COVID-19 compounding impacts of racism: Ottawa Public Health

Ottawa Public Health says COVID-19 is highlighting social inequities in the city. While every community, ward and corner of Ottawa has been touched by the pandemic, Dr. Vera Etches says, some people are facing incredibly difficult circumstances and hardships.” 

For some communities, this could mean running a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 but Ottawa Public Health says others are facing racism and even verbal and physical assault.  

This statement from Dr. Etches comes after international outcry and action following the death of George Floyd. The black Minneapolis man died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. There is a planned rally in front of the American Embassy Friday, but others are using this moment to point out that Canada has its own systemic issues. 

Black Canadians say they experience racial profiling and carding. This month also marks the one-year anniversary since the over 1000 page Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry, calling the violence genocide. The federal government recently announced it was pushing back plans to implement calls to action from the inquiry, citing the pandemic. Nunavut Member of Parliament, Mumilaaq Qaqqaq pushed back on this, saying COVID-19 puts women experiencing domestic violence at more risk. Just days later the Prime Minister would pause for over 20 seconds when asked about what is happening across the border. Prime Minister Trudeau would not address the situation in the US outright but said racism is a problem in Canada.  

Ottawa Public Health shared steps it is taking to support people of colour through the novel coronavirus. This includes collecting data by ethnicity to better understand how different types of people are impacted by the virus. The agency also said it is working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities to understand how Indigenous peoples are impacted by measures like physical distancing. 

Moving forward Dr. Etches says Ottawa Public Health is working on a campaign about discrimination during the pandemic and will collaborate on Councillor King’s Anti-Racism Directorate. Earlier this week Councillor King was named Council Liaison for Anti-Racism and Ethnocultural Initiatives 



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