Senators demand race-based data on who requests, receives MAID in Canada

Would be good to have:

Senators want the federal government to collect race-based data on who requests and receives medical assistance in dying in Canada.

They approved Thursday an amendment to Bill C-7 requiring the government to collect such data.

The bill would expand access to assisted dying to intolerably suffering individuals who are not near the natural end of their lives.

The amendment reflects concern that Black, racialized and Indigenous people with disabilities, already marginalized and facing systemic discrimination in the health system, could be induced to end their lives prematurely due to poverty and lack of support services.

Sen. Mobina Jaffer, a member of the Independent Senators Group who proposed the amendment, noted that no race-based analysis was done when the bill was being drafted.

“One in four people have been left out of the data collection,” she told the Senate.

Her amendment was widely supported and passed on a voice vote with no objections, other than the government’s representative in the Senate, Sen. Marc Gold, saying that he wanted to abstain.

Sen. Kim Pate, another member of the Independent Senators Group, said the amendment won’t ensure that no one opts for an assisted death as a result of unequal access to health care, housing and social and income supports.

But she said it will ensure that “the government must at least provide some answers about who makes use of Bill C-7 and under what circumstances.”

Pate said the government should also be required to provide more information on who accesses assisted dying, including income, whether they are institutionalized and whether they had access to alternative means of relieving their suffering and to social and financial supports.

Such information could have been provided had a legally mandated parliamentary review of the five-year-old assisted dying law begun in June as it was supposed to. Numerous senators expressed frustration that they’re being asked to revamp the law before the promised review has even begun.

Justice Minister David Lametti has blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for disrupting plans for the review but, while he’s said he hopes it can begin soon, he’s been unable to promise a specific start time.

Senators took matters into their own hands Thursday, approving another amendment requiring that a joint parliamentary committee be struck within 30 days of the bill receiving royal assent to conduct a comprehensive review of Canada’s assisted dying regime. The committee would report back by Sept. 15 or, if Parliament is prorogued or dissolved for an election before then, within 180 days of the committee being re-established.

“Passing C-7 with a hope and a wish or even a promise that the review will happen seems to me to be a poor bet,” said Sen. Scott Tannas, leader of the Canadian Senators Group who proposed the amendment.

“We need to be clear, in writing, in the bill.”

Senators rejected Thursday, by a vote of 63-12, with three abstentions, another amendment that would have made it a criminal offence to compel anyone to provide or “facilitate” an assisted death.

Conservative Senate leader Don Plett proposed the amendment in a bid to ensure that medical practitioners who have moral objections to assisted dying are not required to refer a patient who requests an assisted death to another practitioner who will help them — as is required in some provinces.

But Gold and other senators argued that such an amendment would likely be an unconstitutional use of the federal criminal law power to invade provincial jurisdiction over the regulation of health services.

Thursday’s debate wrapped up the time allotted for amendments to be proposed. However, debate on one amendment, proposed by Sen. Marilou McPhedran of the Independent Senators Groups, was cut short after Gold asked the Speaker to rule it out of order.

Debate and vote on that amendment could still occur next week if it is ruled in order.

McPhedran proposed to delete all provisions in the bill that would allow assisted dying for people who are not nearing the natural end of life. She argued that such provisions single out people with disabilities and send the message that having a disability is “a fate worse than death.”

However, Gold argued that McPhedran’s amendment is directly contrary to the objective of Bill C-7, which is intended to bring the law into compliance with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling.

That ruling struck down a provision in the law that allows assisted dying only for individuals whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable.

After the ruling on McPhedran’s amendment, the Senate will begin final debate Tuesday on the bill, as amended by senators, with a final vote to take place by the end of the day Wednesday.

The schedule is intended to give the government time to meet the thrice-extended court-imposed deadline of Feb. 26.

Earlier this week, senators approved several substantial amendments to the bill, including one that would allow people who fear losing mental capacity to make advance requests for assisted death and another that would impose an 18-month time limit on the bill’s proposed ban on assisted dying for people suffering solely from mental illnesses.

