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Canada’s lack of race-based COVID-19 data hurting Black Canadians: experts – Global News

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Rachel holds multiple jobs as a social services front-line worker in the Greater Toronto Area.

Recently after a long shift, she left work, went to the grocery store and returned home to her children. Global News has agreed to use a pseudonym for Rachel, as she fears reprisal from her employer.

That night she got a call from a crying co-worker  — a resident they cared for was sick and was sent to the hospital to be tested for the novel coronavirus. Both she and her colleague are Black women, as are most of the relief and part-time staff where she works, she said. 


READ MORE:
Coronavirus — City of Toronto to start gathering race-based data connected to COVID-19

While her colleague had learned about this from another co-worker, management did nothing to notify staff that a resident was sick and was now in hospital, Rachel said. 

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“Had the management contacted staff to say ‘Hey, we’re not going to disclose which resident, but we’ll keep you in the loop to the results,’ I would have been satisfied,” she said. 

This is a facility where management or on-call staff would be available to support the residents if anyone decides not to come in due to a potential coronavirus outbreak, she said. 

But the failure to be transparent with staff about the wellness of residents, especially when many managers are able to do their jobs at home, makes her feel they simply don’t care about the safety of her and other Black women taking care of residents.

“It’s disheartening,’” she said. “But when this happens … they don’t have the responsibility to notify us to self-quarantine or watch out for symptoms.






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Toronto Public Health begins tracking race-based data for COVID-19


Toronto Public Health begins tracking race-based data for COVID-19

“It’s the devaluing of my life and the lives of my colleagues,” she said, important to recognize that Black people are over-represented among front-line workers, who bear the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rachel says there isn’t widespread recognition of racialized workers putting themselves at risk everyday often in jobs they can’t afford to quit. With no national or provincial efforts to collect data about whether Black communities are more likely to be infected or die from the coronavirus, she said she isn’t hopeful policy changes will come about that could provide solutions.

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The impact of coronavirus on Black people

In the United States, data from 29 states shows that the coronavirus has killed Black Americans at a disproportionate rate, according to the Atlantic.

Earlier in April, an analysis by the Associated Press found that 42 per cent of COVID-19-related deaths in the U.S. are Black people, double their share of the population. Health disparities, a higher chance of working front-line jobs, less access to health care and being more likely to live in crowded, denser neighbourhoods are all factors contributing to a higher death rate, according to the AP.

In Canada, race-based data about which groups have been impacted by COVID-19 hasn’t been collected. Toronto Public Health announced on April 22 that it would begin to collect this information so it can address health inequities. 


READ MORE:
Coronavirus is killing Black Americans at a much higher rate

Even without that data, the health of Canada’s Black communities has long been a concern and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, according to a statement from Black leaders in health care across Ontario published by the Alliance for Healthier Communities on April 2.

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In Ontario specifically, research shows Black people face barriers to employment and often rely on gig economy jobs, which are more precarious. Black women are more likely to be working front-line jobs as personal support workers (PSWs) or registered practical nurses, for example, according to the same statement.

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A study by Ryerson University in 2009 — the most recent study available — found that 42 per cent of PSWs identified as a visible minority, close to double their share of Canada’s population at the time.

This week, the death of 51-year-old Arlene Reid, a Black woman who provided home care in Peel Region outside Toronto, sparked comments from the union representing community health-care workers across Ontario, claiming PSWs do not receive proper protection.  

Why health inequalities exist in Canada

Black Canadians historically have worse health outcomes due to a myriad of factors that all stem from anti-Black racism — including the types of jobs to which they have access, where they live, income levels and lack of available resources, said Arjumand Siddiqi, Canada Research Chair in population health equity. 

“What we know about the relationship between race and health suggests that it’s almost impossible to imagine that these disparities aren’t happening,” said Siddiqi, who’s also an associate professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

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For instance, Black women are 43 per cent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women, according to the Black Health Alliance, a national health advocacy organization. Black women are consistently underscreened for breast and cervical cancer, Global News reported last year.

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Those who face various forms of systematic oppression and a lack of resources as a result almost always suffer the worst health, Siddiqi said. 

