leads to under-utilization
of credible human resources and a tremendous loss to the Canadian economy (Pendakur, 2000).
9.4 Information Technology:
- The assumption that everyone in Canada is connected to information technology does not hold
in some visible minority communities - affordability, access and skills are key challenges
here, especially for those outside of urban centres. Programs tend not to reach those who
need it. Knowledge on where visible minorities are on this issue is lacking. The level of
capacity in managing and using information technology - including technical skills, knowledge
and access - varies across the organizations.
9.5 Public Perception / Media Image:
- Media portrayals of racial and minority groups have a profound effect on how these groups
are perceived and accepted in society. Balanced portrayal of visible minorities in the media
continues to be a challenge, and negative images far outweigh the positive. Concern that these
negative images feed into the insecurities of mainstream thinking and perceptions and work
to limit access to opportunities and resources in the society for visible minority communities.
The negative portrayal of members of visible minority communities can and often result in
negative consequences for particular communities, as in the media portrayal of 'black on black
crime' and in the current 'terrorist in our midst problem as a consequence of our lax refugee
and immigration policies'.
9.6 Immigration/Refugee issues:
- Periods and patterns of settlement in the country determine to a large extent the experience
of new immigrants and refugees in Canada. Newcomers' issues and needs are different from those
associated with older communities. With large numbers of recent immigrants coming from Asia,
the Middle East, Africa, Caribbean and Latin America, the needs differ significantly from
those of European immigrants. These new immigrants face uphill settlement problems, including
inequities of the market place, lack of recognition of qualifications and work experience,
skill training/retraining opportunities, language skills/proficiency, access to affordable
housing and other support services.
- Race-based inequities integrated into service delivery agencies, account for further hardships
for newcomers and refugees, and families are often left to serve as primary support structure,
leading to some stress and conflict. Refugees are even less likely to benefit from equity
gains, which are more likely to work for people already within the system. In addition, some
urban centres such as Ottawa, where growth of the visible minority population occurred largely
over the last ten years, have been unable to keep up with needs in both social infrastructure
and services. Also of concern in some communities is the issue of family reunification, particularly
among refugees who feel re-traumatized in the struggle to get loved ones to join them from
war zones and other troubled areas.
9.7 Civil Rights:
There is a growing concern across visible minority communities in Canada on the question of civil
liberties and in particular, issues such as race/ethnic profiling heightened by the September
11th tragedy in the USA. The current Bill C36, calling for expansive security mechanisms ostensibly
to deal with the threat of terrorism in Canada, is creating fear and deep insecurity in communities.
Many immigrants and refugees, particularly those within the Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities
express concern that gains made in Canada on just and humane refugee and immigration policies
are at great risk of being rolled back. As most communities do not have a voice at these policy-making
tables, their members continue to feel vulnerable.
Appendix 1 Visible Minority Population at the National level by Age breakdown (1996 census)
The following provides a snapshot of the national visible minority population broken down by age
groups within the specific communities.
|National Visible Minority
|Arab West Asian
Source: Canadian Statistics. 1996 Census Website: http//www.statcan.ca/english/
Appendix 2 Visible Minority Population at the Municipal Level by Gender breakdown
The following table provides visible minority population information on two municipalities, showing
the gender breakdown at the municipal and group levels. Similar gender breakdown is also available
at the provincial levels.
Source: Statistics Canada: 1996 Census website: http://www.statcan.ca/english/profil
References: Research, Studies and Reports
Bauder, H. The Visible Minority Category and Urban Analysis. Working Paper Series, Vancouver
Centre of Excellence, Research on Immigration and Integration in the Metropolis. February, 2001
Bauder, H., Waters, J., Teo, Sin Yih. Impacts of Immigration on British Columbia: Population,
Labour Markets, Housing markets and International Linkages. RIM Working Paper, September
Chan, F. & Chan, A. From Chinatown Settlers to Metropolitan Participants - The Great Transformation
in Progress. SUCCESS - Celebrating 25 years 1998, Vancouver.
Dosanjh, R., Deo, S., Sidhu, S. Spousal Abuse in the South Asian Community." Freda,
Vancouver, August, 1994
Galabuzi, Grace-Edward: Canada's Creeping Economic Apartheid - The economic segregation
and social marginalization of racialised groups. CSJ Foundation for Research and Education,
Hadley, K. And We Still Ain't Satisfied" Gender Inequality in Canada, A Status Report for
2001, National Action Committee on the Status of Women and The CSJ Foundation for Research
and Education, June 2001.
Henry, F. & Ginzberg, E. Who Gets the Work? A Test of Racial Discrimination in Employment,
1985. Urban Alliance on Race Relations and the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto.
Janovicek, N. On the Margins of a Fraying Social Safety Net: Aboriginal, Immigrant & Refugee
Women's Access to Welfare Benefit. FREDA, Vancouver, September, 2000
Jiwani, Y, Intersecting Inequalities: Immigrant Women of Colour, Violence & Health Care.
Freda Vancouver, 2001.
Li, Peter S, The Chinese in Canada. Oxford University Press, 1998
Ornstein, Michael Ethno-Racial Inequality in the City of Toronto: An Analysis of the 1996
Census, 2000. Access and Equity Unit. Strategic & Corporate Policy Division, Toronto.
Pendukar, Ravi Immigrants and the Labour Force: Policy, Regulation and Impact 2000.
McGill-Queen's University Press.
Tonks, R.G., Paranjpe, A. C, Am I Canadian, An Ethnic, Or An Ethnic Canadian? Dilemmas
of Second Generation Immigrant Youth; Vancouver Centre for Excellence, Metropolis project,
Torczyner, James L. Canadian Black Communities Demographics Project Preliminary Findings
- Diversity Mobility & Change - The Dynamics of Black Communities in Canada, 1987. An Initiative
of the McGill Consortium for Ethnicity and Strategic Social Planning.
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Work, by the Ad Hoc Committee on Information about Contract Work, Vancouver, 1999.
The Need for Community Services: A Study of the South Asian Community in Metropolitan
Toronto, CASSA, 1994
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Workers Project, 2000
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(IM) - www.im.metropolis.net
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Interviews were held with the following individuals:
- Pramila Agarwall, Professor, George Brown Community College, Toronto
- Dr. John Asfour, President, Canadian Arab Federation
- David Austin, Community Worker, Montreal
- Nehemiah Bailey, Past President, Canadian Jamaican Association
- Anu Bose, Exceutive Director, National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women,
- Francis Chan, Acting Director, SUCCESS, Vancouver
- Emanuel Dick, President National Council of Trinidad & Tobago Organizations
- Donny Fairfax, Executive Director, Employment Clinic for African Canadians, Halifax, Nova
- Tam Goossenn, President, Urban Alliance on Race Relations, Toronto
- Khadija Haffajee, Islamic Society Of North America (Canadian Section)
- Hanny Hassan, President, Council of Muslim Community of Canada
- Alia Hogben, Canadian Council of Muslim Women, Ottawa
- Carl James, Professor, York University, Toronto
- Eunadie Johnson, Executive Director, Women's Health in Women's Hands
- Fo Niemi. Executive Director, Centre for Research Action on Race Relations, Montreal
- Ratna Omidvar, Executive Director, The Maytree Foundation
- Sandy Onyalo, National Dialogue Committee of African Canadians
- Fleurette Osborne, Congress of Black Women
- Ivan Suenarine, Clinical Director, Cross Cultural Counselling Unit, Winnipeg
- Sylvan Williams, Canadian Ethnocultural Council