AFHTO Statement on Racism and Hate

June 11, 2021
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We want to start by expressing our grief and sorrow about the tragic and horrifying events of the last few weeks, recognizing that racism and hate has been part of Canada since its inception.

We mourn the discovery of the mass grave at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The profound loss of 215 young lives, some as young as three years old, will have long lasting impact on the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc community and all other First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people. It will remain a reminder to all Canadians of our nation’s shameful history of residential schools and colonialism.

To all who may have been shocked by this discovery, it’s important to remember Indigenous communities have long said there are thousands who never made it home. We must listen to marginalised communities when they speak of their pain rather than instinctively shy away because it’s hard to hear or goes against what we’d like to believe about our country.

We support the calls to the Government of Canada to implement the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and to prioritize the search of all residential schools across the country so that all Indigenous children can be brought home. They Came for the Children is a powerful but painful story of Canadian colonialism, but it is important for all of us to read to better understand the legacy of residential schools and to participate in the work needed for reconciliation.

We are grateful for the wisdom and support of our primary care partner, the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council (IPHCC), who we work with to amplify the need to confront our own biases with respect to anti-Indigenous discrimination.

AFHTO looks forward to continuing to learn about the Indigenous Cultural Safety Program through the IPHCC, which improves Indigenous healthcare experiences and outcomes by increasing respect and understanding of the unique history and current realities of Indigenous populations. We encourage others to do so as well.

The racism that is so prevalent in this country continued earlier this week with the deliberate, hate-filled murder of a Muslim family in London, Ontario. We grieve and are saddened by the tragic loss of four lives of people targeted because of their faith. We will forever hold in our hearts the young 9-year-old boy who has lost his family.  

We stand in solidarity with our Muslim communities. We will work to ensure that our governments and political leaders are held accountable for their words and actions to counter hate and racism. We urge our primary care colleagues to uphold human rights, to acknowledge our collective responsibility as individuals to stand in solidarity with members of our Muslim communities, and to combat all forms of discrimination.

On May 26, 2021, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Professor of Global Health at the University of Toronto, wrote an op ed piece entitled Why hatred should be considered a contagious disease. He notes that ‘‘Hatred can be conceptualized as an infectious disease, a determinant of health and a public health issue spreading violence, fear and ignorance” and “Hatred is a public health issue because it often engenders widespread physical, psychological or political violence.” In the conclusion, he notes that the global community, including the medical community, needs to recognize that hatred is a public health issue, and it is up to all of us to “address the root causes through promotion, education and awareness.”

Like many of you, AFHTO is on its own Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity (EDI) journey to address the inequities and built-in racism that exists in our health and social systems. Together with our allies, we will continue to listen, learn, grow, and do better. We look forward to this journey with our partners, our members, and our communities.