Why doctors want Canada to collect better data on Black maternal health

Need this for many groups:

A growing body of data about the heightened risks faced by Black women in the U.K. and U.S. during pregnancy has highlighted the failings of Canada’s colour-blind approach to health care, according to Black health professionals and patients.

Black women in the U.K. and U.S. are four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than white women, according to official data. A recent U.K. study published in The Lancet found that Black women’s risk of miscarriage is 40 per cent higher than white women’s. In Canada, that level of demographic tracking isn’t available.

“For our country, we don’t have that data. So it’s difficult to know exactly what we’re dealing with,” said Dr. Modupe Tunde-Byass, a Toronto obstetrician-gynecologist, and president of Black Physicians of Canada. “We can only extrapolate from other countries.”

Source: Why doctors want Canada to collect better data on Black maternal health

New data provides a rare glimpse at ‘substantial’ Black overrepresentation in Ontario’s jails

Of interest:

Nearly one out of every 15 young Black men in Ontario experienced jail time, compared to one out of about every 70 young white men, and incarcerated Black people were more likely to live in low-income neighbourhoods, a new study of hard to come by race-based inmate data shows.

Using a snapshot of every Ontario inmate released in 2010, self-reported race data, home address data and 2006 census demographics, researchers from the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, McMaster University, St. Michael’s Hospital and ICES, a non-profit clinical research institute, have provided a rare glimpse at “substantial” Black overrepresentation in jails.

“The key thing here is really just the extent to which young Black men experience incarceration in Ontario,” said lead author Akwasi Owusu-Bempah. “It’s hugely troubling, especially in light of what we know about the consequences of criminalization, of incarceration for their futures and the futures of their families and their communities. We know what it does. Incarceration derails lives.”

The jail data, provided by the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General, held details of 45,956 men and 6,357 women who were released from provincial correctional facilities, which house accused awaiting bail or trial, and offenders sentenced to less than two years.

Overall, 12.8 per cent of men identified as Black and had an incarceration rate of 4,109 per 100,000; 58.3 per cent identified as white, for an incarceration rate of 771 per 100,000, and 28.9 per cent as “other,” for a rate of 1,507 per 100,000.

“Other” includes Indigenous, another group vastly overrepresented in jails and federal prisons but not the focus of this study.

For women, the rates were much smaller for all groups but, overall, Black women were incarcerated at a rate of 259 per 100,000, white women had a rate of 96 per 100,000 and the rate for “other” was 248 per 100,000.

Young men between the ages of 18 and 34 had the highest rates of incarceration in all groups, but young Black men had rates ranging around 7,000 per 100,000, compared to about 1,400 per 100,000 for younger white men.

Neighbourhood demographic data gleaned from the forward sortation area of postal codes showed Black men and women were more likely to come from low-income areas of the province. Black men spent more days incarcerated than white men and had higher rates of being transferred to a federal prison.

“This study demonstrates that incarceration is heavily concentrated among young Black men who come from economically marginalized neighbourhoods,” concluded Owusu-Bempah, an assistant sociology professor at U of T, and co-authors Maria Jung, an assistant criminology professor at Ryerson, Firdaous Sbai, a doctoral sociology student at U of T, Andrew S. Wilton, an ICES researcher, and Fiona Kouyoumdjian, an assistant professor in McMaster’s department of family medicine.

At the root of the higher rates are “historical and contemporary social circumstances of Black people in Canada,” note the researchers. These include 200-plus years of slavery and anti-Black racism, and disparities in many systems, including education, employment, child protection and justice.

Black people experience higher rates of child apprehensions and school suspensions and expulsions, and are more heavily policed, the authors said in highlighting disparities found in numerous studies, and also groundbreaking reporting done by the Star around Toronto police arrest and charging patterns and carding, when police stop, question and document citizens in non-criminal encounters.

Lower incomes for Black people have resulted in Black families living in areas that are “underserved by transit, libraries, schools and hospitals,” and those neighbourhoods tend to have higher levels of crime and crime victims, and concentrated law enforcement, the paper notes, citing academic work done by David Hulchanski on Toronto.

In the United States, the “American experience” with race and incarceration “shows us that concentrated incarceration has negative consequences at the individual, family and community levels, including social problems relating to poverty, mental health, education, employment and civic involvement,” the researchers wrote.

