Blog: Supporting Black Youth in our Communities

February 22, 2022

February marks Black History Month, a time when we acknowledge the many achievements and contributions of Black Canadians and their communities throughout history in our province and the country as a whole. It is also a time to reflect on the disproportionately harmful outcomes that many Black communities have faced due to individual and systemic racism built into policies, attitudes, and structures.

Alberta is home to diverse Black communities, including the second largest Somali Canadian population (incidentally, the largest African community in Edmonton) and a significant Caribbean population (celebrated annually during our local three-day Cariwest festival). In 2016, 4.3% of the overall population was Black; in Edmonton it was 5.9%.

In spite of strong cultural and community representation, evidence shows that racial or ethnic groups with visible characteristics (i.e., cultural, religious, or physical) face high rates of discrimination and racism in Canada, including rejection of rental or employment applications, dismissal from community programs or services, and unearned profiling by retail staff or police officers. These experiences result in measurable gaps in education, employment, income, housing, health, and mental health outcomes—circumstances directly linked to the social determinants of health. For example, in 2016:

  • 94% of Black youth in Canada (ages 15 to 25) wanted to go into post-secondary education, but only 60% felt that it was a realistic goal. At the time, Black youth were less likely to have attained a post-secondary qualification as non-Black youth.
  • The proportion of young Black men without a high school diploma who were not in employment, education, or training was nearly double that of other young men without a high school diploma (58% and 33%, respectively).
  • The unemployment rate for the Black population in Edmonton was 12.8%, compared to 7.1% among rest of the population.
  • Just over 1 in 5 Black adults (aged 25 to 59) lived in low-income, with 28.2% of Black children in Edmonton (3 in 10) living in low-income. That’s nearly three times higher than the rest of the population (11.3%).
  • Across Canada, nearly 2 in 10 Black parents led lone-parent family households, of which 34% were living in low-income (compared to 26% of the rest of the population). In Edmonton, 20.6% of Black women were lone-parents (compared to only 9.6% of the rest of the population). [1]

Understanding historical and contemporary experiences of discrimination and inequity is critical to making meaningful change for future generations. In honour of Black History Month, and in recognition of the value in supporting historically underserved youth, we offer a list of some of the resources available in Edmonton that aim to build capacity, empower individuals, and address historically inequitable outcomes for Black youth.



  • The African-Canadian Civic Engagement Council offers youth of African descent who are in vulnerable housing situations (e.g., due to recent incarceration or experiences on the street) a place to stabilize and receive support.

Mental Health

  • The Africa Centre offers a mental health program in collaboration with the Alberta Black Therapists Network that ensures culturally safe counselling services. It is the first of its kind in Western Canada, and offers multilingual support as one way to reduce barriers. Though not specifically aimed at youth, leadership strongly encourage youth participation.
  • National Black Youth Helpline offers support to Black youth across the country to promote access to culturally appropriate supports for youth, families, and schools.


Resources for youth are scarce in general, despite acknowledging the socio-economic benefits to supporting and improving outcomes for younger generations. Programs and services are vital to counter everyday experiences of discrimination and marginalization faced by Black youth—in conjunction with broader policies that specifically address inequity and racism. Supporting Black youth to reach their full potential is one of many essential steps to improving outcomes, such as those tied to the social determinants of health, and to creating lasting, positive change.



[1] To date, 2016 statistics remain the most recent data available from Statistics Canada. Unless otherwise indicated, information sourced from:

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