Ottawa’s Board of Health is being urged to recognize racism as a public health issue in Ottawa.
Councillor Shawn Menard shared a copy of a motion on Twitter that will be presented during Monday’s Board of Health meeting. Menard tells CTV News Ottawa that the general motion is being worked on with Chair Keith Egli and Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches.
The motion states, “Racism, discrimination and stigma are associated with poorer physical, mental and emotional health and greater mortality, making anti-Black racism and racism against minorities an important public health issue.”
“Public health has a role in promoting the health of the entire population by working with others to ensure fair opportunities for health and well-being.”
The motion recommends the Board of Health recognize racism is a public health issue and direct the medical officer of health to establish training for board members, employees and volunteers to participate in anti-Black racism and other anti-racism training to contribute to improved health outcomes.
If approved the motion would also:
- Direct the medical officer of health to increase awareness of the impacts of racism and discrimination related to COVID and actions to counter racism in Ottawa.
- Dedicate resources to seek further community partnerships to implement recommendations to improve African, Caribbean and Black mental health
- Establish a process in collaboration with First Nations, Inuit and Metis partners, to ensure respectful planning, collection, analysis and sharing of health data to inform improvements to physical and mental health of Indigenous populations in Ottawa
- Direct the medical officer of health to ensure that Ottawa Public Health informs community consultations on addressing systemic racism in Ottawa, such as through the Community Safety and Well-Being Plan’s development and implementation.
Speaking to reporters on June 5, Dr. Etches said, “Anti-Black racism and racism against minorities makes our population less healthy.”
“Racism, discrimination and stigma are associated with poorer physical, mental and emotional health and greater mortality. My job is to not only control infectious diseases but also to promote the health of the population by working with others to ensure fair opportunities for health.”
Dr. Etches said Ottawa Public Health is working with health system partners to collect race and ethnicity data on COVID-19, “to better understand the barriers to health and health care in Ottawa, and health outcomes for people who are racialized.”
The medical officer of health added, “We need better data to understand how racism is affecting people’s health.”