Toronto

Black Torontonians 'significantly' more likely to face discrimination on regular basis, study finds

Black people in Toronto are "significantly" more likely to face discrimination on a regular basis than white residents, according to a recent in-depth report on Torontonians' day-to-day experience with microaggression and discrimination. 

About 76% of Black people in the city experience discrimination at least a few times a month: survey

Pedestrians cross Queen St. during the evening commute on Feb. 15, 2022.
The first-of-its-kind report, lead by the non-profit Toronto Foundation and Environics Institute for Survey Research, found that roughly 76 per cent of Black Torontonians experience racial discrimination at least a few times a month. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Black people in Toronto are "significantly" more likely to face discrimination on a regular basis than white residents, according to a recent in-depth report on Torontonians' day-to-day experience with microaggression and discrimination. 

A research brief entitled Everyday Racism: Experiences of Discrimination in Toronto released Tuesday highlighted findings on discrimination pulled from the Toronto Social Capital Study published in November.

The first-of-its-kind report, led by the non-profit Toronto Foundation and Environics Institute for Survey Research, found that roughly 76 per cent of Black Torontonians experience racial discrimination at least a few times a month.

"I was not surprised," said Kwame McKenzie, a psychiatry professor and CEO of the Wellesley Institute.

"The type of discrimination that they're trying to measure are microaggressions, everyday events of racism that are perceived by the population … this is the common everyday experience of Black people in Canada."

The data is based on results from a survey of 4,163 people aged 18 and older in Toronto, conducted both online and by telephone last summer.

Participants who reported experiencing any form of discrimination were asked what they perceive as the main reason. 

Roughly 41 per cent of people said it was because of their ethnicity or race, followed by physical appearance at 34 per cent, age at 32 per cent and gender at 30 per cent. 

"But in the case of racialized Torontonians, 61 per cent of those who experience discrimination, say the reason they are discriminated against is because of their ethnicity or race," the report reads.

Black Torontonians report being treated as not smart

As part of the survey, participants were asked about their experience with 10 types of discrimination, using the Everyday Discrimination scale developed by Harvard University professor David R. Williams. 

Survey respondents answered questions about discrimination in their day-to-day life such as if they experience being called names or being insulted, if they are threatened or harassed and if they're followed around in stores.

They were also asked how often they are treated with less courtesy or respect than other people are, if they receive poorer service than others at restaurants or stores, if others act like they think they are not smart or others are afraid of them, if people act as if they think they are dishonest, if people act as if they are better than them.

The number of Black Torontonians who reported feeling treated as not smart is higher than any of the other large racial identity groups, with 25 per cent saying they experience this regularly while 17 per cent of white people do.

Roughly 46 per cent of Black people reported never experiencing people acting afraid of them because of their race whereas 65 per cent of white residents said they have not experienced this.

Andrew Parkin, co-author of the study and executive director of the Environics Institute for Survey Research, said the data helps highlight the accumulation of experiences faced by racial and ethnic groups.

"[This] has consequences for how people feel connected to their community and how trusting they feel of institutions, city services, city hall, the police, the justice system, the schools … all of that is affected by these experiences," Parkin said.

Discrimination a strong factor in unemployment

As well, there is a strong link between wellbeing and economic security, and discrimination, according to the report. 

Torontonians who face the most frequent discrimination have lower life satisfaction, poorer mental health and less economic security than those who experience less frequent or no discrimination, the report says.

Agapi Gessesse, executive director of CEE Center for Young Black Professionals, says the number of Black Torontonians reporting frequent racial discrimination is a major factor in unemployment rates in the group.

According to Statistics Canada, Black youth aged 15 to 24 have experienced high unemployment during the pandemic, as almost one-third of the labour force in this group, approximately 30.6 per, cent was unemployed in January 2021 — almost twice the rate of non-visible minority youth.

"It paints a picture that correlates with our unemployment rate. Why is it that our community is well-educated, motivated ... has young people who are willing to put in the work, but yet the unemployment rate doesn't seem to want to be budging?" Gessesse said.

"Organizations like ours [are] having to strategically find labour gaps in the market to train them so that no matter what they look like or who they are, you're going to want to hire them because you have such a large labour gap and really have no choice."

Headshot of Agapi Gessesse.
Agapi Gessesse, executive director of CEE Center for Young Black Professionals, (Submitted by Agapi Gessesse)

In relation to social capital, those who report the most frequent discrimination have much lower social capital than those who report less frequent or no discrimination, the report says.

McKenzie said there is an association between discrimination and social capital but it can be difficult to draw direct lines for causation.

"If you are in a group that experiences racism day in [and] day out, that would lead to you trusting people less. It would lead to you trying to shrink your social networks to protect yourself," he said.

"So, you can understand how it could lead to lower levels of social cohesion and social capital. But we don't know that's exactly what happens."

McKenzie and Gessesse are not affiliated with the study.

South Asians report being treated with less respect than others

According to the report, South Asians in Toronto also report experiencing racial discrimination regularly, at least a few times a month. The group is more than twice as likely as those who are white to report receiving poorer service at restaurants and stores.

As well, they are the most likely of the largest racial identity groups in the city to report being treated with less respect than other people are, with 25 per cent reporting they experience this at least a few times a month, compared to 14 per cent of those who are white.

Parkin said the Toronto Foundation and Environics Institute for Survey Research collected data on religious groups who reported experiencing frequent discrimination for their faith and will be releasing more focused data on that.

"In addition to this, the racial discrimination that we're focusing on today, there are many other kinds of discrimination in Toronto including against people who are visibly religious," Parkin said.

"These are all sort of there in the data, and we'll be working over in the next little while to kind of bring as much of that to the surface as we can."


For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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(CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Jabakhanji

Reporter-Editor

Sara Jabakhanji is a general assignment reporter with CBC News in Toronto. You can reach her at sara.jabakhanji@cbc.ca.

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