People of African descent have a long, troubled, yet inspiring history in Canada, marked by tensions between anti-black racism and resistance, and by the establishment of a dynamic and diverse diaspora. In this chapter, we discuss how race and racism influence the experiences of street involvement and mental health among African Canadian youth. We also offer a few analytical and practical tools for practitioners to consider for engaging street-involved youth from an anti-racist perspective.
According to the 2011 National Household Survey, African Canadians make up approximately 3% of the country’s population and are among the fastest growing racialized groups in urban areas in southern Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia (Statistics Canada, 2013). Although we use “African Canadian” as a broad term to refer to anyone
of indigenous sub-Saharan African ancestry, the term encompasses a population with tremendous diversity in terms of ethnicity, culture, class, language, religion, sexual
orientation, and gender identity.
A large body of evidence indicates that race and ethnicity profoundly affect how people experience mental health (Williams & Williams-Morris, 2000) and homelessness
(Springer, Lum, & Roswell, 2013). Factors such as racism, culture, and stigma amplify the stressors that lead to mental illness and homelessness. They also limit access to resources that buffer such stressors and reduce the quality of interactions with social and health services. Although relatively little race-based data exist on homelessness or mental health in Canada, some evidence suggests that African Canadians are overrepresented among street-involved youth