CBC News
October 7, 2008

A new report tracking the quality of life in Toronto suggests the city is divided into haves and have-nots, especially when it comes to recent immigrants.

The Toronto Community Foundation’s annual Vital Signs report shows a growing disparity between the rich and poor.

The report, which claims to be a snapshot of life in Toronto over the past decade, shows immigrants are hired half as often as other Canadians – and when they are, it’s for half the pay.

Betya Nacheva, an example of the immigrants mentioned in the report, had a successful professional life in Bulgaria where she was an employment counsellor.

Life in Canada the past 16 months has been difficult.

Nacheva says it’s “wasting time” to work in low-paying jobs.

“It’s not the best way and it’s not enough [money].”

But the Vital Signs report says that for immigrants like Nacheva, attempting to avoid being swallowed into dead-end, survival jobs will be a challenge.

“We’re seeing … recent immigrants have been struggling greatly. So we can only expect … downward economic pressures of the next while. We’re going to create an even more hostile environment,” said Rahul Bhardwaj, CEO of the Toronto Community Foundation, which sponsored the report.

Saad Imam is another example. He hasn’t been in Canada for long – only about a year and half.

But already he’s facing the fate of so many immigrants who arrived after 1990.

Imam, an accountant in Pakistan, can only find work in Toronto as a security guard. It is not enough to get by taking into account his rent and the cost of his part-time studies.

“Right now I’m under financial stress. I borrow money to support my education,” he said.

Bhardwaj says that for new immigrants, the 10 years since amalgamation in Toronto has been a “lost decade.”

“They’ve been hired half as often and when they do get hired, it’s for half the pay,” he said.

The median income of non-immigrant Canadian families increased by over five per cent from 2000 to 2005, according to the report, but the incomes of immigrant families fell by one per cent, and recent immigrant families [those in Canada less than five years] fell more than three per cent.

What Bhardwaj finds most troubling is that the immigrants who largely make up the poor families in the city came during good economic times.

The typical reasons for the lack of equality, according to the report, are lack of recognition for international credentials and lack of recognition for the skills of immigrants.

The report is not all bad news.

“We’re producing less waste,” says Bhardwaj, “using less water, more people are using public transit and in spite of how it appears, crime is down.”

With files from the Canadian Press

Reference: CBC News