If senators approve an amended bill next week, it will have to go back to the House of Commons to decide whether to accept or reject the changes and then back to the Senate to decide whether to accept the Commons’ verdict.

Source: Senators demand race-based data on who requests, receives MAID in Canada

Why race-based data collection by police could play a role in reform debate

More debates over data but more focus on what data should be collected, the need for community consultation, and how it can and should be used:

As the Black Lives Matter movement spreads across Canada, the conversation around police accountability and reform has grown, including a rising interest in collecting more race-based data on people who interact with officers.

Adora Nwofor has been on the front lines with Black Lives Matter in Calgary. The activist and comedian says that if we do start collecting more race-based data, it’s important to make sure it helps the people it is supposed to help.

“If you want to collect race-based data, I very, very highly suggest that it is the populations that it affects that are getting that information first and then we are allowed to make suggestions as to what should be happening,” she said.

Earlier this year, Ontario became the first province to mandate all its police officers to identify and document the race of an individual on whom they have used force. This data collection initiative comes against the backdrop of large demonstrations against police violence in Canada, and the renewed focus on the policing of Black and Indigenous communities.

“By collecting disaggregated race data, you can provide a baseline for conversation. You can provide a baseline for creating a dialogue between police and the citizenry,” said Lorne Foster, a professor of public policy and human rights at York University in Toronto.

But not everyone thinks the goal of race data collection makes sense.

“I know for a fact that we’re victims, many people can say it, too.” said Samuel, a Black man from Montréal-Nord whose last name CBC has agreed not to publish because he fears harassment. His recent arrest during a traffic stop went viral after being videotaped.

“[The police] are going to try to show us what they want to show us, and not what we’re supposed to see.”

No charges were laid after Samuel’s traffic stop.

Foster was hired in 2013 by the City of Ottawa to design and study a race-based data collection project for police traffic stops. The project involved officers recording the race of the people they pulled over.

The pilot project was borne out of a human rights case involving a Black man who was stopped by police and alleged that he experienced racial profiling.

The data collected by the Ottawa police starting seven years ago showed that drivers who appeared to be Black or Middle Eastern were stopped at disproportionately higher rates.

The report found that in 2017-2018, “Middle Eastern drivers were stopped 3.18 times more than what you would expect based on their segment of the driving population while Black drivers were stopped 2.3 times more than what you would expect based on their population.”

‘This could be duplicated’

After the results were released, the police service created a multi-year action plan on diversity and inclusion in relation to the findings.

The Ottawa pilot is one of the few such initiatives in the country.

“We really do believe this could be duplicated in other municipalities across Canada,” Foster said.

In Ontario, since Jan. 1, 2020, officers have had to formally report the race of an individual in cases where they draw or fire a handgun, use a weapon other than a firearm on someone or are involved in a physical altercation with an individual that causes serious injuries requiring medical attention.

Officers must choose from a list of seven ethnic categories featured on what’s called a use of force report — a document that is filled out by police after such encounters.

The reports are sent to the Ministry of the Solicitor General, which oversees policing in the province, for analysis.

It’s part of Ontario’s Anti-Racism Act, which mandates race data collection “to identify and monitor systemic racism and racial disparities for the purpose of eliminating systemic racism and advancing racial equity.”

As of Jan. 1 of this year, Ontario police officers must choose from a list of seven ethnic categories when filling out a use of force report. (Ministry of the Solicitor General)

But while race-based data has been shown to help bring about reform, advocates are wary of how it will be used and caution against it as a one-stop solution to racial profiling.

“I think that before we continue to push for getting race-based data, we need to make some changes based on the information we already have,” said Nwofor.

“Quite frankly, I don’t need more race-based information next. I need change next. I need application of ideas from people who know that the police are systematically racist.”

It’s a perspective echoed by Myra Tait, an Indigenous lawyer and an instructor on Indigenous justice issues at the University of Winnipeg. Tait has studied how data and research are used in the justice system. While she sees benefits of race data collection and analysis, she said the process must happen in consultation with those the statistics affect.