Lack of access to safer jobs during the coronavirus pandemic — meaning workers can stay at home — is also a concern for Black communities, as they are currently more likely to be front-line workers, she says.

“Autonomy and income from those jobs also provides us with the resources to eat better and to live in more comfortable homes,” she said. “This is why these kinds of fundamental things about your resources, and your status, start to affect every mechanism to every disease.”

COVID-19 pandemic has ‘highlighted disparities’

Safia Ahmed, executive director of the Rexdale Community Health Centre west of Toronto, says she sees a clear health disparity in the communities her organization serves.

“What COVID-19 has done is that it’s highlighted those disparities,” she said. 


READ MORE:
These Asian Canadians are concerned as hate crimes spike in the coronavirus pandemic

Ahmed says her organization provides health promotion services to residents in the community of Rexdale and addresses social determinants of health that may prevent them from accessing care. 

Many of their clients are either new immigrants or Black Canadians and have either lost their jobs due to COVID-19 or are working on the front lines, she says. 

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“People in these communities are experiencing food security issues, unemployment issues, and some are struggling to pay rent,” she said. “There are all these other social factors impacting one’s health … not having access to medication, your outcome when you contract disease is worse.”

The announcement that Toronto Public Health will start collecting race-based data for COVID-19 has been encouraging, and she hopes this data will be used to inform decisions and tackle health disparities in communities like the ones she serves, she says. 

But beyond Toronto, the provinces and the federal government need to commit to keeping this kind of data as well, otherwise, it’s difficult to glean a full picture of how minority communities are being impacted, she says. 

The need for race-based data 

The lack of data available, along with the absence of a national conversation on which groups are the most impacted by COVID-19, continues to put minority groups in danger, said Kathy Hogarth, an associate professor of social work at the University of Waterloo.

“When our society is built on inequality, we already have those that are way outside that social safety net,” said Hogarth. “And it makes some bodies disposable.”


READ MORE:
Coronavirus measures for Indigenous communities get poor grade from opposition MPs

Without data that is collected consistently, it can be difficult to uncover inequalities that currently exist and prevents policy from being shaped to address those issues, she says.

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“Without data, it’s all speculation, and as long as it remains in speculation, we can dismiss it,” she says. “What we need is a very rigorous way of collecting our data that looks at inequalities. I guarantee you there are inequalities; we are not all impacted in the same way.”

As Canada goes through this pandemic, it’s important that we think about how we want to collect data so we can better prepare in the future and work to protect marginalized communities, she says. 

“Though we haven’t put the resources into collecting that kind of data, will we do it now? I wish that we would because I think it’s a detriment that we don’t.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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'Safe restart' of Canadian economy will take 6-8 months, Freeland says – CTV News

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TORONTO —
A ‘safe restart’ of the Canadian economy will likely take at least half a year, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Friday, a day after Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam cautioned that relaxing current restrictions too much or too soon could result in an “explosive growth” of new cases.

“One other thing that we would like to really underscore is what we are talking about is the safe restart right now. So this is not a long-term plan,” Freeland told reporters when asked about the government’s plans for the $14 billion earmarked to help provinces and territories.

“This is for ensuring a safe restart over the next six to eight months. And I think it’s important for Canadians to understand that’s the timeframe that we are focused on.”

Canada is fast approaching 95,000 COVID-19 cases and has recorded more than 7,700 deaths across the country. Most provinces and territories have begun reporting no or very few cases and deaths and are beginning to look at how to restart the economy, but Ontario and Quebec are still reporting close to or morethan 300 new cases a day and numerous deaths. The two provinces now account for more than 90 percent of the cases, but have also begun plans for reopening.

Tam said Thursday that until an effective vaccine or treatment becomes available, Canada needsto remain vigilant with its containment efforts to prevent an “explosive” second wave, with the latest federal modelling showing that another peak was possible in October without sufficient prevention measures.

The last time the federal government made a projection was in late April, when it estimated that the country was on track to report between 53,196 and 66,835 cases of COVID-19, and between 3,277 and 3,883 deaths. In reality, there were 62,046 confirmed cases and 4,043 people had died by May 5.

