Study debunks gov claim that poverty is tied to systemic racism
Study debunks gov claim that poverty is tied to systemic racism

The federal government’s race-based approach to fighting poverty may be off track, according to a new study from the Aristotle Foundation.

Research from the Calgary-based think tank suggests that assuming poverty is linked to race is a flawed notion, based on data it analyzed from Statistics Canada and contrasting it with public policies aimed at fighting poverty.

The study, entitled Poverty and Race in Canada: Facts about Race, Discrimination, and the Poor found that between 7.4% and 10.6% of Canadians are currently living in relative poverty, depending on how it’s defined.

About 1.6 million Canadians living in poverty, or 58%, are white, or what Statistics Canada refers to as “not a visible minority or Indigenous,” when looking at poverty through as those having a low income after tax. 

When looking at poverty through a lens based on the cost of living, 2.5 million or 64.4% of that cohort are white. 

The study’s findings contradict the government’s perception that those living in poverty tend to be ethnic minorities and that their financial situation is the result of systemic racism. 

The group cited the Ontario government’s Racialized and Indigenous Supports for Entrepreneurs Grant Program, which makes millions of dollars available “to help Indigenous, Black and other racialized entrepreneurs” as an example of the government’s miscalculation. 

“Using the low-income-after-tax measure, eligibility for this race-based funding would apply not only to 1.4 million low-income earners in Canada (the total low-income visible minority and Indigenous population) if they choose to be entrepreneurs but also to nearly 10.5 million minorities or Indigenous who are not low income, while excluding non-minority, non-Indigenous low-income earners,” reads the study. 

“Put another way: this funding would be inaccessible to 64% of those who are low-income, and of those who do qualify for the funding based on race, only 11.9% are low-income. This is not a sensible way to design an anti-poverty program.”

The Aristotle Group argued that while the federal government uses the alleged link between race and poverty as a justification for race-based funding, their findings reveal that many minority groups in Canada were either just as likely, or in some cases even more likely to be impoverished, when compared to white Canadians. 

“In other words, the overwhelming majority of the Canadian poor are ‘white,’ and thus cannot receive race-based allocations from governments if unchangeable characteristics such as skin colour or ethnicity are accounted for in policy,” wrote the group in a press release.

The study argued that government programs and resources which could help the poor are often misdirected based on misguided racial qualifiers.  

According to the study, Canadians of Japanese, Korean, South Asian and Chinese ancestry all have higher average weekly earnings than that of their white counterparts.

Matthew Lau, the study’s lead author argues that systemic racism is not the root cause of poverty in Canada but is more likely to be found in factors like having a high school diploma, working full time and having children after marriage. 

“In summary, poverty rates in Canada are low, not well accounted for by explanations of systemic racial discrimination, and race-based anti-poverty programs and funds tend to be ineffective, at best, for addressing the needs of those who are truly living in destitution,” the study concludes.

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