Protecting Human Rights During the Pandemic

Protecting Human Rights During the Pandemic
(based on an article by Jean Samuel of OACAS)

Update - April 3rd, 2020

Waterloo Region is an increasingly diverse community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for sensitivity and an awareness of human rights in our decisions and actions is greater than ever.

Individuals and communities who are at risk for increased harassment, stereotyping, bullying and acts of violence due to perceived ideas and notions, fault or blame include Chinese Canadians, and particularly people of Asian descent. However, other marginalized peoples and communities, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis, those who are impoverished, those with varying disabilities, racialized communities, Jewish people and those who belong to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit and Queer communities may also experience heightened vulnerability and discrimination during this crisis.

At Family and Children’s Services of Waterloo Region, we believe it is essential in times of crisis and uncertainty to work even harder to be more culturally aware and sensitized and to act with cultural humility. We have individual and collective commitments to the values of equity, diversity, inclusion and Anti-Oppression.

Discrimination including harassment against any persons or communities related to COVID-19 is prohibited when it involves any of the twenty grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code, in the areas of services, housing, employment, vocational associations and contracts.

People—including those of Asian descent—who have not recently been in an area of ongoing spread of COVID-19, or who have not been in contact with a person who is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 are not at greater risk of acquiring and spreading COVID-19 than any other Canadian.

Although different populations may be genetically prone to certain diseases, viruses cannot target people from specific populations, ethnicities, or racial backgrounds. African Canadian, Indigenous and other racialized populations do not have increased or heightened immunity to COVID-19. On the contrary, research has shown that people sometimes falsely believe that racialized and Indigenous peoples have a higher tolerance to pain and illness, and as a result receive racial bias in the healthcare systems in Canada. This type of bias means they will need to be well supported to access required COVID-19 testing and medical attention.

The province of Ontario has one of the highest incidences of Hate Crimes in Canada. Discriminatory incidents that are motivated in any part by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexuality identity or expression, or any other similar factor is considered a Hate Crime under the Criminal Code of Canada, hate propaganda laws and the Ontario Human Rights Code.

At Family and Children’s Services, we continue to promote equity and to support staff and the people we work with in protecting their human rights during the pandemic.

If you would like more information or to discuss a concern regarding human rights or racism please contact Sonia Dennis, Director of Equity and Community based Child Welfare