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Declare racism a public health crisis: an open letter to Premier Ford

Reposted from the Ontario Federation of Labour

The following letter was sent by email to Hon. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, and Hon. Christine Elliott Minister of Health:

Dear Hon. Doug Ford and Hon. Christine Elliott:

We are writing to urge you to declare racism, including anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, a public health crisis.

Anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism are historic, pervasive, and systemic issues in our province.

Black and Indigenous Ontarians experience disproportionate levels of racial profiling; systemic discrimination within our institutions; higher rates of precarious employment, underemployment, and unemployment; significant poverty; and overrepresentation in criminal justice, mental health, and child welfare systems. Black, racialized, and indigenous workers also experience very significant amounts of racially motivated physical and verbal assault working in the Ontario health care system.

Black and Indigenous peoples are more likely to be living in low-income households, have less access to safe housing, have significantly higher rates of child poverty and mortality, earn less for equal work, and die at significantly younger ages.

The intersection of race with inequities in housing, income, and other social determinants of health has placed Black and Indigenous Peoples at greater risk. This is unacceptable. This must change.

In order to adequately address anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, we need a public health perspective.

We ask that the government of Ontario commit to addressing the social determinants of health by supporting culturally relevant policies and programs that address the inequities that marginalized groups continue to face, with a focus on Black and Indigenous communities and residents.

We ask that the Minister of Health, through the 2021 Budget process and COVID-19 recovery planning, make recommendations to the Ministry of Health on reprioritizing Provincial resources to address the social determinants of health, focusing on racism facing Black and Indigenous Peoples.

We request that the Medical Officer of Health, in accordance with public health advice on physical distancing requirements and the Provincial Order that limits public gatherings, to organize training sessions for Public Health leaders to help them fight anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in their organizations, on understanding Equity with Black and Indigenous Peoples’ values and principles, and embedding equity and anti-Black and anti-Indigenous Racism prevention principles in Governance and Leadership to build capacity to provide equitable space for racialized and marginalized representation.

We request that public health-related organizational board memberships reflect the full diversity and range of voices in our Province, with particular attention to voices from Black and Indigenous communities, during the next recruitment of board members and in the event of any vacancies.

In this time, when we’re seeing that this crisis is being unequally experienced, we need real and immediate action to support all Ontarians. We need the province to declare racism a public health crisis.



AHMAD GAIED, Secretary-Treasurer

JANICE FOLK-DAWSON, Executive Vice-President