That ends up distorting “social norms, leads to the breakdown of informal social control, and undermines the building blocks of social order which are essential for community safety,” the paper concludes.

The often claimed but false trope that Canada is better on race and racism than the United States is also examined at the outset of the paper, which is published in the journal Race and Justice.

While not directly comparable, the authors later note that 2016 data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics showed Black men were jailed in state and federal institutions each day at a rate of 2,417 per 100,000. In the Ontario study, the annual incarceration rate in 2010 for Black men was 4,109 per 100,000.

That, the authors wrote, helps to “contextualize the extent of Black over-incarceration in Ontario.”

Owusu-Bempah, in an interview, said that “when we think about mass incarceration and we think about this kind of concentrated incarceration as an American phenomenon, I think we can see very clearly here that the levels of overrepresentation that we see in the United States is here in Canada.”

The age of the Ontario data — now over a decade old — speaks to how rare it is to come across race-based Canadian data, the researchers noted in an emailed response to Star questions.

“While these data are from 10 years ago, our ongoing involvement in the criminal justice system indicates that the overrepresentation of Black people persists today,” said the research team. “We think that monitoring and publicly reporting on the overrepresentation of Black people on an ongoing basis is important.”

In order to examine Ontario jail demographics, the researchers used gender and birthdates to link the provincial jail data to health administrative data held by ICES that was used in a 2018 study that looked at use of health care during incarceration and following release from jail. That study found the access rates of all types of health care were significantly higher for incarcerated people.

There is also a huge financial cost involved in jailing people. The Star has twice used inmate postal code data, length of incarceration data and daily cost of housing an inmate to show that in some Toronto city blocks, tens of millions of dollars are being spent to jail their citizens.

Preventing and reducing incarceration could free up money that could be reinvested in those neighbourhoods.

The authors of this report are part of a growing chorus of researchers, academics and advocates calling for more racially disaggregated justice data in Canada, which lags behind the U.S. and U.K.

More data around Canadian incarceration populations in provincial and territorial jails that identifies areas and groups experiencing high levels of incarceration, the paper concludes, “will help inform targeted initiatives to prevent criminal justice involvement” and “mitigate” the impacts on people and communities.

Source: New data provides a rare glimpse at ‘substantial’ Black overrepresentation in Ontario’s jails

They’ve been called hot spots. It’s actually ‘code’ for social inequity

More analysis confirming COVID-related racial and other disparities:

People who live in Toronto and Peel COVID-19 hot spots are on average nearly twice as likely to be racialized and about four times more likely to be employed in manufacturing and utilities compared to those in the regions’ other neighbourhoods, a new analysis shows. 

New research from the Gattuso Centre for Social Medicine at University Health Network also highlights how residents of these hot-spot areas are, on average, more than twice as likely to work in trades, transportation and equipment operation and also more likely to meet low-income thresholds.

While the public has heard over the past year that racialized people, those with lower-income status and essential workers are bearing a disproportionate burden of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario, the analysis from the Gattuso Centre highlights at a granular level who actually lives in the neighbourhoods hardest hit by the virus, how much money they make, and what they do for a living. 

“When we talk about ‘hot spot’ postal codes, what we’re really talking about is the structural determinants of health. Social inequities and the pathologies of poverty have been driving this pandemic,” said Dr. Andrew Boozary, executive director of the Gattuso Centre. “This is further evidence that life-saving measures need to get to neighbourhoods with the highest structural risks –– this at the very least means community leadership driving vaccine rollouts and better safety measures at workplaces.”

Using Census data, the social medicine team looked at demographics in Toronto’s 13 “sprint” strategy communities deemed most at-risk and compared it with the rest of Toronto’s forward sortation areas (the first three characters in postal codes). They also compared hot spots in Toronto and Peel with the remainder of neighbourhoods in those regions, and did a similar comparison of all of Ontario’s 114 hot spots with postal codes in the rest of the province.

In virtually every case, the most at-risk neighbourhoods had, on average, higher proportions of racialized individuals, those who meet low-income measures, people who work in manufacturing and utilities, and those employed in trades, transportation and equipment operation. 

For example, M3N, which includes Jane and Finch and Black Creek, has the most manufacturing and utilities employment, the sixth-highest proportion of people who meet low-income thresholds, the eighth highest employment in trades, transportation and equipment operation, and is the 10th most racialized community out of all postal codes in Toronto and Peel.

