By Vancouver Sun |

February is Black History Month, and this important marker is an opportunity to not just reflect on our history, but to take stock of how that history is still alive within our communities.

From mental health to school performance, black people in Canada face a number of complex ongoing challenges that undermine our well-being and potential. But, our 2017 Canadian research shows that there are two veritable magic-bullet solutions to improving mental health and well-being for immigrants in Canada, particularly black immigrants: fostering belonging and addressing income inequality.

While we often talk about fostering belonging, closing the black income gap is seemingly off the table. This means we’re missing a crucial part of the discussion.

The data on the black income gap is stark: in a Canadian context, 23.9 per cent of black people are below the low-income cut-off. Visible minorities in Canada earn $47,487 on average, while average income for black people is $35,310; and, black unemployment sits at 12.5 per cent, as compared to 7.7 per cent for other visible minorities.

Income is about money, but at its roots are barriers — both barriers to higher income that black people face, and the new barriers low income creates.

For the many members of our community who are immigrants, black people’s skills and credentials are often ignored, and it can take years to recognize the experience and expertise of new Canadians. That’s years of lost income for black immigrants, and years of lost talent for our country.

Racism itself is also a barrier to income equality. For example, there are Canadian studies showing that so-called “ethnic” names (including those common to black people) receive less consideration on resumes than European names.

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