by Mahogany Saunders
Springtime in Toronto, Edwards Garden
Many Jamaicans have made their mark in Toronto, however, the community is not
without its challenges. The close proximity between Jamaica and Toronto has its
positive and negative aspects. When tension heats up between rival gangs in
Kingston, the fallout can be felt on the streets of Toronto. For example, during
October and November, 2002, there were waves of gang related incidents in
Toronto with incidents almost every weekend. For example, Toronto newspapers
reported Heavy D, a member of the Markham Crew gang , turned up dead in a
Scarborough convenience store as a result of a shooting that took place in broad
daylight. When Jamaican born youth, who have been raised in Toronto run afoul of
the law, some are deported back to Jamaica. Ill equipped by the Canadian school
system and lacking the skills to earn a living, some have no means of supporting
themselves upon their return to Jamaica. For some, it is a country where they
have not resided since they were infants or toddlers. The
impact of their difficulty in adjusting to the Jamaican society is sometimes
felt on the streets of Kingston. The Jamaican government has produced reports
about the deportee problem. (Deportee Study: Executive Summary)
The criminal element is a small part of the community. Are other Jamaicans
facing challenges in an attempt to adjusting to their adopted home in Toronto?
Goldfarb, a reputable polling organization, did an in depth study into the
impact of race on quality of life in the greater Toronto area. Eighty-eight per
cent of Jamaicans surveyed indicated that racial and ethnic discrimination was a
problem. Almost two-thirds of Jamaicans surveyed indicated that they had
personally experienced it. A study conducted by Michael Ornstein, director of
the Institute for Social Research at Toronto's York University professor,
Based on studies that he conducted, David Hulchanski, a professor of housing
policy at the University of Toronto, concluded that blacks and other racial
minorities still face discrimination in the housing market. Based on in depth
interviews with Toronto immigrants of Jamaican, Polish and Somali origin,
Professor Hulchanski and York University Geography Professor Robert Murdie,
plotted the three ethnic minorities on a scale measuring discrimination from one
to five. Based on the experiences they related, Polish immigrants tended to
receive a rating of one. Jamaicans averaged just over three.
- Toronto is quickly becoming segregated along racial, ethnic and economic lines.
- Huge "inequalities" in income, employment, education and rates of poverty based on ethnicity and race.
Based on an analysis of 1996 census data, unemployment rates were found to vary
from less than 6 per cent among Europeans to more than 40 per cent in some black
groups. The discrepancy in child poverty rates ranged from less than 10 per cent
among families of European origin to more than 60 per cent in some Black ethnic
groups. Jamaicans were included in a group experiencing significant disadvantage
with a poverty rate of around 50%.
Based on 2001 census data, many well-educated immigrants who arrived in Canada
during the 1990's are working in jobs for which they are overqualified. The top
29 occupations of recent male immigrants holding university degrees included
restaurant and food service managers, taxi and limousine drivers, truck drivers,
security guards and janitors.
"Whether they worked in a high-skilled or a low-skilled occupation, recent
immigrants earned less than their Canadian-born counterparts", Statistics Canada
reported in March 2003. In spite of the fact that immigrants arriving in Canada
during the 1990's were better educated than in previous decades, their earnings
compared with Canadian-born workers have "deteriorated sharply".
In an attempt to address some of these issues, the Toronto City Council approved
the Toronto Plan of Action for the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination
during its April, 2003 session.