Largest-ever study on aboriginals in Toronto finds divided community, racism
TheStar.com – news
Published On Fri Oct 28 2011. Amy Dempsey, Staff Reporter
The largest study of aboriginal people ever conducted in Toronto has found a need for a seniors’ long-term care facility, priority child care spaces and awareness campaigns to correct systemic racism within the justice system.
The Toronto Aboriginal Research Project found a divide between the city’s thriving aboriginal middle class and an underclass plagued by poverty and related social challenges.
“It’s almost like two communities. And there are different needs for both groups,” said Don McCaskill, a lead researcher on the study commissioned by the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council in 2008.
“For the middle class, there aren’t enough institutions for them to connect with aboriginal culture and identity,” McCaskill said, citing the example of Little Portugal, where there are many churches and community centres in a concentrated area.
For other urban aboriginals, meeting basic daily needs for housing and health remains a challenge.
The report recommended bringing the middle class together with those who are struggling, through mentorship and community programs.
“I’m actually struck by how specific the recommendations are,” said Councillor Mike Layton, co-chair of the city’s aboriginal affairs committee, who plans to distribute copies of the 400-page report to councillors.
“They’ve laid out recommendations that can act as a road map — ideas that can go straight to policy,” Layton said. “We’ll be looking to this for guidance.”
Among the more than 50 recommendations, the report proposed that police officers, security guards, lawyers and judges participate in education programs to address rampant systemic racism within the law and justice system.
The GTA has the largest urban aboriginal population in Ontario and the number has grown by 33 per cent since 2001. Despite this, researchers noted the paucity of research exploring the needs of the urban aboriginal community.
The Aboriginal Research Project findings came from a sample of more than 1,400 individuals surveyed and interviewed for the study.
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