Similarly, L6R, in northern Brampton, has the most trades, transportation and equipment-operation employment, the fourth-most manufacturing and utilities employment and is the third-most racialized postal code out of all Toronto and Peel neighbourhoods. 

The only exception the researchers found was in the Ontario-wide hot-spot comparison, in which the percentage of people who work in trades, transportation and equipment operation in hot spots was slightly lower than non-hot-spot neighbourhoods.

“That’s the thing with this data, it also really shows the disparity. It really shows that no, we haven’t all been through the same experience with COVID,” said Sané Dube, Manager, Community and Policy with Social Medicine at UHN, using the example of someone who makes over $100,000 annually, lives in downtown Toronto and can pay for their groceries to be delivered.

“That is very different from the experience from the person who is making $30,000 in a grocery store, has continued to work the whole pandemic and lives in a certain part of the neighbourhood. There’s this idea that we’ve all had the same experience in this pandemic. We haven’t. This really brings that home.”

Laura Rosella, scientific director of the Population Health Analytics Lab at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and a collaborator on the analysis, notes that hot spots are vulnerable for different reasons, which is why connections between policy-makers and the communities are so important.

“The data kind of gives you that first layer, saying we need to pay attention here. Then it’s the conversations with the community that will tell you what the solutions are,” Rosella said. “The data alone won’t tell you what the solutions are. The community will.”

Michelle Dagnino, executive director of the Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre, says that while she is not surprised by the data, many people, including many who work in social services, did not realize just how many people in vulnerable areas have continued to go to work throughout the pandemic. 

“I think there was a sense that there were going to be more workplace shutdowns than there ever actually ended up being. The definition of ‘essential’ just ended up being so broad in terms of these workplaces,” she said. 

“Effectively, all of our factory workers, whether they’re manufacturing glass panes or producing clothing or whether they’re delivering factory-made goods through Amazon distribution centres, they have been open the whole time. And the consequences of that in this third wave have led us to a situation where we have seen racialized, low-income workers dying because they’ve had to continue to go to work.”

Source: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/05/11/theyve-been-called-hot-spots-its-actually-code-for-social-inequity.html


Even in hot spots, newcomers to Canada are missing out on COVID-19 vaccines

Good detailed analysis:

Refugees, immigrants and other recent newcomers to Ontario are being vaccinated for COVID-19 at much lower rates than Canadian-born or long-term residents, new data shows.

And even with the provincial government’s revised vaccination rollout plan prioritizing hot spots, newcomers living in neighbourhoods most at risk for transmission continue to experience the lowest rates of vaccination compared to those who were born in Canada or who have lived here for more than 35 years, according to a new report by the non-profit ICES, formerly the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

The report acknowledges that the province’s decision to target hot spots and expand age eligibility in early April has resulted in an overall increase in vaccinations in these neighbourhoods, but finds that vaccine coverage continues to lag in immigrants, refugees and recent OHIP registrants, including older adults. 

“There’s age risk and there’s transmission risk, and we know that immigrants and refugees are overrepresented in essential workers, and we know that many immigrant communities live multi-generationally,” said Dr. Astrid Guttmann, chief science officer of ICES and lead author of the report. “So the risk of transmission is higher and they’re less vaccinated. We need it to be the other way around.”

In the province as a whole, Guttmann and her team found that, as of April 26, vaccine coverage in Canadian-born and long-term residents 16 years of age and older was 38 per cent, compared to 28 per cent in immigrants, 22 per cent in refugees and 12 per cent in recent OHIP registrants. 

The report notes that large percentages of Canadian-born and long-term residents aged 70 and over have been vaccinated, between 71 and 86 per cent. But in the same age cohort among immigrants, refugees and recent OHIP registrants (with the exception of recent OHIP registrants in the lowest-risk neighbourhoods), vaccine coverage has ranged between 47 and 65 per cent. 

“We’ve seen within a hot spot, not everyone is feeling the heat equally,” said Dr. Andrew Boozary, executive director of social medicine at University Health Network. “And that is where we need to continue to be more data driven, being led by communities as to how to best reach the most disadvantaged populations, even within a postal code.”

He noted that the provincial government’s announcement Thursday that it will shift 50 per cent of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine supply to the 114 hardest hit neighbourhoods for two weeks starting next week was “definitely welcome” but that not doing so earlier “has come with very real costs.”