“We have a very long history in this country of being studied and researched and having data collected on us, only to twist that around to blame the victim in a sense,” she said. “If you want to collect that data, then you do it with us. And you do it for us.”

Apart from Ontario, there are no provincewide mandates to collect race-based policing data. Some police services have taken on pilot projects to collect the data themselves in the past. Ottawa police are collecting the data for traffic stops, while Toronto and Halifax have collected data on street checks or police carding.

​​​​​​CBC News contacted Ontario’s 46 municipal police forces and the Ontario Provincial Police about how they are collecting and using race-based data.

Examining the data

While all of them have to send their reports to the province for analysis, some of them are also examining the data themselves. The extent of community engagement in the process is not clear in every case.

The Toronto Police Service, however, has put in place a race-based data collection strategy in order to prioritize community input, which has included four town halls, 51 focus groups and engagement with more than 800 residents.

“We asked them questions about our strategy: what they wanted to see from it, what did they think needed to be included in the training,” said Suelyn Knight, unit commander of the equity, inclusion and human rights section of the Toronto Police Service.

“It’s important for people to know that that’s also what’s fuelling our strategy, the voices from  [the] community. And we’ll continue to do that. That was not a one-off.”

The Toronto race data collection initiative comes after controversies over racial profiling by the force, especially with regards to street checks, or police carding, of individuals.

In Nova Scotia, street checks were also controversial, and in fact were outlawed after a race-based data pilot project showed Black people were disproportionately targeted by Halifax police.

The analysis of data in that province is another example of race-based statistics leading to change, but it happened only after the public pressured the release of the data in 2017. Halifax police collected the data for years without making it public, and community consultation was missing from the equation.

Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard of Nova Scotia followed the debate over street checks in Halifax closely. While she sees the benefit from making the data public, she said a cautious approach is needed.

“It’s not just about collecting race-based data in policing, it’s really about what happens with that data,” Bernard said.

“Who owns the data? How is the community informed about this information? How is the information used to inform policies, but also to inform practices?”

The use of force reports currently ask the officer to record the race of people according to the officer’s perception. This raises questions about whether the information will be recorded correctly.

“How does an officer decide or distinguish what race the person is?” said Rob Davis, chief of police in Brantford, in southwestern Ontario.

“My fear is there is room for error or generalizing and may lead to false data and a ripple effect of misrepresentations.”

But it is the perception of the officer that’s important, said Foster, who worked on the Ottawa study.

“It’s not self-identified race that matters. It’s the other identified race that matters,” he said. “In other words, it’s the police that are doing the profiling. So it’s the police who interpret an individual’s race and act on that interpretation.”

Analysis coming next year

The Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General says that currently, the Anti-Racism Act does not give them “the authority to collect self-identified race for use of force reports.” Police officers are “asked to give their best assessment of an individual’s race, honestly and in good faith. To identify and monitor the prevalence of racial bias or discrimination, it is important to capture perception.”

Ontario will analyze the race-based data every year, with the first release coming in 2021.

CBC News asked all other provinces and territories if they are planning to mandate race-based data collection for their police services. None had a plan like Ontario’s.

Alberta, for instance, said that data collection was up to local police services, but the province was planning to modernize its policing laws to make sure police are “accountable to the communities they protect.”

Saskatchewan does not have a provincial requirement for its police services either, but its police oversight body recently started collecting information on race on its complaint forms.

Others said it was up to the province or territory’s own police services or municipalities to collect the data if they wanted to.

Source: Why race-based data collection by police could play a role in reform debate

Trudeau, Ontario health minister say they’re looking at collecting race-based pandemic data

Long overdue. But this needs to be national in scope, with consistent definitions and practices across all provinces and publicly available through CIHI (Quebec will predictably not play along, unfortunately):

The federal and Ontario governments say they’re now working toward collecting race-based health data as part of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Human rights commissions from across Canada have added their voices to those of municipalities, health advocates and elected officials calling for the collection of raced-based COVID-19 data to ensure that vulnerable groups are protected.

