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The Colour of PovertyThe Colour of Poverty

Based on an interview with Michael Kerr, Coordinator of the Colour of Poverty Campaign.

The Colour of Poverty Campaign is gaining momentum across the province and is expected to soon become a national campaign. Initiated by the Colour of Justice Network and funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Colour of Poverty Campaign was launched in September 2007 to help raise public awareness about the extent of poverty within the racialized communities of Ontario.

There is a great deal of commonality in people’s visions of a healthy community – most of us wish for peace, safety, clean air, water and soil, good employment opportunities and a sense of belonging. However, for many people living in poverty, these important determinants of health are either diminished or unattainable. Our vision of a healthy community cannot be realized without understanding the root causes of poverty and finding strategies that resonate with people’s lived experiences.

The purpose of the Colour of Poverty campaign is to “build community based
capacity to address racialization, the growing racialization of poverty and the
resulting increased levels of social exclusion and marginalization of racialized
communities in Ontario.”

Campaign organizers believe that while people generally understand that there is a growing gap between rich and poor in Ontario, many do not realize the extent to which this gap is felt much more profoundly by members of racialized groups. The racialization of poverty is evident from numerous measures, such as statistics on income and wealth, ethno-racial differentials with respect to targeted policing, inequalities with respect to health status, higher school drop out rates among racialized learners, and the re-emergence of racialized residential enclaves.

These trends will continue unless action is taken to address and redress the underlying structural and systemic inequity. Advocacy efforts to increase the minimum wage, subsidized childcare spaces, affordable housing, disability pensions and other services that are designed to address populations that are disproportionately represented within the low socioeconomic strata of society must also be considered.

This campaign will help create effective, coordinated strategies for collaborating with
mainstream policy analysts and institutions, anti-poverty advocacy groups, governments, funders and the media so as to best work together to address and redress this disturbing and growing structural or systemic ethno-racial inequality.

The Colour of Poverty Campaign partners have developed a series of Fact Sheets addressing different aspects of racialized poverty and its negative impacts:
• education
• health
• employment
• Income
• justice
• immigration
• housing
• food (in)security.

In addition to the fact sheets, a new video on Race and Poverty in Ontario has been created as an educational tool, presenting compelling stories of individuals and families from racialized communities living in poverty and the daily struggles they face.
In the past six months, they have held more than 20 workshops. As an example, on

March 5th, a workshop was held at McLaughlin Public Library in Oshawa. Participants brainstormed what came to mind when they heard the word “poverty”, viewed the Colour of Poverty Video and were informed about the Colour of Poverty Campaign. They identified and discussed the key issues/strategies that need to be pursued to best address the racialization of poverty and collectively decided on steps that need to be taken. Larger, public forums are also being held to promote the Campaign and facilitate discussion of the issues. One was held in January and another is planned in April.

The Colour of Poverty Campaign is working to build concrete strategies, tools, initiatives and community-based capacity through which individuals and NGO’s can begin to develop coherent shared action plans. Through the development of a “rolling” document that is being created.

Based on the information collected from participants at all the workshops, they will identify ten priorities for action and advocate for their implementation.

The Colour of Poverty Campaign Steering Committee membership includes:
• Access Alliance Multicultural Health & Community Services
• African Canadian Legal Clinic
• Canadian Arab Federation
• Chinese Canadian National Council - Toronto Chapter
• Council of Agencies Serving South Asians
• Hispanic Development Council
• Karuna Community Services
• Metro Toronto Chinese & South East Asian Legal Clinic
• Midaynta Community Services
• Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants ( OCASI )
• Sistering, the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
• Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office
• Prof. Grace-Edward Galabuzi, Ryerson University, Toronto.

For more information about the Colour of Poverty Campaign or to download the Colour of
Poverty fact sheets please visit

March 2008

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