Last Friday, Ontario’s Science Advisory Table published a brief recommending immediately moving half of the province’s vaccine supply to the 74 highest-risk neighbourhoods for four weeks, a strategy it said could dramatically cut case counts, hospitalizations and deaths. 

Safia Ahmed, executive director of the Rexdale Community Health Centre, said she was not surprised by the ICES report’s findings, noting that many recent immigrants are essential workers who are not able to get to vaccination sites unless the locations are open on evenings and weekends. 

“When you think about the way vaccines have rolled out across the city, with mass vaccination sites that require online bookings, that’s a challenge, definitely, for new Canadians and immigrant seniors,” she said. 

Having clinics closer to home staffed with people who speak different languages, and who are a “familiar face,” all helps.

She noted that her organization learned during COVID-19 testing that “the more local, the more community-based services are, the more trust people have.”

Sabina Vohra-Miller, co-founder of the South Asian Health Network, said many older new Canadians may not have the digital literacy or language skills to navigate the complex web of online vaccine booking portals. And their children and grandchildren may not have time to support them if they are essential workers.

“It’s a Hunger Games style right now,” she said, adding those that are tech savvy and work from home have a huge advantage. 

“Who’s sitting in front of the computer waiting for appointments?”

Source: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/04/30/even-in-hot-spots-newcomers-to-canada-are-missing-out-on-covid-19-vaccines.html

The Pandemic Imperiled Non-English Speakers In A Hospital

Of note, both the findings and the measures the hospital took to address the problem:

In March, just weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, the incident command center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston was scrambling to understand this deadly new disease. It appeared to be killing more black and brown patients than whites. For Latino patients, there was an additional warning sign — language.

Patients who didn’t speak much, if any, English had a 35% greater chance of death.

Clinicians who couldn’t communicate clearly with patients in the hospital’s COVID units noticed it was affecting outcomes.

“We had an inkling that language was going to be an issue early on,” says Dr. Karthik Sivashankar, the Brigham’s then medical director for quality, safety and equity. “We were getting safety reports saying language is a problem.”

Sivashankar dove into the records, isolating and layering the unique characteristics of each of the patients who died: their race, age, gender and whether they spoke English.

“That’s where we started to really discover some deeper, previously invisible inequities,” he says.

Inequities that weren’t about race alone.

Hospitals across the country are reporting higher hospitalizations and deaths for Black and Latino patients as compared to whites. Black and brown patients may be more susceptible because they are more likely to have a chronic illness that increases the risk of serious COVID. But when the Brigham team compared Black and brown patients to white patients with similar chronic illnesses, they found no difference in the risk of death from COVID.

But a difference did emerge for Latino patients who don’t speak English.

That sobering realization helped them home in on a specific health disparity, think about some possible solutions, and begin a commitment to change.

“That’s the future,” says Sivashankar.

Identifying the mortality risk is just the first step

But first, the Brigham had to unravel this latest example of a life threatening health disparity. It started outside the hospital, in lower-income communities within and just outside Boston, where the coronavirus spread quickly among many native Spanish speakers who live in close quarters with jobs they can’t do from home.

Some avoided coming to the hospital until they were very sick, because they didn’t trust the care in big hospitals or feared detection by immigration authorities. Nevertheless, just weeks into the pandemic, COVID patients who spoke little English began surging into Boston hospitals, including Brigham and Women’s.

” We were frankly not fully prepared for that surge,” says Sivashanker. “We have really amazing interpreter services, but they were starting to get overwhelmed.”

“In the beginning, we didn’t know how to act, we were panicking,” says Ana Maria Rios-Velez, a Spanish-language interpreter at the Brigham.

Rios-Velez remembers searching for words to translate this new disease and experience for patients. When called to a COVID patient’s room, interpreters were confused about whether they could go in, and how close they should get to a patient. Some interpreters say they felt disposable in the early days of the pandemic, when they weren’t given adequate personal protective equipment.

When she had PPE, Rios-Velez says she still struggled to gain a patient’s trust from behind a mask, face shield and gown. For safety, many interpreters were urged to work from home. But speaking to patients over the phone created new problems.

“It was extremely difficult, extremely difficult,” she says. “The patients were having breathing issues. They were coughing. Their voices were muffled.”