“Colour-blind approaches to health only serve to worsen health outcomes for black, Indigenous and racialized people because we can’t address what we can’t see,” said B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender.

Federal, provincial and territorial human rights commissions say that collecting pandemic data without breakdowns by race leaves public health officials with no window into COVID-19’s impact on vulnerable populations.Earlier today, both the federal and Ontario governments said that while they typically do not collect race-based health data, they are working on plans to start doing so now.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government has invested millions of dollars towards improving the collection of race-based data. 2:17

“We recognize that there have long been challenges in Canada about collecting disaggregated data … which is why a number of years ago, we invested millions of dollars towards Statistics Canada to start improving our ability to collect race-based data,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday in Ottawa.

“We’ve flowed greater funding to community organizations and grassroots organizations that are helping out people who we already know to be more vulnerable and marginalized … But yes, we need to do a much better job around disaggregated data and that’s something that we’re going to do.”

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said that local health agencies in the province can collect race-based data legally now, should they choose to do so, providing they respect privacy and confidentiality.

‘We haven’t traditionally collected race-based data in health but there are a number of organizations that have come to us to ask us to do that,” Elliott said.’We are working with the anti-racism directorate to set up a broader framework in order to collect that in a meaningful way. It is something that we are working on as an active project.”

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says that while her province has not traditionally collected race-based health data, it is working on a plan to start. 0:41

Canada does not collect race-based pandemic data. Both the United States and the United Kingdom have started doing so.

Earlier this week, Toronto City Council called on provincial health authorities to begin collecting province-wide data on COVID-19 cases, broken down by race, occupation and other “socioeconomic factors.”

“The old adage of ‘what gets measured gets done’ is especially relevant right now. In order to tackle COVID-19, we must fully understand it and who is most at risk,” Toronto City Coun. Joe Cressy said in a media statement.

“Toronto’s data has shown that while we’re all susceptible to the virus, parts of the city are more impacted than others. In order to protect our residents and beat COVID-19, we need the Ontario Government to collect and share disaggregated data.”

Basic data not collected: Trudeau

One of Canada’s leading experts on the social causes of disease told CBC Radio’s The House last week that Canada’s failure to collect race-based data on COVID-19 infections amounts to discrimination by “neglect.”

“Discrimination is not necessarily about what you do. It’s often about what you don’t do,” said Dr. Kwame McKenzie, a psychiatry professor at the University of Toronto and CEO of the Wellesley Institute, a think tank that studies urban health issues.

“It’s not about people being actively discriminatory or racist. It’s sometimes about just neglect,” he said. “And the fact that we haven’t collected this data seems neglectful, because everybody really knew we should be collecting these data but it was never at the top of anybody’s list of things to do.”

Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter, who represents the provincial riding of Scarborough-Guildwood, said the lack of information about who is getting the virus now, and who is most in danger of getting sick, puts people in her community at greater risk.

“One of the weaknesses in the Ontario Public Health Response is the lack of the collection of disaggregated data based on race and other demographic profiles that could help track the progress of this virus by individuals, where they work, where they live and income levels,” she told The House last week.

“All of those factors … could help to save lives.”NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also has called for the collection of race-based data to improve health outcomes for vulnerable groups.

“We need to make sure we have the data, that there is race-based data that allows us to make the evidence-based decision making to remedy these injustices,” Singh told the House of Commons earlier this week.

On Friday, Trudeau admitted that during the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, public health officials were not always collecting basic demographic information, such as age and gender.

“We know we need to do much better to properly understand where things are hitting hardest in this COVID-19 crisis,” he said.

Source: Trudeau, Ontario health minister say they’re looking at collecting race-based pandemic data

Toronto public health to start collecting COVID-19 data on race in a bid to track health inequities

Other cities and provinces to take note:

Toronto’s public health unit will expand its data collecting capabilities so that it can better assess the pandemic’s impact by race and income, the Star has learned.

