Archive for October, 2008

October 21, 2008

Racial divisions tracking income polarization

Three recent learnings from the Ontario Nonprofit Housing Association conference scared me about the future of our city:

I was sitting through a presentation I had seen a few times, about the growing concentrations of poverty across the city and the high income enclaves that were also emerging, when I was struck to hear how substantially these aligned with the emerging racial division in the city. Just as income has polarized even over the past five years, so have the racial divisions. Neighbourhoods which were mainly white at the 2001 census are now likely to be even more white, according to research being led by Professor David Hulchanski at the University of Toronto.

So, the next morning, as I sat through an anti-racism workshop at the same conference, we were asked if we saw evidence of racism in our communities. Hulchanski’s work shows that, as the city’s foreign-born population now hits 50% of residents and people of colour will soon be a majority of the population, many white people, especially those living in high income areas, are less and less likely to have contact in their day-to-day lives with those from another racial background.

Finally, in another session, we talked about the dynamics of what happens when mixed neighbourhoods disappear. Like the idea of supermajorites, as described by political scientists, when populations become more homogenous and ideas and social mores are not challenged, they tend to become more extreme in their positions.

All this means that urban residents, living within increasingly racially and economically segregated neighbourhoods, will become increasingly isolated and separate in their world views and experience.

As I said, scary.

David Hulchanski’s work can be found at maps of city neighbourhoods with very high concentrations of white and visible minority populations and a recent presentation.

October 9, 2008

City of Toronto Community Services Strategy

The City of Toronto is developing a Community Services Strategy and, on October 7, over 200 representatives from the city’s community agencies were invited to help shape it. Hunkered around tables just north of Flemingdon Park, participants spent the day brainstorming together. City staff gathered the input as it was generated and fed it back at the start of the next rounds of discussion. 

Building on the work of the Strong Neighbourhoods Taskforce (City of Toronto: Strong Neighbourhoods Task Force) and, less acknowledged, the United Way’s Neighbourhood Vitality Index (A Neighbourhood Vitality Index: An Approach to Measuring …), the strategy will look at the services and supports which should be available across Toronto’s neighbourhoods. If a set of benchmarks can be developed that identify missing services and local supports, presumably, the City and others can target resources more effectively. It will also help to answer some City Councillors questions of “when is enough, enough?”  Through this exercise, the answer of “enough” will be more quantifiable – and justifiable.

Research and policy staff have a lot of ground to cover before they bring the initial report to the Community Development and Recreation Committee on November 14. But they have made a good start.

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