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Systemic Racism & its Effects on Minority Healthcare

May 10, 2022

By Arifah Yusuf
Child/Youth Health Program Coordinator
Health Promotion

White Coats for Black Lives
Image Source: Clay Banks @Unsplash

After the tragic killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota, people from across the world expressed their outrage and acted to challenge systemic racism that has impacted mostly the black and indigenous community for many years.

Systemic Racism is real and exists at every level of society. It is a form of racism which is embedded as regular practice within society or an organization, creating disadvantage and exclusion. It can lead to such issues such as discrimination in criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power, and education, among other issues. Many black, indigenous and people of colour encounter systemic racism daily, whether it be policies in institutions that create barriers to success or limited access to equitable support systems.

The most recent census data from 2016 shows that Black Canadians face far steeper economic challenges than white Canadians and other racial groups. For example, Black Canadians make significantly less money than non-racialized Canadians regardless of how long their families have lived in Canada. In 2018, Black Canadians were more likely than any other racial group in Canada to be the victims of a hate crime, according to data reported by police. (Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics, Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey.) Black Canadians are nearly twice as likely as non-racialized Canadians to be considered low-income. (Source: Statistics Canada, 2016 Census of Population).

According to Statistics Canada, 52.2 percent of children in the foster care system are Indigenous, despite only accounting for 7.7 percent of the population. Black and Indigenous peoples in Canada are disproportionately overrepresented in prisons and jails across the country. As students, they face harsher discipline in schools and are suspended at a higher rate than white students. In Toronto, the country’s largest city, black residents are 20 times more likely to be shot by police. (The Guardian, June 14, 2020).

Image Source: Marcelo Leal @Unsplash

​On June 8th, 2020 The City of Toronto‘s board of health voted unanimously to recognize anti-Black racism as a public health crisis. Racialization, marginalization, and poverty are proven social determinants of health that have resulted in health equities for the black population in disproportionate chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and mental illness. This cannot be allowed to continue.

On June 11th, 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that Indigenous and racialized Canadians have long known “that there is systemic discrimination right across our country and every part of our country and in our institutions. And recognizing that is difficult.” However, we do need to recognize it and educate ourselves on what can we do to create welcoming, inclusive, and equitable environments for people to thrive and feel connected to one another. Here are some action steps to fight systemic racism:

  • Take a stand against racism
  • Be intentional about change and the actions you take
  • Educate yourself and others about anti-racism and advocacy
  • Support black owned businesses
  • Advocate to your employers to take a stand against racism
  • Vote and encourage others to vote
  • Protests raise public awareness and highlight injustice

For you to create change, it starts with awareness of your own privilege, prejudices and educating yourself on ways to practice anti-racism. Take the appropriate action steps to confront racism, learn best practices to be an ally, and increase opportunities for black, Indigenous, and people of colour.

We can make a difference when we confront systemic racism together.

#BlackLivesMatter #SystemicRacism #SCHCBlog