Freeland said the government understands that the needs of each province and territory vary a great deal, and that it wanted to work collaboratively with them.

“We really are approaching this by saying to the provinces and territories, we understand that a safe restart is essential.  And that it is expensive.”

With files from Ottawa news Bureau Online Producer Rachel Aiello

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Feds to send $600 to some Canadians with disabilities – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Canadians with disabilities will be sent a one-time tax-free payment of up to $600, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Friday, in an effort to help offset the financial pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This new financial aid will go to all who are eligible for the Disability Tax Credit, as of June 1.

Canadians who have a valid certificate for the Disability Tax Credit will receive $600. Canadians with a valid Disability Tax Credit certificate and who are eligible for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension will receive $300. Canadians who are eligible for both of these programs and are also eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) will be receiving $100.

The government says that because of the special one-time payments going to seniors, the amount seniors with disabilities will receive through this stream will be less, but in the end will total the same amount of $600.

“People who are eligible for this special payment will receive it automatically,” the federal government has announced, meaning that eligible recipients of these new one-time payments will not need to apply. However, as announced with the seniors funding on Thursday, it could be weeks before the money lands in the hands of those eligible. 

For those who are eligible and under the age of 18, the special payment will be sent to their primary caregiver and in cases of shared custody, each parent will receive $300.

“This payment will go to existing disability tax credit certificate holders, which includes parents with children or dependents with disabilities, seniors, veterans and many other Canadians that we know have costs associated with severe and prolonged disabilities,” Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough said on Friday.

Some Canadians with disabilities had been watching the various announcements for students, seniors, and other targeted demographics and have been left wondering why they appeared to have fallen through the cracks.

For many already living on a low income, they are facing more expenses due to the pandemic, such as increased costs for personal support workers, grocery delivery fees and prescription drug dispensing fees.

The government estimates that 1.2 million Canadians will be eligible for this one-time top-up, which will cost $548 million. Among working-age Canadians with disabilities, more than 1.5 million are unemployed or out of the labour market entirely.

NEW ACCESSIBILITY PROGRAMS

In addition to the one-time payments, the federal government is launching two new accessibility-focused programs.

One, focused on national workplace accessibility, will see $15 million go to community organizations to develop programs and expand current training opportunities to help Canadians with disabilities adapt to the realities of COVID-19, including helping set up effective work-from-home arrangements and training for in-demand jobs.

The second is a $1.8 million fund being shared between five projects to develop accessible technology such as accessible payment terminals for individuals with sight loss; arm supports that will allow Canadians with disabilities to use standard technology; systems to allow Canadians with neurological conditions to interact with technology for a longer period of time; and to develop software to expand expression and voice recognition.

“We know this pandemic has deeply affected the lives and health of all Canadians and disproportionately affected Canadians with disabilities in particular,” Qualtrough said. “We also recognize that persons with disabilities are at a higher risk of job loss during economic downturns.”

Asked more broadly whether the government has plans to extend or amend the $2,000 a-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit in light of the shifting economic situation and gradual reopening, the minister said that conversations are underway.

“Our thinking moving forward is how do we balance a need to continue to support workers while not disincentivizing work, and absolutely those conversations are happening right now.” 

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Canadian marches, vigils taking place to honour black lives lost at hands of police – CBC.ca

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Demonstrators plan to march from Parliament Hill through Ottawa streets mid-afternoon today to honour black lives lost at the hands of police.

The demonstrations follow days of protests across the U.S. after a video showed Minneapolis police killing a black man, George Floyd, unleashing a torrent of anger over persistent racism.

A police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.

Prosecutors on Wednesday expanded their case against the police who were at the scene of Floyd’s death, charging three of the officers with aiding and abetting a murder and upgrading the charges against the officer who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck to second-degree murder.

The most serious charge was filed against Derek Chauvin, whose caught-on-video treatment of the handcuffed Floyd spurred worldwide protests.

Three other officers — Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao — were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. All four were fired last week.

Friday’s planned actions comes after rallies of a similar theme have taken place already this week in Saskatoon, Sydney, N.S., Burlington, Ont., and Calgary, among other locations. 

