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Open Letter from the Ontario labour movement to Doug Ford and Christine Elliott: Declare racism, including anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, a public health crisis

Press Release

September 25, 2020

The following letter was sent by email to Hon. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, and Hon. Christine Elliott Minister of Health:

Dear Hon. Doug Ford and Hon. Christine Elliott:

We are writing to urge you to declare racism, including anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, a public health crisis.

Anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism are historic, pervasive, and systemic issues in our province.

Black and Indigenous Ontarians experience disproportionate levels of racial profiling; systemic discrimination within our institutions; higher rates of precarious employment, underemployment, and unemployment; significant poverty; and overrepresentation in criminal justice, mental health, and child welfare systems. Black, racialized, and indigenous workers also experience very significant amounts of racially motivated physical and verbal assault working in the Ontario health care system.

Black and Indigenous peoples are more likely to be living in low-income households, have less access to safe housing, have significantly higher rates of child poverty and mortality, earn less for equal work, and die at significantly younger ages.

The intersection of race with inequities in housing, income, and other social determinants of health has placed Black and Indigenous Peoples at greater risk. This is unacceptable. This must change.

In order to adequately address anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, we need a public health perspective.

We ask that the government of Ontario commit to addressing the social determinants of health by supporting culturally relevant policies and programs that address the inequities that marginalized groups continue to face, with a focus on Black and Indigenous communities and residents.

We ask that the Minister of Health, through the 2021 Budget process and COVID-19 recovery planning, make recommendations to the Ministry of Health on reprioritizing Provincial resources to address the social determinants of health, focusing on racism facing Black and Indigenous Peoples.

We request that the Medical Officer of Health, in accordance with public health advice on physical distancing requirements and the Provincial Order that limits public gatherings, to organize training sessions for Public Health leaders to help them fight anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in their organizations, on understanding Equity with Black and Indigenous Peoples’ values and principles, and embedding equity and anti-Black and anti-Indigenous Racism prevention principles in Governance and Leadership to build capacity to provide equitable space for racialized and marginalized representation.

We request that public health-related organizational board memberships reflect the full diversity and range of voices in our Province, with particular attention to voices from Black and Indigenous communities, during the next recruitment of board members and in the event of any vacancies.

In this time, when we’re seeing that this crisis is being unequally experienced, we need real and immediate action to support all Ontarians. We need the province to declare racism a public health crisis.

Sincerely,

PATTY COATES, President

AHMAD GAIED, Secretary-Treasurer

JANICE FOLK-DAWSON, Executive Vice-President

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The following organizations join the Ontario Federation of Labour by endorsing this letter and the requests for action included herein:

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU Canada)
Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE Ontario)
Durham Region Labour Council
Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO)
Guelph and District Labour Council
Hamilton and District Labour Council
International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE Canada)
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW)
Lindsay and District Labour Council
National Pensioners Federation
North Bay and District Labour Council
Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA)
Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)
Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO Provincial)
Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation/Professional Student Services Personnel (OSSTF/PSSP Toronto)
Orangeville and District Labour Council
Peel Regional Labour Council
Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC Ontario)
Quinte Labour Council
Service Employees International Union (SEIU Healthcare)
United Food and Commercial Workers Canada, Local 1006A (UFCW)
United Steelworkers (USW District 6)

Support the call to declare racism, including anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, a public health crisis. Click to add your organizations name.

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For more information, please contact:

Meagan Perry
Director of Communications
Ontario Federation of Labour
[email protected] l 416-894-3456

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