Lastman in Hot Water

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Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman's orgy of apologies (18 by latest count) didn'tcut it with anti-racist groups. At an ad hoc press conference held in frontof Lastman's office on Friday, several groups demanded the Mayor'sresignation for the racist remarks he made about Africans.

Earlier in the week, Lastman had remarked to a reporter about his fear at an upcoming trip to Africa. He said he pictured himself in a pot of boiling water, with a lot of natives dancing around him.

Criticism of Lastman has, up until now, focused on the threat his remarksposed to Toronto's Olympic bid. Erica Lawson of the African Canadian LegalClinic pointed out that the Mayor's remarks "show a very colonial Eurpoean world-view. They are deeply troubling and a reflection of white supremacy."

Despite shocking statistics of the gap between people of colour and whitepeople in the City of Toronto and indeed across the country, there has beenlittle action to correct what a recent report by Grace-Edward Galabuzzicalls "Creeping Economic Apartheid".

The report published by the Centre for Social Justice showed a double-digit gap between the economic performance of what it calls "racialized group members" and other Canadians over the period of 1996 to 1998. The term "racialized" refers to people of colour and Aboriginal Canadians. In 1998, they made $14,507 per annum, compared to $20,517 for white Canadians.

Even among recent immigrants, people of colour earned around 30% less thanwhite immigrants. Among those born in Canada, racialized Canadians alsoearned 30% below the average of others born in Canada.

This national report follows a City of Toronto report with even moreshocking statistics.

This report by York University Professor Michael Ornstein found that "while14% of European families live below the Low Income Cut Off, the percentageis much higher for non-Europeans: 32.1% for Aboriginals; 35% for SouthAsians; 45% for Africans, Blacks and Caribbeans; and 45% for Arabs and WestAsians."

Toronto's average unemployment rate is 7%, but the rates for many racializedgroups can be up to six times higher - for Ethiopians, the rate is 24%; forGhanaians, 45%; and for Somalis, 25%.

The silver lining - if one is to be found - in Mayor Lastman's insulting, racist comments may be increased public recognition that racism is a serious problem in Canada's biggest city. Anti-racist groups will meet again next week to plan furtheraction.

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