Racism is entrenched in all of Canada's systems and institutions. In addition to educating Moms in anti-racism, Moms Against Racism Canada has chosen to focus our advocacy efforts in four areas: Healthcare, Childcare, Education, and Kid Sport/Recreation. Our MAR Blogger, Jessica Sproat, gives us some examples of racial injustice, in Canada, in each of these areas.
Picture: Black woman with short hair and wearing glasses, sitting on floor leaning against an a bed, crying.
I am telling you that racial injustices in Canada are abundant, they are frequent, and show up in all areas of our society, in all of our systems, in all of our communities, and in all of us.
I am a white woman, raising a white child, and my family has enormous privilege. We live in Canada, a country that many say, or believe to be “not as bad” as other countries, like our neighbours to the South, in terms of racial injustices.
This post and information is not my lived experience, I experience white privilege, and I have not experienced these injustices myself. I am telling you that racial injustices in Canada are abundant, they are frequent, and show up in all areas of our society, in all of our systems, in all of our communities, and in all of us. Really I am just scratching the surface in identifying, and in learning to identify, examples of racial injustices within these systems in our society. Here are a few I found:
A 45 year old man, dies in the ER in Winnipeg, from a bladder infection. He was sent from a community health centre to the hospital ER to have a catheter changed. A treatment procedure that should have taken 30 minutes total, and been an easy fix. 34 hours later he was found dead, in the waiting room, and no one knows when exactly he died. He was sitting in plain sight; numerous staff passed him, looked in his direction, and ignored him. Staff assumed that he was drunk and sleeping it off, had already been discharged, or was homeless. No one addressed him, and by the time he was found dead, Rigor Mortis had set in. He was invisible. He was an Indigenous man, and he was killed by racism. There has been no repercussions and no one or system has taken responsibility for his death. He was a human being, and he died in a place that everyone assumes will provide benevolent service and care.
A Black medical student, earns her Doctor of Medicine Degree from the University of Toronto; she graduates as the valedictorian of her class (of 259 people). A Toronto Star article featured her and discussed that she was the only Black student in her class. She awoke to an online comment in response to this article stating, “I would never let her treat me.”
A young Indigenous mother, with mental health challenges gives birth to a baby. That baby is separated from her, and she never sees her baby again. She loved and wanted the baby, who was placed in a closed adoption, she did not consent to giving her child up for adoption. The result of a “Birth alert” which are still practiced in Canada. Children who are born into so called “high risk families” for something like mom suffering from anxiety or depression (which for white women would be met with support, and the thought of someone taking a baby away would never cross our minds). These Birth Alerts target Indigenous and Black Women disproportionately.
Black women have substantially higher rates of premature births. Preterm birth rates among Black women in Canada are around 9%, with preterm birth rates for white women were around 6%.
On that note -there is NO race based data in Canada to report how the system treats Black people, Indigenous people, or racialized people. Data is not collected on race and health outcomes. This in itself is a massive problem, no proof exists to discuss different outcomes. Anecdotal information in Canada suggests that health outcomes for racialized people have much poorer health outcomes than white people.
Lack of data on race related pregnancy and birth outcomes, in addition to being unable to prove there is a problem; pregnant women form expectations about the process. They don’t believe it can be a good experience, so they are okay with the experience, no matter how bad it is.
Research that has been conducted in the US indicates that it is unlikely that genetic factors are contributing to increased adverse health outcomes, including reproductive health outcomes; these differences are purely due to socio economic factors, as well as biases built into the systems (and individuals) where healthcare is provided.
As the result of forced assimilation and Residential Schools, health care, pregnancy and birth care traditions have been erased, yet no health care facilities exist on reservations. People including pregnant women have to travel great distances to access health care, and without options for public transportation. How does a person without a vehicle, or funds to access transportation travel to another city to receive health care??
A woman giving birth may be in hospital removed from her support system for many weeks prior to giving birth, or may be in danger of getting to the hospital to receive care in a timely manner when she goes into labour. And what about prenatal care? How and where do women who live in areas where care is not easily available access prenatal care??? (which has been shown to drastically improve outcomes for both mom and baby and to have long term positive impact on the baby’s development and health). Most likely they don’t. This is not because they do not want the care, it is because they literally cannot access it.
A woman who is a refugee seeks out health care services for her child, she arrives at the hospital. She is given paperwork to fill out, and asked for her medical services card. She does not have a medical services card, she has been unable to fill out the paperwork in order to apply for the card, as she cannot read English. When she has not filled out the paperwork, she sits in the waiting room with her sick child, waiting for service, and staff label her as “taking advantage of the system”.
A woman has a botched spinal tap during a c-section. While in recovery, she reports being told, let us know if the pain becomes unmanageable. She calls nursing to say the pain is unmanageable, the response multiple times over is to say, we can’t really do anything right now. When asked later, medical staff indicated that they had assumptions that Black women had genetically higher pain tolerance.
