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Rights + Justice

How the Pandemic Is Affecting BIPOC Canadians, by Various Measures

StatsCan data shows differing stresses, fears and material job losses.

Christopher Cheung 22 Jul 2020 |

Christopher Cheung writes about the sociology of the city for The Tyee. Follow him on Twitter at @bychrischeung or email him.

Some governments such as British Columbia’s have only just committed to collecting race-based health data.

But even before the pandemic, experts were warning that the experiences of non-white Canadians — whether Indigenous people or people of colour — might lead to different health outcomes.

Over the past few months, Statistics Canada has been conducting surveys and collecting data that reveal how different ethnocultural groups have coped with various aspects of the pandemic.

Yes, there is a health emergency, but what about COVID-19’s mental toll on newcomers, many of whom work essential jobs? Or the financial toll on Indigenous people, who have higher levels of poverty compared to other Canadians?

Here are some of Statistics Canada’s findings, from worries about discrimination to the ability to meet basic needs.

Twice as many people of colour feel that harassment and attacks have increased during the pandemic compared to white Canadians.

In a May survey, more than 21 per cent of people of colour reported that they felt harassment or attacks based on one’s ethnic identity had increased in their neighbourhood. In comparison, only one in 10 white Canadians did.

Certain groups believed identity-based discrimination to be higher. Black and Korean Canadians believe discrimination had increased the most, according to 26 per cent of respondents in each group, followed by Chinese Canadians at 25 per cent and Filipino Canadians at 22 per cent.

There have been many cases of pandemic-related racism against Chinese Canadians, from racial slurs to physical attacks, due to perpetrators associating them with the virus’s discovery in China. In Alberta, Filipino Canadians have also been refused entry to stores due to an outbreak at a meat plant that employed many immigrants.

Immigrants fear racism, while Canadian-borns fear stigma for not wearing a mask.

One in five Canadians report fear of stigma related to COVID-19, according to a June survey.

Half of those Canadians, most of whom were born in the country, said it was because they don’t wear a mask at all times.

About one-fifth of those in fear said it’s because they have an underlying health condition, such as hay fever, that makes them cough or sneeze.

Another fifth, mostly immigrant citizens, said it’s because of racism.

One-tenth said it was because of where they work, such as a hospital or long-term care residence.

Overall, almost twice as many immigrants reported they were afraid of stigma, compared to Canadian-borns.

The pandemic makes recent immigrants more anxious than Canadian-borns.

While anxiety was high among all Canadians after COVID-19 hit, 91 per cent of recent immigrants reported experiencing moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety compared to 86 per cent of Canadian-borns. (Five years or less in Canada is considered to be recent.)

Fear of losing work is a key reason of newcomers’ anxiety, according to Statistics Canada.

This survey was conducted in June.

Workers of colour hit harder with job loss.

A spring survey of Canadians employed before the pandemic looks at how workers of different ethnocultural backgrounds are coping with job losses and financial obligations.

About 34 per cent of white Canadian workers said they experienced job losses or reduced hours. They fared better than almost all other ethnocultural groups, with one notable exception being Chinese Canadians, where only 31 per cent said they were affected.

The group that suffered the most job losses and reduced hours are West Asians, at 53 per cent of respondents, who had one of the highest poverty rates in Canada prior to the pandemic. Filipinos came in next, with 42 per cent of respondents impacted.

Excludes ethnocultural groups not specified by Statistics Canada. Data from Statistics Canada.

Workers of colour report hard time paying for basic needs.

In the same survey, only 23 per cent of white Canadian workers reported having a hard time with financial obligations or essential needs due to COVID-19.

All other ethnocultural groups reported higher levels of hardship. Higher poverty rates among most ethnocultural groups prior to the pandemic makes them vulnerable to the impact of work disruptions.

Excludes ethnocultural groups not specified by Statistics Canada. Data from Statistics Canada.

Indigenous people report harder time meeting needs.

In a survey done between May and June, over 36 per cent of Indigenous respondents reported that the pandemic has a moderate or strong impact on their ability to meet financial obligations or basic needs, such as housing or groceries.

Among non-Indigenous respondents, only 25 per cent reported similar hardship.

Statistics Canada notes that COVID-19 has exacerbated pre-existing vulnerabilities such as lower incomes and food insecurity.

Of Canadians who reported moderate or strong financial impacts as a result of COVID-19, more non-Indigenous participants applied for federal income support as opposed to Indigenous participants, 50 per cent compared to 44.

Mental health has worsened for Indigenous people.

Six in 10 Indigenous respondents reported that their mental health was somewhat worse or much worse as a result of the pandemic, according to a survey done between April and May.

When asked about their day-to-day routines, 46 per cent of Indigenous women said they were quite stressful or extremely stressful compared to 32 per cent of men. Research has found that this gender disparity is due to caregiving burdens, risks of gender-based violence and finances.

Non-Indigenous people reported better mental health than Indigenous people during the pandemic.  [Tyee]

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