Social Assistance Review Should Address Concerns of Racialized and Immigrant Communities


July 14, 2011

For Immediate Release

Social Assistance Review Should Address Concerns of Racialized and Immigrant Communities

The Colour of Poverty/Colour of Change and its lead partners are gathering input on the experience of racialized and immigrant communities for the Ontario Social Assistance Review, in the expectation that it can make a real difference in access to income security for members of those communities and other low-income Ontarians.

“The Government of Ontario has acknowledged in its Poverty Reduction Strategy Act that poverty disproportionately affect racialized communities and immigrants.  Yet we also know that, due to social stigma and barriers in accessing the system, many members of these communities would rather be stuck in precariously low paid jobs than receiving social assistance benefits.  As well, certain members of racialized communities are often associated with such mean-spirited stereotypes as ‘welfare bums' or “lazy cheats”.  By participating in the review, not only do we hope to remove the social stigma unfairly attached to social assistance recipients, we also want to highlight the particular challenges faced by low income members of racialized and immigrant communities,” said Avvy Go, Clinic Director, MTCSALC.

To facilitate the participation by social assistance recipients from the various racialized communities in the review, the Colour of Poverty Campaign – led by its member organizations including the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (MTCSALC), and the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO) - has developed a questionnaire to gather input from social assistance recipients from various racialized communities as well as from community agencies who serve them.  The COPC questionnaire mirrors the questions raised by the Commission, while allowing recipients to tell their stories in their own way.

“We hope that our discussions will help point the way to needed solutions and priorities for income security reform that will improve the lives of racialized groups, who now make up half of the folks that are living in poverty in Ontario as a result of the underlying structural inequities in our society,” said Debbie Douglas, Executive Director of Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.  

OCASI is one of four groups asked by the Commissioners to host roundtable discussions with experts and community agencies about the review.  Other COPC members are also hosting meetings within their own communities with agencies as well as people receiving social assistance to gather their input.

“We believe that this exercise is crucial to developing a long term equitable and sustainable social assistance system that will not only assist people in critical times but will also pull low income racialized Ontarians out of poverty,” said Atulya Sharman, Community Legal Worker of SALCO. “We see this review as part and parcel of the broader poverty reduction strategy and we continue to call on the Government to implement other systemic changes that will ensure full and equitable economic participation by racialized communities,” added Sharman.

COPC is asking all community agencies, especially those serving members of raciailzed communities, to encourage their staff as well as help their clients who are, or have been, on social assistance to complete the questionnaire. 

COPC will submit to the Commission, the information gathered from the questionnaire as well as from community meetings.

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For more information, contact:
Avvy Go, Clinic Director – Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic – 416.971.9674
Amy Casipullai, Policy and Communication Coordinator – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants – 416.524.4950

Click here for the COPC Questionnaire.

Click here for the COPC Report on Consultations held with community members and groups.

Click here for the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario.