BY VARSHA NAIK AND MOUSHUMI CHAKRABARTY

Given the intersectional effects of deepening inequality and polarization, we know that entrenched poverty and related social costs are felt hardest by a community’s most vulnerable. In contexts of austerity, a shrinking social safety net and cuts to public goods and services can lead to the numbers of people entrenched in cycles of poverty or under-employment or marginalization growing.

For the Regional Diversity Roundtable of Peel, our principle demographics of interest are newcomers, racialized groups, migrant populations and other equity-seeking and minority groups. These are often the same people who are balancing on the knife-edge, living with precariousness that deepens already stressful and untenable economic conditions.

If we are not careful to consider issues such as the racialization and feminization of poverty, we risk tearing an already frayed social fabric. So what do we need to consider as social sector and human services sector actors in order to navigate this brave new world? How do we keep focus on supporting healthy communities and moving from surviving to thriving?

In April 2019, the Regional Diversity Roundtable of Peel’s Varsha Naik and Moushumi Chakrabarty shared their reflections on the current political climate and its impacts on some of RDR Peel’s key stakeholders.

Here is a brief excerpt of the analysis shared. (You can read more of our analysis through the article as originally posted in Tough Times, a monthly produced by the Peel Poverty Action Group.):

“CHANGE is the only constant in life and at Peel’s Regional Diversity Roundtable (RDR), we strongly believe that right ideas, words and actions, directed with purpose, ensure that change is beneficial, propelling communities to improve. In Ontario, we are seeing major changes in political priorities, programs available, and people seeking support. With its mandate of achieving equity and inclusion, RDR highlights here a key area that requires our united energies to find effective, sustainable solutions: a solution to the poverty that is impacting our racialized newcomer communities in Peel.
Having to choose between buying a winter coat and paying the utility bill is a heart-rending decision. Yet among Peel’s 1.4 million residents, 12.8% live in poverty, and do face such choices as they navigate through minefields of unstable income, residence status, and long waits for help from the system.

The percentage of immigrant populations over the past decade in Peel – 51.5% — remains higher than provincial and national averages. Of this, 13.3% are visible minorities or racialized, one of the highest rates in the GTA. Their economic outcomes remain disproportionately lower than their Canadian counterparts.

Examining the issues faced by Peel residents show that using support services like food banks has increased. Many children and seniors go hungry. Tag this along with newcomers who come into the Region from different parts of the world, all with their own cultures, work experiences and education. Many of them have qualifications which may go unrecognized, resulting in precarious work and under-employment, leading to more problems.

…” [Read the rest of the article here (Tough Times, March-April 2019 issue, p. 9)]