The aim is to assess whether there are disparities in how COVID-19 is impacting some communities — an initiative the city is shouldering because “provincial officials suggest this is not a priority concern for them,” according to a letter from Toronto Board of Health chair Joe Cressy to board members, expected to be made public Wednesday.

“We know that the biggest indicator of one’s health status is their postal code — not because of where we live, but because of what it can say about who we are,” the letter says.

“This makes it clear just how important it is that we have access to comprehensive data.”

Ontario has drawn criticism from health advocacy groups for not collecting statistics on race and ethnicity after the province’s chief medical officer, David Williams, said earlier this month this kind of data collection isn’t currently necessary.

A 2016 government report on health inequities — authored by Williams — highlights the role factors like race and income play in determining health, and notes the importance of “data to understand health inequities and inform community development efforts.”

“To create healthy communities, it’s time for the public health sector in Ontario to champion health equity: to bring a wide range of partners together to develop policies and programs that reduce or eliminate social, economic and environmental barriers to good health,” the 2016 report said.

Early evidence from the United States shows Black and Hispanic communities have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Preliminary data released by New York City last weekshows the virus is killing Blacks and Latinos at twice the rate of white people.

In a statement to the Star, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Health said existing legislation does not “require or authorize health information custodians to collect race-based data.”

“Health was excluded from the Anti-Racism Act due to Personal Health Information Protection Act considerations,” the statement said.

“The ministry wants to understand issues of inequity, in terms of how the coronavirus pandemic and pandemic response may affect subgroups of the population differentially and is researching using data from other sources to better understand equity issues.”

In an interview with the Star, Cressy called the province’s response to the issue “flabbergasting.”

“This shouldn’t be groundbreaking. Nor should it even be necessary,” he said of the measures now being taken by the City of Toronto.

“It’s absolutely essential, as it has always been, that we have comprehensive data to fully understand and in turn respond to COVID-19. In the absence of appropriate disaggregate race-based data, we cannot properly respond.”

As a result, Cressy said, Toronto Public Health is now exploring ways to expand data fields in its current system — known as the Coronavirus Rapid Entry System — to include race and sociodemographic data.

Cressy said an early analysis cross-referencing the geographic location of early positive COVID-19 diagnoses with census data didn’t find concerning trends — but noted that initial cases often involved individuals returning from international travel who tend to have higher incomes.

“There are two stories to this pandemic. The first was early travel-related cases. And the second is how COVID-19 preys on the most vulnerable,” he said.

Steini Brown, the dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said low-income Ontarians are “now at a higher risk of infection and cases.”

“If you look into the evidence from the U.S., there are a variety of factors about who people are that are very strongly associated with their likelihood of getting the infection,” he said.

Research has already shown that the workers deemed essential to maintaining the country’s vital supply chain during the pandemic are significantly more likely to be low-wage and racialized compared to the rest of the labour market.

Ontario may collect race-based data on kids in care

Always controversial to collect race-based data but without data, hard to know what is happening and what measures could be taken to address problem areas:

The probe revealed for the first time that 41 per cent of children and youth in the care of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto are black, though only 8.2 per cent of the city’s under-18 population is black.

MacCharles, who became Minister of Children and Youth Services last summer, is so concerned by those numbers she’s considering a province-wide count of black kids in care to determine the extent of the challenge. Few of Ontario’s 46 children’s aid societies track such data, and those that do keep the statistics secret.

Black community leaders have complained for years that their children are taken into care at rates far higher than white children. They say it is hard to get government to pay attention without hard statistics.

“I think there’s a lot more receptivity to looking at (race-based data) in this sector and beyond,” MacCharles said of the government’s current attitude. “We’re also looking at this notion of disaggregated data, which includes black children and youth in care, in schools, and in our youth justice system,” she added.

Without committing to making such data public, MacCharles told the Star: “My bottom line is, any data that helps improve the security and safety of children, I’m willing to have a hard look at.”

Ontario may collect race-based data on kids in care | Toronto Star.