Canada’s unions mark Black History Month by calling for racial justice in pandemic response and recovery

February 1, 2021

Canada’s unions are marking Black History Month by calling for an end to systemic anti-Black racism. This includes urging the federal government to disaster-proof Canada’s social safety net to ensure a COVID-19 response and recovery that is rooted in racial justice.

“This is a time of reckoning,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). “The double crisis of a global pandemic and outcries over racial injustice and police violence have taken a significant toll on Black communities in particular. We must move forward together and ensure no one is left behind.”

Black communities have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic. COVID-19 mortality rates are higher in neighbourhoods with a larger proportion of population groups designated as visible minorities, including Black people.

Black workers are at work on the frontlines of this pandemic. Many of these workers are women who are largely underpaid, working in dangerous and precarious working conditions without access to paid sick leave. This makes them even more vulnerable to the health, social and economic fallout of the pandemic.

“The pandemic has only worsened long-standing, stark social and economic inequities,” said Larry Rousseau, Executive Vice-President at the CLC. “Racial equity and the needs of Black communities must be a priority in the government’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. The government must seize the opportunity to centre the voices and concerns of Black workers and communities.”

Canada’s unions are also calling on the government to make stronger data collection and accountability a priority. The availability and collection of race-based data in Canada is sorely lacking. Without such data, the full scope and manifestations of systemic anti-Black racism and racial inequity will remain unaddressed.

Furthermore, there is an urgent need for critical investments in public social infrastructure including child care, Employment Insurance and affordable housing, as well as community-based health and social services.

The CLC will be hosting a webinar on equitable recovery for Black workers and communities in Canada during Black History Month. Information will be available on the CLC’s Facebook page.

In the meantime, be a part of our work by signing our petition today for a just, equitable and disaster-proof pandemic response and recovery plan.

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