The novel coronavirus outbreak - now named as CORVID-19 - has us all worried for our own health and the health and safety of our loved ones.
The most important thing to know is that Canada has a strong healthcare infrastructure and different levels of government are working together to protect the health of people here. You can read information on risks and prevention from the Public Health Agency of Canada, and read more about what Public Health Ontario is doing.
As people and organizations that work to welcome newcomers to Canada and help them to establish themselves in a new life we have a very important role to play. We can make sure people have the information they need to protect themselves and their loved ones, and provide any needed referrals.
Another equally important action we can take is to counter growing misinformation, prejudice and discrimination in our communities and on social media against people of East Asian origin.
Racism and prejudice triggered by the spread of viral infections or disease is not new. The targets of that kind of blame are usually (if not always) people who are racialized (non-white), people who are refugees, immigrants or migrants, and people who are poor.
We are seeing this once again in our workplaces, schools, communities, and even in immigrant and refugee-serving agencies - as people who are perceived to be Chinese are stereotyped and blamed for the spread of the virus, barred from daycare in some places, verbally abused or physically attacked.
As people and organizations on the frontlines of building welcoming communities and who do the work of welcoming refugees, immigrants and migrants, we can take a stand against this most recent expression of racism and prejudice.
When you see or hear prejudice, discrimination and racism related to the CORVID-19 outbreak (or any kind of prejudice), speak up.
What you can do:
- Post in public spaces preventative hygienic practices like hand washing recommended by Public Health.
- Hold brainstorming sessions with staff teams about how to respond to clients who voice concerns about their health.
- Review your anti-oppression policy and implementation plan. If you don’t have one we encourage you to review and adopt the OCASI Anti-Racism Anti-Oppression Policy. You can also consult the free online resources at Orgwise.Ca – Organizational Standards, such as this recorded webinar: “Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Articulating a Guiding Framework/Policy" to develop your own policy and procedures.
- Develop key responses to comments from colleagues, clients, vendors and others that are xenophobic and/or racist. (Research shows having a conversation is the most effective approach - https://www.vox.com/2016/4/7/11380974/reduce-prejudice-science-transgender).
- Share articles and other educational resources about the virus that are factual, make suggestions for prevention, and counteract the evolving anti-Asian narrative.
Use this public health incident to initiate conversations with staff in accordance with your organization’s Anti-racism and Anti-oppression policy and procedures. It would be a constructive way to address the discrimination and stigmatization, and can also serve to strengthen the practice and deepen the principles of Anti-racism and Anti-oppression in your workplace.
Let’s make our communities, neighbourhoods and organizations free of prejudice and racism and truly welcoming of everyone.
Joint Statement against discrimination and xenophobia written by community groups: http://www.ocasi.org/statement-against-discrimination-and-xenophobia