2018 Toronto Child & Family Poverty Report: Municipal Election Edition

The 2018 Toronto Child & Family Poverty Report draws on newly released census data to reveal a disturbing picture of child and family poverty in Toronto and in every single ward across the city.[1] With Toronto residents set to go to the polls on October 22, the report authors call on all candidates for Toronto City Council to commit to bold action in response to the pervasive hardships experienced by families in our city.



  1. Child poverty affects families in every single ward in Toronto
  2. The highest rates of child poverty are among Indigenous, racialized and newcomer families
  3. The city of Toronto has higher rates of child poverty than the Toronto region for all groups of children 

Child Poverty Affects Families in Every Single Ward in Toronto

  • Across the city, more than 125,000 children (26.3%) live in low-income families
  • Child poverty is widespread in Toronto’s wards
  • 10 of the city’s 25 wards have overall child poverty rates between 30.2% and 45.2% and include areas within the ward with rates of child poverty as high as 72.3% (based on census tract-level data)
  • Even among the 10 wards with the lowest rates of child poverty, areas within these wards have child poverty rates as high as 35% to 52.6% — 2 to 3.5 times higher than the overall rates


  1. Source: Statistics Canada (2017). Census Profile, 2016 Census. [by federal electoral district]. Statistics Canada Catalogue Number 98-401-X2016045. Statistics Canada (2017). Census Profile, 2016 Census. [by census tract]. Statistics Canada Catalogue Number 98-401-X2016043.


The Highest Rates of Child Poverty are among Indigenous, Racialized and Newcomer Families

  • Shamefully, 84% of Indigenous families with children in Toronto live in poverty
  • One third of racialized children (33.3%) in Toronto live in low-income families, while in comparison 15.1% of non-racialized children live in poverty
  • Greater proportions of racialized children live in poverty, and child poverty rates are unacceptably high among children who are West Asian (59.5%), Arab (58.8%), Black (43.6%) and Latin American (36.1%)
  • More than 40% of children born outside of Canada (1st generation) live in low-income families compared to over 25% of children born in Canada with at least one parent who is an immigrant to Canada (2nd generation). Children who were born in Canada and whose parents were also born in Canada (3rd generation or more) experience the lowest rate, with just over 10% of children living in poverty.
  • Poverty rates are much higher for children from racialized groups compared to non-racialized groups for each generation. For example, among children who were born in Canada and whose parents were born in Canada (3rd generation or more), the poverty rate for racialized children is twice that of non-racialized children (22.8% vs. 10.7%).
  • First generation newcomer children have extremely high rates of poverty, including staggering rates within the Arab (70.5%), West Asian (68.3%), Korean (57.5%) and Black (48%) communities.
  • Children who are of West Asian (44.4%) and Black (42.1%) backgrounds have very high poverty rates even when they were born in Canada and have parents who were born in Canada (3rd generation or more).


The City of Toronto has Higher Rates of Child Poverty than the Toronto Region for All Groups of Children 

The 2017 report Unequal City: The Hidden Divide Among Toronto’s Children and Youth showed similar trends among racialized and newcomer children in the Toronto region (Census Metropolitan Area). However, the data presented in the 2018 report shows that children living in the city of Toronto have higher poverty rates than children in the Toronto region for all groups — all children, racialized and non-racialized groups, specific racialized groups, and racialized and non-racialized groups by generation status — reinforcing Toronto’s dubious title of child poverty capital.



We are releasing this report in the lead up to the municipal election with a goal of engaging all candidates for Mayor and City Council in a discussion of solutions to poverty, and to call on all candidates to commit to bold action to address the crisis of child and family poverty in our city.

In 2015, Toronto City Council unanimously adopted TO Prosperity: Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, which aimed to create, by 2035, a city where “everyone has access to good jobs, adequate income, stable housing, affordable transportation, nutritious food and supportive services.”

Since the adoption of TO Prosperity, Toronto City Council has introduced some important initiatives to advance the strategy, but the city has a long road ahead to make good on its commitment to achieve a poverty-free Toronto. Toronto’s ongoing affordable housing and homelessness crisis, shortage of good jobs, lack of affordable child care, and costly and inadequate transit service are testament to the struggles many families face and the challenges that the new council must tackle.


We urge all candidates for Toronto City Council to commit to the following actions:

  1. The full funding of TO Prosperity including funding for
    • 7,200 new supportive housing units, 8,000 new affordable rental units[2] and 1,000 new shelter spaces,
    • a 30% reduction in TTC fares for an additional 157,000 lower-income adults,
    • 11,500 new child care spaces, including 5,000 subsidized spaces, and
    • 40,000 new community recreation program spaces.
  2. The adoption of measurable targets and timelines to assess the city’s progress in advancing TO Prosperity and making positive change in the lives of Toronto residents struggling with poverty.
  3. Partner with and meaningfully engage residents and community groups in this work, including evaluating the plan’s progress in reaching its targets.


    To combat child poverty in Toronto, all council candidates must:

  4. Commit to implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Action as one approach to supporting Indigenous children and families, with a particular focus on Call to Action 7: “We call upon the federal government to develop with Indigenous groups a joint strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.”
  5. Develop, implement and evaluate urban Indigenous poverty reduction and income security programming.
  6. Address Indigenous-specific barriers to accessing employment and education programs, services, and supports.
  7. Address barriers for Indigenous peoples in accessing existing healthy nutrition and food security programming.
  8. Develop and fund Indigenous-focused food banks with healthy nutrient-rich food options and land-based traditional foods.
  9. Develop and implement Indigenous-focused curricula regarding healthy nutrient-rich food options and land-based traditional foods within the education system.
  10. Advance systems and programs that promote and support traditional Indigenous food gathering practices.
  11. Fully fund all of the City’s strategies that have been passed by Toronto City Council, including TO Prosperity: Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy, Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism, Toronto Newcomer Strategy, Youth Equity Strategy, Child Care Growth Strategy, and Housing Opportunities Toronto.
  12. Create and fund Racial Justice and Gender Equity Strategies.
  13. Consistently collect disaggregated demographic data — by gender identity, ethno-racial background, (dis)ability, sexuality, faith/spirituality, etc. — for all City programs and services.
  14. Fully implement gender-responsive budgeting for the City budget.
  15. Create, fully fund and staff equity offices, including offices focused on Indigenous peoples, gender, immigrants, accessibility, anti-black racism, and racial justice.


We need strong leadership at City Hall to make good on the city’s commitment to creating a prosperous, equitable and inclusive city for all. Toronto residents can’t afford four years of inaction and half measures. The well-being of Toronto’s 125,000 children living in poverty is at stake. These children and families deserve better.


Read the full report »

Read the press release »


[1] Data are reported for the City of Toronto and the city's 25 wards. In the midst of the 2018 municipal election, the Government of Ontario imposed a 25-ward structure on the City of Toronto, replacing the city's recently adopted 47-ward structure. This decision was met with considerable public opposition and legal challenges. At the time of the publication of this report, the 25-ward structure was in place. However, legal challenges were still ongoing.

[2] Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation defines affordable housing as housing costing less than 30 per cent of a household’s monthly gross income.

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