1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 150, Issue 178

Thursday, June 20, 2013
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Youth Unemployment

Inquiry—Debate Continued

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise today to draw your attention to the nationwide issue of youth unemployment, with special focus on racialized Canadians. First off, I would like to thank Senator Callbeck for calling the attention of the Senate to the need to address the high rate of youth unemployment in Canada, which has remained consistently high for more than two years.

As honourable senators are aware, the youth unemployment rate has remained at 14 per cent for the past two years — twice the national average. According to a report written by the Wellesley Institute entitled Canada’s Colour Coded Labour Market, racialized Canadians earn only 81.4 cents for every dollar paid to you non-racialized Canadians. This figure differs between different racialized groups.

Those who identify as Black earn 75.6 cents for every dollar that a non-racialized worker earns, with an annual earning gap of $9,101. Those who identify as Chinese earn 89 cents for every dollar. Poverty rates for racialized families are three times higher than for non-racialized families. These figures have a heavy impact on health risks among poor Canadians.

In fact, a growing number of studies link unemployment, underemployment, insecurity and poor health. Dr. Yogendra Shakya, senior research scientist at Access Alliance, stated:

While immigrants and immigration is the heart and soul of this country, if you look at the main basis of inequality in Canada, along with gender, it’s based on race and immigrant status.

Statistics Canada has reported that last year the youth unemployment rate was 2.4 times that of workers aged 25 to 54, which is the biggest gap recorded since 1977. Again, there are differences within certain racialized groups. The overall unemployment rate for Toronto youth was 19.6 per cent compared with 38 per cent for African and Black youth. This critical issue must be addressed as youth unemployment is a link in the chain of many negative consequences.

These high rates of youth unemployment can be linked to homicide among young Black men in Toronto. The Canadian Journal of Public Health links crimes to social isolation, persistent high unemployment and concentrated poverty. Of gang members within Canada, the National Crime Prevention Centre notes that 48 per cent are below the age of 18.

The high rate of Black homicide in Toronto may be generated and sustained by an intersection of multiple health determinants, including racialized status, racism-induced stress and intensified poverty. Examination of the ethnic composition of gangs across Canada reveals that African-Canadians make up 38 per cent and a close second is First Nations people at 22 per cent.

Although there may be many reasons why Canadian youth may join gangs, one glamorized notion is the ability to acquire material possessions especially when coming from a lower socio-economic background. Unemployment, gang involvement and homicide can account for high incarceration rates for Black youth. The Toronto Star reported that in 2011 that Black male youth made up 5 per cent of boys in Ontario but, and I say but, 24 per cent of incarcerated male youth — almost five times more than they represent in the general population.

These high involvement rates and incarceration rates are due to a complex web of social problems, including lack of employment, poverty, family situations, lack of education and unaddressed mental health issues. A combination of these factors can marginalize these youth, who may not believe they have other opportunities for success.

Following the largest mass shooting in Toronto history last summer, the Ontario government revisited its plan to address the roots of youth violence. The Ministry of Children and Youth Services prepared the Roots of Youth Violence report. The report illustrates that youth from disadvantaged communities face barriers from things as simple as lack of transportation to get to a job interview to more complex barriers such as institutional racism.

The Roots of Youth Violence report also recognizes that many youth are frustrated and angered by their inability to support themselves or their families. When these and other factors are combined with the high value our society places on economic success and possessions, the consequences for self-esteem and any sense of hope, opportunity or belonging can be serious.


Honourable senators, investing in families, education, healthy communities and opportunities for Canadian youth will bring about positive change nationwide. These positive investments are less costly than the tab incurred by health care costs, policing and jails. The youth of Canada are the future, and we must do them justice by providing them with opportunities for growth, success and employment in which they can thrive.

(On motion of Senator Fraser, debate adjourned.)