Poverty is not neutral; it intersects with many identity categories such as gender, ability, age, sexual orientation, and citizenship status, and disproportionately affects certain communities and individuals, such as newcomers to Canada and people with mental health issues.
This page focuses on the intersection of poverty with Indigenous and racialized communities (specifically the African Canadian community). It is not meant to be comprehensive, but instead provides a brief overview of how historic and ongoing oppression has contributed to high levels of poverty among Indigenous and African Canadian families in Canada.
While the overrepresentation of Indigenous and African Canadian children in child welfare is a complex and multifaceted issue, the racialization of poverty has been identified as one systemic force that brings Indigenous and African Canadian families into contact with the system.
Colonial policies and practices created, and continue to create, conditions that contribute to a higher prevalence and greater depth of poverty among Indigenous peoples in Canada.
The poverty experienced today by Indigenous communities across the country is a direct result of the dispossession of Indigenous peoples of their lands and livelihoods, and their forced dependency on the colonial state. This relationship between colonization and poverty is what Melisa Brittain and Cindy Blackstock described as the deliberate impoverishment of Indigenous Canada, or "poverty by design."
Historic practices of colonialism contributing to Indigenous poverty include:
Today – in addition to the cumulative effect of colonialism – chronic underfunding and lack of investment in on-reserve services perpetuates poverty among Indigenous communities, which are more likely to have poverty-related structural risk factors such as inadequate housing and drinking water advisories. Barriers to educational achievement, such as lower quality teaching, lack of culturally relevant curriculum, and geographical and financial obstacles to attending school also negatively impact employment outcomes. Stereotypes, bias, and discrimination also present barriers and can prevent Indigenous people from excelling at school, being hired or promoted, and finding housing.
Anti-Black racism has created, and continues to create, conditions that contribute to the higher rates of poverty among African Canadians in Canada.
The African Canadian Legal Clinic attributes contemporary anti-Black racism, and the socio-economic inequities experienced by the African Canadian community, in part to Canada's collective refusal to acknowledge its histories of slavery, segregation, and racial discrimination. The denial of these histories has meant that Canadian society is "left without a reasonable historic explanation for the disadvantaged position occupied by the African Canadian community" and, as a consequence, relies instead on disparaging stereotypes that further perpetuate anti-Black racism.
Historic practices of anti-Black racism contributing to African Canadian poverty include the following:
Today African Canadians are overrepresented among those living under the poverty line. According to census data tables, 32.8% of African Canadian children in Ontario under the age of 18 live in poverty (based on LIM-AT); this is more than double the rate of all children in Ontario overall.