Isaac Muttiah, a laboratory technical assistant at LifeLabs, handles a specimen to be tested for COVID-19 after scanning its barcode upon receipt at the company’s lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. LifeLabs is Canada’s largest private provider of diagnostic testing for health care. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Isaac Muttiah, a laboratory technical assistant at LifeLabs, handles a specimen to be tested for COVID-19 after scanning its barcode upon receipt at the company’s lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. LifeLabs is Canada’s largest private provider of diagnostic testing for health care. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. Black-based group starts COVID-19 fund, urges officials to collect race-based data

Health care data from the pandemic has largely not included race

As the COVID-19 death toll nears 8,000 across Canada, one group of activists wants to make sure B.C.’s Black communities are not forgotten.

Kevonnie Whyte, one of the creators of the Black in B.C. Community Support Fund for COVID-19, said the government needs to begin collecting race-based data for COVID-19 cases and deaths.

“Having race-based data is a key part in exposing the systemic injustices that still exist,” Whyte told Black Press Media by phone.

Some information on systemic racism is coming to light in Statistics Canada census date, although the group believes it’s not comprehensive enough.

“We can see just in the Vancouver context alone, that the median income of Black Canadians is $29,000 compared to $42,000 that is earned by white Canadians,” Whyte said. “That’s a difference of more than $10,000.”

The group’s work comes as Canadians begin to grapple with racism here at home, spurred on by protests that began south of the border but have since spread to cities big and small.

READ MORE: Amid anti-racism protests, Trudeau promises to push police body cameras with premiers

While race-based data on COVID-19 has not been collected, either in B.C. or at the federal level, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the option to collect race-based data was not included in the initial national case report forms for the novel coronavirus.

“We have used some proxies in terms of looking at neighbourhoods,” Henry said during a news conference earlier this week.

However, the COVID-19 survey “very specifically” asked about race and ethnicity, she added. More than 260,000 people across B.C. have filled out the survey. As of Thursday (June 11), 167 people have died of COVID-19 in B.C.

“It is important to us to understand the impact of this pandemic… [and how it] differentially affects people in racialized communities.”

Although that data is not available in B.C., Whyte’s lived experience has shown her it likely mirrors what has been seen in the U.S.

That led Whyte, and a group of 10 other Black and Indigenous organizers, to create the Black in B.C. Community Support Fund for COVID-19.

“Black people tend not to be permanent residents or people with citizenship. A lot of the Black community in B.C…. tend to be on work visas or are international students and would not qualify for EI or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit,” she said.

“Black folks tend to be harder hit by this pandemic… based on the evidence we see in the United States.”

According to race-based data collected by the U.S. Centre for Disease Control, Black people are overrepresented among hospitalized patients. In New York, one of the cities that categorizes COVID-19 deaths by race, the Black community sat at 92.3 deaths per 100,000 people. Deaths among white New Yorkers were at 45.2 per 100,000.

Dr. Ala Stanford administers a COVID-19 swab test on Wade Jeffries in the parking lot of Pinn Memorial Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Stanford and other doctors formed the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium to offer testing and help address heath disparities in the African American community. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Although the community support fund is meant to help B.C.’s Black community as a whole, it is focused on those ineligible for federal or provincial aid programs. As of Thursday (June 11), the GoFundMe page had raised more than $152,000 from 2,700 donors. The money is being given out in $150 chunks.

Whyte said with the money they have raised they are now trying to raise awareness for Black people in need.

“We are encouraging Black folks to apply,” Whyte said.

As they work on making the community support fund a more formal organization, Whyte said the group will also continue to push for properly collected race-based data.

“The ‘how’ is just as important as the aim of it being collected,” she said.

“We are calling for it to be collected specifically in cooperation with the racialized communities.”

READ MORE: Freeland says police must acknowledge racism, advocates call for action

Whyte said gathering race-based data on COVID-19, or in health care in general, would take a paradigm shift where Canadians acknowledge the role of systemic racism.

“I believe that Canadians have this notion that racism isn’t a problem here,” she said.

“That has caused us to stall, and be stagnant, and there’s no impetus and no motivation to want to expose it and work to correct it.”

The data needs to be “co-owned, analyzed and interpreted with leadership from racialized communities.”

Provincial and federal governments, she said, need to create and abide by ethical rules for both the collection and use of the data, taking into account privacy concerns.

“History has shown that when data is collected on marginalized communities, often times it can we used to weaponize against them,” Whyte said, instead of being used to inform evidence-based health care, social programs and interventions in tandem with racialized communities.

To learn more about the Black in B.C. Community Support Fund for COVID-19, visit: https://ca.gofundme.com/f/covid19-black-community-support-vancouver.

READ MORE: Canadian non-profit creates fund to streamline donations to Black-based charities


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusracism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A car rally is set to meet at Abbotsford’s Rotary Stadium on Saturday to protest the issues related to farmers in India. (Instagram photo)
Pair of farmers’ protests occurring in Abbotsford this weekend

Car and truck rally set for Saturday, tractor rally event scheduled for Sunday

Abbotsford’s Tradex has been transformed into a volleyball and basketball facility with Open Court. (Instagram photo)
Abbotsford’s Tradex transforms into sports facility

Open Court program hosting volleyball and basketball teams for practices and possibly games

Abbotsford’s Skully White (left), who donated his kidney in December, has started a campaign to find other recipients and donors. The first candidate is retired police officer Gavin Quon. White owns and operates a hotdog stand, Lullys Food Experience, out of the Abbotsford Canadian Tire parking lot. (Facebook photo)
Abbotsford hotdog-stand owner starts campaign to find kidney donors and recipients

Skully White donated his kidney to customer Tim Hiscock in December

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
18 school exposures in Abbotsford since Jan. 6

21 exposures since the the holiday break

Dallas Lajimodiere is wanted by the Abbotsford Police Department.
Man wanted by Abbotsford Police domestic violence unit

Dallas Lajimodiere has three arrest warrants, including for assault with a weapon

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Most Read