Read on to see what’s happening around Canada.

Ottawa

The Ottawa event is being organized by the group No Peace Until Justice.

The group says its goal is to bring together black activists and organizations and allies to stand in solidarity against police brutality and societal racism.

The event has touched off some online controversy about who is welcome to attend.

A poster stuck to a pole along Bank Street in Ottawa calls for solidarity with protesters in the United States. (Joseph Tunney/CBC)

Ottawa police were not invited at the request of the No Peace Until Justice organizers.

After Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson noted his intention to be there, the group said he was invited via Twitter by unaffiliated individuals. “The No Peace Until Justice organizers did not reach out to him or his office.”

The group says it opposes all streaming and the taking of videos or photos of the demonstration to protect the identity and safety of those attending.

WATCH l Calling for police reform in Canada:

A video of an aggressive arrest in Nunavut that sparked an investigation is among the recent arrests in Canada sparking questions about use of force, police funding and interactions with black and Indigenous Canadians. 2:05

For their part, the Ottawa police say public safety is a shared responsibility.

“We are working with organizers and all stakeholders to enable a safe, healthy and positive event,” the police service said Thursday.

“You have a right to be heard. And we will support that right by ensuring your safety,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Ottawa on Friday he saluted those who are “standing up to speak out clearly” about systemic discrimination.

“We have thousands of people stepping forward to highlight the challenges and to show that they want to be allies,” he said.

Trudeau also said he saluted those who are “standing up to speak out clearly” about systemic discrimination.

“We have thousands of people stepping forward to highlight the challenges and to show that they want to be allies.”

WATCH | Trudeau welcomes peaceful protests:

With mass anti-racism demonstrations planned in several cities, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he looks forward to seeing Canadians peacefully protesting across the country. 0:32

Toronto

A similarly themed Toronto march is proceeding south from the Bloor-Yonge subway station on Friday, headed to city hall.

Several businesses on downtown Toronto’s Yonge Street and surrounding areas boarded up their windows in anticipation of the protest. Toronto Eaton Centre said it would be closed until Monday as a precaution.

Delsin Aventus, one of the organizers of the rally, told CBC Toronto that protesters hope to create dialogue between the community and civic leaders about issues of racism and violence.

“Today started as a march in solidarity both with lives lost both to racism and unfortunately some to police,” he said.

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders met with protesters. 

Saunders could be seen on one knee with protesters, though some have criticized police officers kneeling with demonstrators as ringing hollow, considering reports of police violence at protests in recent days.

Saskatchewan

Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said the video of George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis late last month has spurred people to action and now they’re making their voices heard.  

“It can’t help but move people to say, ‘That’s not acceptable,’ and that’s one act of violence. But we know the frustration that’s coming out is also because of persistent inequality and people living in two societies too often in Canada and North America,” he said Thursday.

Clark acknowledged these issues are faced by Saskatoon’s Indigenous and newcomer populations and said it’s inspiring to see so many people speak out against racism and inequality.

In Regina, demonstrators at a Black Lives Matter rally were silent for eight minutes and 46 seconds before erupting into the lyrics of Amazing Grace.

Participants met at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum before 11 a.m. CST. They planned to march to the Saskatchewan Legislature, where a similar rally was held on Tuesday.  

People take a knee after a speech by Regina Police Chief Evan Bray on Friday. (Alex Soloducha/CBC News)

British Columbia

In B.C., an estimated 3,500 people turned out at the Vancouver Art Gallery on May 31 in an event inspired by the Floyd killing.

On Friday, a protest is being held at 4 p.m. PT at Jack Poole Plaza in downtown Vancouver, this time focusing specifically on the Canadian context.

“We need to magnify this,” said Jacob Callender-Presad, who has organized both events. “We need to talk about this because racism in Canada does exist.”

Organizers are taking COVID-19 precautions, he said.

Those measures include supplying hand sanitizer, masks and gloves at the event, Callender-Presad said, with physical distancing to be encouraged.

Events are also scheduled Friday on the legislature grounds in Edmonton and Winnipeg, at Parade Square in Halifax and in Repentigny, Que.

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