VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — As experts continue to raise concerns about health disparities the pandemic has only exacerbated, a report from Statistics Canada shows visible minorities have had a higher COVID-19 mortality rate.
According to the StatsCan report, areas with the highest proportion of visible minorities had a COVID-19 mortality rate nearly twice as high as areas with the lowest amount of visible minorities.
In British Columbia, the mortality rate was more than 10 times higher, and in Montreal and Toronto, rates were higher in areas with greater concentrations of Black Canadians.
Public Health Educator and Researcher Dr. Farah Shroff says recent reports have shown that throughout the pandemic Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour communities are facing “unconscious bias, as well as very conscious forms of racism. And this data really proves that reality.”
Still, she adds it’s not enough to just collect data, “at the worst, it justifies inaction.”
“Many apartheid-like states have collected those kinds of data, and in fact, when they find out that communities of colour are at greater risk, it’s almost an excuse to do nothing about that particular disease entity. I do not call for race-based or ethnocultural based data ever unless there’s a further commitment to take action that is community-based,” she says.
Shroff explains creating multilingual messaging for education, awareness about COVID-19 is a step that can be taken to act on the data from StatsCan.
Dr. Shroff uses an example of how she enjoyed growing up in a high-density, multi-generational South Asian household.
“It would be important to address the positive aspects of having that three-generational high-density housing, as well as the kinds of challenges it presents and trying to keep grandma and grandpa safe – because they’re probably going to be in a house with kids going to school. So it has to be really targeted at each community.”
South Asians have a higher risk of developing diabetes, which is also a risk factor for COVID-19.
The StatsCan report also shows that visible minorities continue to face higher levels of unemployment, financial difficulties, and representation in low-wage jobs. Dr. Shroff says improving everyone’s social mobility by addressing racism and income distribution will also improve their health outcomes.
“That’s public health 101. More equal societies create healthier societies.”