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 Voices | | Coronavirus →

Do black lives still matter?

Samuel Sey
Courtesy of Samuel Sey

During the George Floyd protests last year, Canadian politicians said they believe black lives matter. 

Since then, however, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party-led government have introduced vaccine passports for federal workers that marginalize black lives.

And now Ontario’s Premier, Doug Ford, is considering vaccine passports for Ontario. If Ford mandates vaccine passports, he would also be marginalizing and segregating black people. 

Do black lives still matter? Trudeau has already affirmed that everything he said about systemic racism last year was a lie.

Ford, however, has an opportunity to answer that question differently. Is everything he said about systemic racism last year a lie? Does he really oppose policies that create racial disparities? Is he really an ally to marginalized groups in Ontario? Do black lives still matter to Ford?

survey from earlier this summer reveals that black Canadians are the most unwilling group in Canada to get the vaccine. Particularly, black Ontarians who make up nearly 60% of the black Canadians sampled in the survey.

The report from the survey says: “At the time of this survey, a 20-point gap existed among those who received at least one vaccine between White Canadians (65%) and Black Canadians (45%).”

Some of the unvaccinated black Canadians include me, many of my relatives, and many of my friends. We are not “anti-vaxxers,” we’re just informed and responsible Ontarians practicing our freedom of conscience. Many of us are immigrants who moved to this great nation because Canada promised to protect our fundamental freedoms. 

Today, however, we’re being coerced and pressured into acting against our conscience. Many of us, including me — have decided we will not get the vaccine, at all costs. So many black people are prepared to be segregated and marginalized — again.

The government of Ontario’s official website says:

“Systemic racism consists of organizational culture, policies, directives, practices or procedures that exclude, displace or marginalize some racialized groups or create unfair barriers for them to access valuable benefits and opportunities. This is often the result of institutional biases in organizational culture, policies, directives, practices, and procedures that may appear neutral but have the effect of privileging some groups and disadvantaging others.”

If the Ontario government mandates vaccine passports, they would not just be betraying our fundamental freedoms — they would be betraying their own words about systemic racism.

Vaccine passports especially exclude, marginalize and create unfair barriers for black Canadians. But this isn’t limited to black Canadians.

Though vaccine passports would marginalize all kinds of Ontarians, Hispanic and indigenous Canadians in Ontario would also be especially harmed by Ford mandating vaccine passports. Data from Statistics Canada reveals that black Canadians, Hispanic Canadians and Métis Canadians are the least willing to get the vaccine.

Again, the government of Ontario’s official website defines anti-indigenous racism as:

“Ideas and practices that establish, maintain and perpetuate power imbalances, systemic barriers, and inequitable outcomes that stem from the legacy of colonial policies and practices in Canada.”

Considering the inevitably “inequitable outcomes” from vaccine passports on Ontario’s Métis population, why would the Ontario government want to participate in, by their own definition, anti-indigenous racism?

Why would Doug Ford want to repeat history? After the discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools this year, have we not learned any lessons?

Shortsighted policies have long term consequences. In the past, politicians mandated residential schools because they believed it was in the best interest of all indigenous people and all Canadians.

Mandating vaccine passports for similar reasons would be yet another example of coercion that disproportionately harms some indigenous Canadians.

If Doug Ford mandates vaccine passports, he’s placing his political interests above the rights of many Ontarians, especially Hispanic, indigenous, and black Ontarians.

One of my relatives voted for Doug Ford. She’s lost half of her income as a direct result of Ford’s COVID-19 policies. She immigrated from Ghana to Canada almost 30 years ago. She’s worked very hard to move herself from a shelter for abused women and government housing. She’s now a proud homeowner.

However, like many black Canadians—she isn’t getting the vaccine. She’s adamant about that. Her doctor advised her not to get the vaccine. Why should she violate her conscience and her doctor’s advice?

She knows Doug Ford is considering mandating vaccine passports. She knows she would lose her job over that. She knows that would force her to lose the rest of her income. She knows the person she voted for could destroy everything she’s worked so hard for. She knows she could be marginalized by the person she voted for.

Her life matters to me. Does she matter to Doug Ford? Do black lives still matter?


Originally published at Slow to Write

Samuel Sey is a Ghanaian-Canadian who lives in Brampton, a city just outside of Toronto. He is committed to addressing racial, cultural, and political issues with biblical theology, and always attempts to be quick to listen and slow to speak.

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