Statement from Black health leaders: Anti-Black Racism is a Public Health Crisis
Our communities are grieving.
This moment is unprecedented, yet in many ways, we have been here before.
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. 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.
We cannot separate these legacies from the ongoing deaths of Black people due to policing. A 2018 Ontario Human Rights Commission study found that Black people are 20 times more likely to be injured or killed by police than their counterparts. Overall, Black people are more likely to face lethal force. We will not be silent as Black people are killed or die in the presence of the police due to unchallenged police brutality. We refuse to separate these fatal outcomes from the overwhelming climate of anti-Black racism in which Black people are forced to live.
We urge our allies to make commitments to addressing the many iterations of white supremacy and anti-Black racism by standing in solidarity with Black people, committing to interrupting cycles of violence and refusing to make this an issue only Black people care about. This is everyone’s business.
We stand with Black people everywhere in calling for faster action to meaningfully confront white supremacy and address anti-Black racism through:
- Declaration of anti-Black racism as a public health crisis.
- 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.
- A provincial commitment to the allocation of protected funds to provide culturally appropriate health and wellbeing support within Black communities. A critical component of undoing anti-Black racism is working towards making Black life livable. Culturally appropriate organizations must be given the support they need to continue providing these services.
Too many lives have already been lost, much is at stake and our people cannot wait.
- Black Health Committee (Angela Roberston, Cheryl Prescod, Denise Brooks, Florence Ngenzebuhoro, Francis Garwe, Keddone Dias, Liben Gebremikael, Lori-Ann Green Walker, Paulos Gebreyesus, Safia Ahmed, Simone Atungo, Suzanne Obiorah, Sané Dube)
- Black Health Alliance
- Network for Advancement of Black Communities (NABC)