Racism declared a public health issue in Chatham-Kent 

Chatham-Kent Public Health

Chatham-Kent’s board of health has voted to declare racism a public health issue.

The board says forms of oppression against Black, Indigenous and other minority groups disproportionately harm people’s health.

Dorothy Wright-Wallace, president of the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society, said the plan is long overdue.

“I’m so glad that they’ve stepped up. Let’s start. Let’s go. Let’s just not let this pass us by,” said Wright-Wallace.

“Maybe I might not get to the finish line with them because of my age, but let’s make a start. Let my generation know that we haven’t failed the next generation.”

The board said racialized neighbourhoods in Ontario, especially in large urban areas, have higher rates of COVID-19 infections, hospital and ICU admissions and higher death rates.

Wright-Wallace said discrimination happens at a medical level with the idea that Black people have a higher pain tolerance than others. She said this contributes to fears or distrust many may have when visiting a doctor.

“This all works to a point where we’re afraid and so things don’t get done,” she said.

“I’ve seen so many things in the 77 years that I’ve been in this neighbourhood and it’s nice to see that somebody is acknowledging the situation that we have to deal with in this community.”

The health board is promising to develop a plan to make its policies and programs more inclusive.

Chatham-Kent’s board follows others in the province making the move toward similar policies, including Toronto and Ottawa.