Students in Toronto’s publicly-funded arts high schools are overwhelmingly white and come from high-income families despite living in one of the most diverse school districts in North America. Researchers found 67 per cent of those students identified as white compared to only 29 per cent of the elementary school population.
1 in 5 racialized families live in poverty in Canada, compared to 1 in 20 non-racialized families
1.1 MILLION racialized persons living in poverty in Canada in 2006 — 52% lived in Ontario
In two of Canada’s largest cities, more than half of all persons living in poverty are from racialized groups:
Racialized communities in Canada face high levels of poverty:
9% Poverty rate for non-racialized persons
22% Poverty rate for racialized persons
Almost three-quarters of racialized persons living in poverty in Canada have a mother tongue other than English or French
What we’ve heard from various communities
There needs to more information available about how rights and how Legal Aid Ontario can help.
Information needs to be available in languages that clients understand.
More information can empower clients to get the help that they need.
What we’ve started to do
We looked at the most requested languages among our clients:
We looked at our most frequently downloaded brochures and fact sheets:
Legal Aid Ontario can help
Finding the right legal aid lawyer
What to do before your criminal court first appearance?
Custody and access issues for those at risk of deportation*
*This brochure was translated into the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish Somali, Tagalog, and Tamil.
LAO’s Racialized Communities Strategy
Legal Aid Ontario is developing a Racialized Communities Strategy. In the first phase, we’ve been talking to people in different communities to find out what types of legal issues are impacting them and whether there are gaps in our services.
Our Translation Project is one of a number of initiatives that we are undertaking as part of the Racialized Communities Strategy.
Noun. An unfounded hostility towards Muslims, and therefore, fear or dislike of all or most Muslims.
Islamophobia manifests itself in different ways:
increased police scrutiny and security profiling
discrimination in employment
Islamophobia and race
A significant number of the world’s Muslims are from racialized communities. Those who “appear” Muslim—people from South Asian, Middle Eastern or Somali backgrounds, for example, or due to their clothing or physical appearance—are vulnerable to being attacked or targeted.
“When you’re Arab and Muslim, the categories can get conflated. When I’ve spoken to media, there’s been a distinct interest in looking at Islam is ‘those brown people from over there.’”
“Islamophobia manifests itself through the surface characteristics of race. We wrongly think we can judge another’s character by the colour of their skin, the style of their clothing, or the Middle Eastern sound of their name. This is not a vigilance worth protecting; this is a racism, a societal evil that needs to be opposed.”
Islam and Islamophobia in Canada
February 23, 2017: The Ontario legislature unanimously passed an anti-Islamophobia motion to condemn the growing tide of anti-Muslim rhetoric and sentiments and all forms of Islamophobia.
“The day after the shooting in Quebec a father called my community office asking in the morning is it safe for him to send his son to school. That’s not the society we live in. That’s not the society we’re building. Parents should not be fearful for a nanosecond whether they should send their children to school because of their faith. It’s real.”
3.2% of the population in Canada is Muslim (7.7% in the Greater Toronto Area)
Islam is the second largest religion in Canada, after Christianity
44% increase in reported anti-Muslim hate crimes since 2012
There has been an increase in:
Attacks on property and institutions
Hate propaganda and demonstrations
LAO’s Racialized Communities Strategy
Legal Aid Ontario is developing a Racialized Communities Strategy. In the first phase, we’ve been talking to people working in different communities to find out (among other things) what types of legal issues are impacting them and whether there are gaps in our services.
As we move forward with the development of the Racialized Communities Strategy, we will look at ways we can offer services that combat racism in the justice system.
LAO condemns Islamophobia and racism in all its forms. We will continue to combat systemic racism in the justice system.
What we are currently working on:
researching the link between race and Islamophobia
supporting test cases that challenge the Safe Third Country Agreement
make our materials and services more accessible in languages often spoken by Muslim people
The provincial government has announced a new three-year strategic plan to fight systemic racism, pledging to introduce new anti-racism legislation, commit $47 million to a black youth action plan, and start collecting race-based data in various institutions.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission finds data collecting can help:
verify, monitor, measure and address gaps, trends, progress and perceptions
proactively identify opportunities for improvement and growth
improve the quality of decision-making, service delivery and programming
Examples of why collecting data is a good idea:
Prevent or address systemic barriers to access and opportunity
Plan special programs
Improve equitable service delivery and programs
What the numbers are telling us
LAO currently doesn’t collect data about the race of applicants or clients, but we do rely on secondary data about race. Here’s how stats shed a light on our services in the various areas of law that we cover.
About the child welfare system:
Ontario’s children’s aid societies have agreed to collect race data to help figure out the needs of Black and Aboriginal families
42% of youth in care of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto are Black, but only 8.2% of the city’s under 18 population is Block.
23% of children in care province-wide are Aboriginal, but only 2.5% of Ontario’s under 19 population is Aboriginal.
About school disciplinary hearings:
Not all Ontario school boards collect data on race and suspension rates
Toronto District School Board data revealed that Black students are suspended disproportionately compared to white students
LAO will provide funding to two organizations to help Black students who are suspended and facing expulsion hearings
About the bail system:
Racialized and Aboriginal people face more over-policing practices and racial profiling
Racialized and Aboriginal people are more likely to find themselves in pre-trial detention
13% of the remand detention population is Aboriginal but only 2% of Ontario’s population is Aboriginal
How collecting race-based data could help LAO
LAO currently doesn’t collect statistics on applicants’ or clients’ race. Understanding data, however, could help us understand how we can help improve the outcomes of racialized communities when they come into contact with the justice system.
Additionally, we can:
document and study systemic discrimination in the justice system
remove barriers people face when accessing our services
tailor programs to address client needs
In early engagement sessions, LAO has repeatedly heard about the need to collect data about clients’ race.
LAO has begun the process of figuring how to gather and analyze this data. Updates will be provided as more information becomes available.
As Legal Aid of Ontario’s report on bail notes, racialized people who are subjected to racial profiling and other over-policing practices, “are more likely to find themselves in pre-trial detention” than their counterparts. If more interactions with the police means that police practices can result in racialized people being arrested at greater rates, they will also be over-represented at the bail stage, at the trial stage and at sentencing. Thus, by the time an individual is arrested and the decision is made that he/she is to be brought before a judge or a justice of peace, several decisions have been made that have, in turn, exacerbated the racial composition of the criminal justice system.
After months of scandal, Ontario’s education minister is taking “urgent action” and sending in two troubleshooters to investigate allegations of widespread racism and other problems that have rocked York Region’s public school board.