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Healthcare

Addressing anti-racism in health care is vital for the advancement, quality and dignity of both Black Canadians seeking medical support and the healthcare system as a whole. Historical racism, segragtion and discrimination in Canada has created mistrust between the Black community and medical insitituitions. In order for healthcare systems to build on trust with the Black community, they must work from towards an Anti-racist lense. Anti-racist efforts within healthcare is not the pesecence of new privieldges for a specific group or community but it is dismantling systemic barriers that prevents individuals, Black individuals more specifically, from receving access, respect and treated with dignity in the midst of health concerns.

History of Healthcare practices in Black Communities

  • History of Health Care in Canada
  • Case Study 1
  • Case Study 2

Mathieu de Coste was the first Black man on record to arrive in Canada in 1608 (Randstad, 2021).

Mathieu was very privileged in that he had great language skills and the Europeans favored him but that wasn’t the case for many blacks that came after him (Randstad, 2021).

Many blacks that escaped slavery in America still came to Canada and were enslaved.

Throughout the First World War, Black groups and individuals also worked to manufacture essential goods at home, volunteered as labourers and in hospitals, and helped raise funds. Due to their willingness to support the country, Black women were often assigned the most dangerous tasks: working with explosives in ammunition factories (Randstad, 2021).

In the early 20th century black men were seen as a source of cheap and abundant labour. These porters did work that was often demeaning, under poor conditions (Randstad, 2021).

This led to improvements in the working conditions on the Canadian railway, with Canadian Pacific Rail agreeing to increase wages and offer more time off. The powerful actions of Black porters reflected the struggle of all Black workers in Canada, which began a movement for change (Randstad, 2021).

Canadian lawmakers then began to consider a federal law to create equal opportunities by prohibiting discrimination (Canadian Encyclopedia).

Ontario was the first to pass this law (Canada’s human rights law).

Led to many other policies such as the Canada Fair Employment Practices Act

Key Definitions to Familiarize Yourself with

  • Racism
  • Systemic Racism
  • Indirect Discrimination
  • Color Blind

Racism

Noun,

“Prejudice, discrimination, or an antagonism by an individual, community or institution against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized”

Systemic Racism

Noun,

“the processes of racism that are embedded in laws (local, state, and federal), policies, and practices of society and its institutions that provide advantages to racial groups to racial groups deemed as superior, while differentially oppressing, disadvantaging, or otherwise neglecting racial group

Indirect Discrimination

Noun,

“Indirect discrimination is when there’s a practice, policy or rule which applies to everyone in the same way, but it has a worse effect on some people than others.”

Colour Blind

Noun,

“The approach of treating all people the same as opposed to treating people equitably/according to their individual needs”

Black Excellence in the Medical Field

Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott (1837-1913)

  • First Canadian-born Black doctor
  • Earned his medical degree from the Toronto School of Medicine (later affiliated with University of Toronto)
  • Earned his license to practice medicine in 1861 and served in the US Civil War  → recognized as one of eight Black surgeons in the army

Lillie Johnson (1922-present)

  • First Black director of public health in Ontario
  • Founder of the Sickle Cell Association of Ontario (1981) and advocate for including screening of Sickle Cell Disease to newborn screening in Ontario (2006)
  • Emigrated from Jamaica to Canada in 1960 → received her training as a nurse and midwife in Jamaica and in the UK
  • Received several awards incl. Bloomberg Award from Bloomberg School of Nursing at UofT, 2009 Toronto Public Health Champion Award, Order of Ontario award in 2010, Black Health Alliance Legacy Award in 2014 and many more!

Dr. Alexandra Bastiany

  • First Black female interventional cardiologist.
  • Specializes in diagnosing and treating cardiovascular diseases and heart conditions without the use of surgical procedures.
  • Stresses the importance of mentorship and representation of Black people and people of color in leadership roles in health whether it be as physicians, nurses or in health administration.

Dr. Upton Allen

  • Chief of infectious diseases at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) & professor of pediatrics at UofT.
  • Dr. Allen has been taking care of COVID-19 patients on the front lines
  • Member of Toronto’s Black Scientists Task Force on Vaccine Equity
  • Leading research that focuses on understanding the risk factors and the prevalence of COVID-19 within Black communities in Canada

Dr. Onye Nnorom

  • Family physician and public health & preventive medicine specialist
  • Emphasis on health equity and the way that racism impacts health inequities in Canada

Titles/Positions

  • Black Health Theme Lead for faculty of Medicine (UofT)
  • Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Lead within the Department of Family and Community Medicine (Uoft)
  • Associate Program Director of the Public Health and Preventive Medicine Residency at Dalla Lana School of Public Health (UofT)
  • Clincial Consultant at Nicotine Dependence Clinic (CAMH)
  • President of Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario
  • Host of Podcast Race, Health & Happiness

Dr. Chika Oriuwa

  • Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa is a Nigerian Canadian physician, professional spoken word poet, public speaker, writer, and advocate for racialized and marginalized populations.
  • Dr. Oriuwa is a graduate of the University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine, where she was named the valedictorian of her graduating medical class.
  • The sole Canadian honouree, Oriuwa was selected by Mattel for her work as advocate against systemic racism in health care.
  • She is a recipient of numerous prestigious awards and honors, including being recognized as one of Best Health Magazine’s ‘2020 Women of the Year’.

Educational Resources

Racial Bias in Canadian Health Care

John Rivers’ healthcare experience is one of nightmares. Faiza Amin with his harrowing ordeal of misdiagnosis and lack of proper care and his belief that racial bias was a factor in his treatment.

The silent parts – Medical racism in Canada

Ubah Ahmed | TEDxHumberCollege

Ubah Ahmed is a student at McMaster University in her final year studying Medical Radiation Sciences. She addresses and educates Canadians on the racial bias that occurs within the Canadians health care system.

Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present

By: Harriet. A Washington

From the era of slavery to the present day, the first full history of black America’s shocking mistreatment as unwilling and unwitting experimental subjects at the hands of the medical establishment. Medical Apartheid is the first and only comprehensive history of medical experimentation on African Americans. Starting with the earliest encounters between black Americans and Western medical researchers and the racist pseudoscience that resulted, it details the ways both slaves and freedmen were used in hospitals for experiments conducted without their knowledge—a tradition that continues today within some black populations.

Available on: Amazon, Audiobook, Kindle

Mental Health Supports and Medical Resources

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The importance for every individual to have the resources and opportunities for health and wellbeing in order to be able to address systemic health challenges and barriers can never be overemphasized.  As such, we have carefully gathered the following  resources that will be helpful to you and your loved ones. Should you have other resources you would like to share with us for future broadcast, we would be happy to oblige.

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