COVID-19 BIPOC North Americans are experiencing higher rates of serious illness or death across North America. They are more likely to be exposed, because they are over-represented in jobs deemed to be essential services (health care support, food related services, transportation) and are more likely to live in high density housing, being more dependent on public transportation. Black, Indigenous, and immigrant communities are less likely to get COVID 19 testing, diagnosis, and treatment, and may be less likely to seek general medical care (due to mistrust of the health care system, negative experiences, and generational trauma).
Access to high quality child-care is essential to any society for achieving public goals (i.e. closing the gender pay gap, spurring economic growth, supporting health child development).
An Indigenous family is looking for childcare so that they can gain employment. They live on a reservation. There is no childcare available where they live, and they do not have access to public transportation to get their children to a childcare facility. The communities are called childcare deserts aka communities or neighborhoods without sufficient access to quality childcare. Indigenous families in particular are much more likely to reside in these childcare deserts.
A young family is trying to make ends meet. The mom is working at a grocery store, and the Dad is working cleaning at a fitness facility. They pick up odd jobs cleaning or caring for other children for additional funds. They are both making minimum wage. They have 2 young children, and full time childcare for those children is $3500/month, which is more than they take home each month. They end up working alternate shifts, and are unable to spend anytime together as a family, so they can avoid childcare costs.
A preschool aged Black child has lots of energy, and is quite active at school. A white child also has lots of energy, and needs lots of physical activity. The Black child’s parents are called in for a meeting to discuss making changes at home, and it is suggested that if the child does not calm down, they will no longer be able to attend the preschool.
COVID 19 hits, and childcare facilities close, government subsidized programs close to all but essential workers. Black, Indigenous, and people of color, and immigrant families were already experiencing higher poverty rates. The income gap between these families and white families widens. Many childcare programs also provide nutritious food options for children, which is now an added stress to families.
A family of colour, with limited options for childcare, and limited financial security is forced to leave their children in a less than ideal care setting. It is not what they want, but without affordable access to childcare, they cannot work, and if they don’t work, their family will struggle immensely.
An Indigenous child, living in a metropolitan city in Canada, is attending public school. This child goes through his entire school experience (grades 1-12) without ever having a teacher or staff member that is Indigenous or of ethnic minority.
A child from an immigrant family is given a nickname at school because her name is too difficult for teachers to pronounce.
An Indigenous child learns about his culture in school, and is taught that Indigenous cultures were discovered and civilized.
All children are taught history, and all subjects from the perspective of colonialism, there is an under-representation (or no representation) of racial minorities and Indigenous peoples in the curriculum.
Recreation and Leisure:
A sports broadcaster comments on an adolescent basketball player giving him a nickname of streaky, sneaky Willie. His commentary of the player is “Here comes streaky, sneaky Willie, and he just weaseled his way to the basket.” He assigns descriptions that are non-human. This same sportscaster says “That’s a tough match up for Joey. Willie is much stronger, bigger, and athletic.” Both of these young men are actually quite comparable in size.
A Black teenager is asked if he is an athlete, and he is not. He reports that he is asked daily if he is a basketball player. He reports that his conversations always seem to fizzle when he answers no, and his communication partner’s face falls. He receives the message that his value to what he might have contributed or produced was his athletic ability.
A young Indigenous girl has interest in playing hockey, and although she has skates and knows how to skate, she does not have transportation or access to an ice rink. If she would like to play on an organized team she would need a reliable method of getting from her home on the reservation to a rink in a city 45 minutes away. She will likely not see any other Indigenous people or people of colour to play against, or in positions that she may look up to them.
A mixed adolescent woman is an equestrian and loves riding horses. She says “no one ever judged me for the colour of my skin but I’d always wished there was someone with curly hair, someone that looked like me that I could maybe look up to.”
Music classes for children are marketed with the slogan, “music is a universal language” Yet it is tied to social context SO the culture that produces the music, constructs it’s meaning.
As in many of the examples listed above, extra curricular activities for children assume that they have access to the locations where those activities are happening, that they have a safe and reliable method of getting to those activities, and that parents can provide/purchase any equipment (i.e. instruments, reliable internet access, shoes, sports equipment), and that families have leisure time that can be devoted to getting children to and from and participating in activities. For many racialized families who are employed in low income positions, this is not a reality.
Racial injustices show up and are ingrained into every system in our society. Racialized individuals, adults and children, experience these things every single day. We may be blind to some of these, they may be so ingrained into our systems that we do not *yet* have the lens with which to disseminate them, and make changes. The long term gain, and work is here to be done. I encourage all readers to think about ways that racial injustices are showing up in our everyday systems, and to acknowledge those and I would love to hear your thoughts.