The Government of Ontario must immediately declare anti-Black racism a public health crisis, says CUPE  Ontario, echoing a call by a coalition of Black community health leaders.  

“Anti-Black racism has undeniably harmful effects on Black Ontarians,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “We need to name what happens to Black people when it comes to policing, workplace discrimination, the stress it causes, and so much more as a public health crisis requiring urgent and comprehensive action.” 

The advocacy of the coalition - Alliance for Healthier Communities, the Black Health Committee, the Black Health Alliance, and the Network for Advancement of Black Communities - led to the Toronto Board of Health unanimously voting to recognize anti-Black racism as a public health crisis.

CUPE Ontario joins the coalition in calling on the province to do the same, saying that the recognition would open the door to make swift and effective action against anti-black racism possible. “We’ve all seen the scope available, and how quickly government can act during a public health emergency,” said Hahn. “It is long past time to acknowledge that fighting anti-black racism needs the same scale and speed.”

Black Community leaders and organizations must be consulted about the actions to be taken, like immediately collecting and releasing race-based pandemic data, as well as reversing cuts to the Anti-Racism Directorate and re-starting plans to increase oversight of Ontario police, according to CUPE Ontario. 

“Those of us who are on the front-lines and are Black are at serious risk,” said Veriline Howe, Chair of CUPE Ontario’s Racial Justice Committee and a developmental services worker. “70 per cent of my colleagues are racialized, with many of them Black. We know we’re being impacted the most, but we need the government to collect race-based data to help create the best measures possible.” 

While the Ford Conservatives committed to collecting race-based data, they have yet to do so, claiming that it requires regulatory changes, and that local public health units could take on the task on a voluntary basis. 

“This is really a question of political will,” said Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario. “The province has sped up other regulatory changes during the pandemic. It can and must do so again.”