More than half of Torontonians identify as visible minorities, according to data released in Canada’s 2016 census by Statistics Canada last Wednesday.
Fifty-one per cent of Torontonians said they are a part of a visible minority community, while the national average is 22 per cent. The census also revealed that Toronto is still the most diverse city in the country.
In the GTA, 48.8 per cent of respondents identify as visible minorities. But in Scarborough’s Agincourt neighbourhood, the average goes up to 90 per cent.
The census also notes that South Asians are the largest minority group in Toronto at 12.59 per cent, followed by Chinese at 11.13 per cent, black at 8.91 per cent, and Filipino at 5.67 per cent.
Toronto’s visible minority population has increased from 47 per cent in 2011.
Over the past decade, the number of visible minorities in Canada increased from 16.2 per cent to 22.3 per cent.
Wendy Cukier, director of Ryerson’s Diversity Institute, said it’s Toronto’s cosmopolitan nature and diverse labour market that makes so many visible minority communities choose this city as their home.
The issue of misrepresentation
There are still some challenges to overcome in relation to the issue of misrepresentation of visible minorities in the city, Cukier said.
“We know from the research that there is still a systemic barrier of discrimination and implicit bias that prevents many racialized minorities from achieving their potential and being treated fairly,” she said.
This year, Ryerson professor Rupa Banerjee completed a study about how racialized minorities are treated when applying to jobs in Toronto. In the study, Banerjee and her team did an experiment where they applied to a job using the same resumé, but with different last names. They found that those with “foreign-sounding last names” were 30 per cent less likely to get a callback than those with “English-sounding last names.”
However, minorities in Toronto are not only misrepresented in the labour market. Evidence shows they are also being excluded from local politics.
Myer Siemiatycki, a professor from the department of politics and public administration at Ryerson, specializes in the topic of local politics. In one of his studies, he found that electoral turnout in Ontario’s municipal elections is lower in areas where there is a high population of visible minorities.
For Siemiatycki, one of the reasons for this low electoral turnout is the fact that permanent residents are not able to vote, a policy Siemiatycki describes as exclusive.
Minority representation on campus
Schools are not immune to the issue of misrepresentation. Cukier said the issue is visible among teachers and leadership roles in universities and colleges.
According to a study by Ryerson’s Diversity Institute, in the education sector, which includes school board directors and leaders of universities and colleges, only 41 per cent of the leadership are women, and 19.6 per cent are racialized minorities.
Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) vice-president of equity, Camryn Harlick, said there is no equal representation in school.
Harlick is the first Indigenous and transgender person to reach an executive position at the RSU, which they describe as unacceptable.
“We have existed for many years, so why haven’t folks with the same identity as me been able to access positions of power in the university before?” Harlick said.
What can be done?
There are efforts taken to fix the issue of misrepresentation of minorities in the city. The government of Ontario has created the “Summer Company Program,” which provides funding and coaching to visible minorities so that they can start their own businesses.
There are other programs run by the provincial government that focus on helping visible minorities get familiarized with Ontario’s labour market.
These programs help participants improve skills like writing a resumé, presentations and professional communication.
According to Cukier, these initiatives are working. She said Ryerson offered a training program last year directed at helping foreign professionals who were unemployed at the time. Cukier said almost all of the 88 participants found a job within their field.
The benefits of multiculturalism
Cynthia Tang, an international student at Ryerson who moved to Canada from China six years ago, said that Toronto is a friendly city for immigrants.
“[In Toronto,] everyone is nice to each other. I have never been in a situation where I felt excluded for being a minority in Canada,” Tang added.
Cukier said that the census results, as well as the increase of visible minorities in Toronto, should be viewed as positive news.
“There is no question, all labour growth is going to come through immigration. You just have to look at the trends and clearly that is the direction where things are going,” she said.