Earlier this week, the City of Toronto announced that it will now be collecting race-based data to eliminate the blind spot in its response to the pandemic.
And while the Province has still neglected to collect such data, it’s hard to say if this data will make a difference in the grand scheme of things.
In recent days a clear picture has emerged of COVID-19’s deadly toll on black Americans. It’s hard not to notice the systemic policies that have made many African Americans far more vulnerable to the virus, including inequity in access to health care and economic opportunity.
And while Americans have the data available to them what policies or precautions have been implemented to aid those who are most vulnerable?
Here in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said: “Our government is going to make sure that no matter where you live, what you do or who you are, you get the support you need during this time.”
And while his words might provide a great sound bite, putting them into practice is quite another thing entirely, especially when our system does not provide adequate services for racialized and marginalized communities.
How can a system that doesn’t understand the needs of its most vulnerable, be trusted to serve them during this time?
Black and Indigenous communities encounter racist health systems that impact their physical, mental, and financial well-being, this is not new.
Yet nothing has changed in the way we serve these communities. No plan, no strategy, nothing of substance that assists in getting them the services they require and deserve.
It’s unrealistic to believe that dismantling systems that have existed for hundreds of years is going to happen overnight because of the well-intentioned words of an eloquent leader, and the collection of data.
Let’s break it down a little bit, even before this recent pandemic the rate of diabetes in the Black community was twice as high compared to White communities. More than 100,000 Blacks in Ontario alone have been identified as carriers of Sickle Cell.
The most disheartening of all is that Black communities are disproportionately affected by health-related issues such as mental health, HIV/AIDS, heart disease, sickle cell, stroke, and hypertension. But they have yet to be effectively addressed within the Canadian health-care system. The data is there, yet still, nothing has been done.
Perhaps the province doesn’t agree with collecting the data because they already know what the data will say, and as a result, they might be held accountable to make real change.
Whether or not you believe in this pandemic the truth is that once again it is targeting communities that were already at risk, no data needed to make that assumption.
The city, the province and the country need to create and implement health policies and strategies that help racialized and marginalized communities during and after the pandemic.
The evidence and research are there and it is clear that the negative interactions based on race have led to the distrust of the health care system at large and toward health-care providers.
When the data is collected hopefully there will be change, but if history has taught us anything most likely this will only be a footnote of this pandemic.