Ontario's NDP wants anti-Black racism to be declared a public health crisis

Jun 3 2020, 7:05 am

The leader of Ontario’s official opposition, Andrea Horwath, is calling on the Ford government to listen to Black health leaders and “declare anti-Black racism a public health crisis.”

“Our communities are grieving. This moment is unprecedented, yet in many ways, we have been here before,” reads a joint statement issued by the Black Health Committee, the Black Health Alliance, and the Network for Advancement of Black Communities (NABC).

“Black people have long talked about disproportionate violence our people face as a result of policing. We have followed closely the horrendous killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, and more recently the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in the presence of police officers in Toronto,” the statement continued.

The Black leaders said that Regis joins a long list of Black people who have died in police presence, after wellness calls were made for help.

“We have not forgotten what happened to D’Andre Campbell in Brampton, Abdirahman Abdi in Ottawa and Andrew Loku in Toronto. Thousands have been spent on inquests, recommendations have been made, and yet still, Black people seeking help face harm. We cannot be silent in the face of the ongoing horror Black people are experiencing in Ontario, across Canada and in the United States. We stand in solidarity with Black people everywhere in calling for justice.”

In 2018, the Canadian Public Health Association released a position statement acknowledging that racism is a public health issue.

“Ontario, like other provinces and territories in Canada, is a place that struggles to contend with the harms of white supremacy and where legacies of colonization, slavery, structural inequality and systemic discrimination deeply impact the lives of Black people,” said the leaders, who urged allies to make commitments to address iterations of white supremacy and anti-Black racism by standing in solidarity with Black people.

The Black leaders call for action to address racism through several ways, including the declaration of anti-Black racism as a public health crisis.

Following the statement by Ontario’s Black leaders, Horwath echoed and supported their call.

“This call includes enhancing accountability infrastructure to address police violence, systemic bias and harm to Black communities, funding the Anti-Racism Directorate, and empower it with a clear, targeted strategy to address anti-Black racism in all sectors, and funding organizations that are already doing this important work in communities across Ontario, by dedicating funds for the provision of culturally appropriate health and wellbeing supports within Black communities,” said Horwath in a statement.

“Today, and every day, New Democrats stand in solidarity with Black communities across the province, who are demanding that government listen, step up and actually do the work of rooting out anti-Black racism in all of our institutions. The government can start by following the lead of Black communities, and taking these actions.”

Additional actions called upon by Black leaders include: enhanced accountability infrastructure to address police brutality, police violence, and harms to Black communities; a strengthened Anti-Racism Directorate with a clearly articulated, targeted, and systemic anti-Black racism strategy; as well as a provincial commitment to the allocation of protected funds to provide culturally appropriate health and wellbeing support within Black communities.

“Too many lives have already been lost, much is at stake and our people cannot wait,” said the leaders.

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