This week’s question:
At recent events in Toronto to celebrate Black History Month, various speakers complained that not only were African Canadian children overrepresented in Ontario’s child welfare system but that African Canadians who come in contact with the system are treated differently than their White counterparts.
How do you feel about these claims?
Dr. Andrea Davis
Department of Humanities
I think there’s some merit to the claims. I’m not a sociologist, I haven’t done the research myself, but from the research and reports I have seen, this certainly appears to be true – that they are over-represented in these systems. The claims that academics have made over time are that black children and students get treated differently. Boys get criminalized in a young age. If they behave as a boy, he will be seen as having adult intent although he is only five or six. Black girls are sexualized very early. They are treated as adult without full allowance of childhood. That gets marked onto black children and carries over to relationships with teachers and their homes and so on.
High End Retail
I’d say more than just racism exists in the Ontario Welfare system. Knowing how expensive it is to live in all of Ontario’s different cities, you’d think they’d organize funds better. God forbid, a mother would be trying to get a job. If she does in order to try and balance out and work her way off the system, the system takes away almost all funding, thus making it seem like they want you trapped within. Essentially, my thoughts toward the system is not one of systemic racism but systemic oppression in general financial levels. They don’t want the poor rising up.
I don’t have experience with it personally but what I can say is there is systemic oppression in all these institutions within Canada. I imagine that in order to ascribe services that actually allow you to get out of that system, to have a better life, and they have a few people that they are choosing from. I can imagine the systemic racism would play in that. Because they’re going to bank on what they think is a better bet and that will tend to be white, and I’m bringing that experience from having worked in corporate Canada. Nobody thinks we’re the ideal candidate. We always have to go over their head to prove it and in an institution where they have to pick a candidate for anything, which is something like welfare, I imagine that the same would apply.
Social Activist & Lawyer
Roach, Schwartz & Associates
I would probably think so. As a lawyer, I have experience with the adult population and I have seen an over-representation of people of African descent. I think we know broadly this is a country with systemic racism. But I can tell you that in terms of incarceration rates, there is an exponential increase in the last ten years of African Canadians that are in detention facilities. There is something else afoot. I think it has something to do with the Harper government policies over the last years that have contributed to this.
The claims outlined regarding, Afro Canadians being over-represented and also being treated differently are truly unfortunate but not surprising.
These claims need to be pursued and investigated. If there is tangible evidence to substantiate them, then they must be given the highest level of exposure and publicity….via this paper and other media to ensure appropriate remidial action is quickly taken.