And Rios-Velez couldn’t look her patients in the eye to put them at ease and try to build a connection.

“It’s not only the voice, sometimes I need to see the lips, if smiling,” she says. “I want them to see the compassion in me.”

Adding interpreters and telemedicine tech

The Brigham responded by adding more interpreters and buying more iPads so that remote workers could see patients. The hospital purchased amplifiers to raise the volume of the patient’s voice above the beeps and machines humming in an ICU. The Mass General Brigham network is piloting the use of interpreters available via video in primary care offices. A study found lower use of telemedicine visits by Spanish-speaking patients as compared to white patients during the pandemic.

The Brigham’s goal is that every patient who needs an interpreter will get one. Sivashankar says that happens now for most patients who make the request. The bigger challenge, he says, is including an interpreter in the care of patients who may need the help but don’t ask for it.

In the midst of the first surge, interpreters also became translators for the hospital’s website, information kiosks, COVID safety signs and brochures.

“It was really tough. I got sick and had to take a week off,” saysYilu Ma, the Brigham’s director of interpreter services.

Mass General Brigham is now expanding a centralized translation service for the entire hospital network.

Seeing the inequities within the hospital workforce

Brigham and Women’s analytics team uncovered other disparities. Lower-paid employees were getting COVID more often than nurses and doctors. Sivashankar says there were dozens of small group meetings with medical assistants, transport workers, security staff and those in environmental services where he shared the higher positive test rates and encouraged everyone to get tested.

“We let them know they wouldn’t lose their jobs,” if they had to miss work, Sivashankar says. And he, along with managers, told these employees “that we realize you’re risking your life just like any other doctor of nurse is, every single day you come to work.”

Some employees complained of favoritism in the distribution of PPE, which the hospital investigated. To make sure all employees were receiving timely updates as pandemic guidance changed, the Brigham started translating all coronavirus messages into Spanish and other languages, and sending them via text, which people who are on the move all day are more likely to read. The Mass General Brigham system offered hardship grants of up to $1,000 for employees with added financial pressures, such as additional child care costs.

Angelina German, a hospital housekeeper with limited English, says she appreciates getting updates via text in Spanish, as well as in-person COVID briefings from her bosses.

“Now they’re more aware of us all,” German says through an interpreter, “making sure people are taking care of themselves. ”

Moving beyond the hospital walls to address disparities

The hospital also set up testing sites in some Boston neighborhoods with high coronavirus infection rates, including neighborhoods where many employees live and were getting infected. At least one of those sites now offers COVID vaccinations.

“No one has to be scheduled, you don’t need insurance, you just walk up and we can test you,” explained Dr. Christin Price during a visit to one of the testing sites last fall. It was located in the parking lot of Brookside Community Health Center, in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood.

Nancy Santiago left the testing site carrying a free 10-pound bag of fruits and vegetables, which she’ll share with her mother. Santiago said she’s grateful for the help.

“I had to leave my job because of [lack of] daycare, and it’s been pretty tough,” she said, “but you know, we gotta keep staying strong and hopefully this is over sooner rather than later.”

The Brigham recently opened a similar indoor operation at the Strand Theater in Dorchester. Everyone who comes for a coronavirus test is asked if they have enough to eat, if they can afford their medications, whether they need housing assistance and if they’re registered to vote.

The bags of free food, and the referrals to social support, are evidence of a debate playing out about the role hospitals will play, outside their walls, to curb health disparities rooted in racism.

“Poverty and social determinants of health needs are not going away any time soon, and so if there’s a way to continue to serve the communities, I think that would be tremendous,” says Price, who helped organize the Brigham’s community testing program.

Mass General Brigham leaders say they’ll take what they’ve learned dissecting disparities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and expand the remedies across the hospital network.

“Many of the issues that were identified during the COVID equity response are unfortunately pretty universal issues that we need to address, if we’re going to be an anti-racist organization and one that promotes equity strongly as one of our core strategies,” says Tom Sequist, chief of patient experience and equity for Mass General Brigham.

The Brigham’s work on health disparities comes, in part, out of a collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), and included a focus on gathering, analyzing and tracking data.

“There’s a lot of defensive routines into which we slip as clinicians, that the data can help cut through and reveal that there are some biases in your own practice,” explains IHI President and CEO Dr. Kedar Mate.

“If we don’t name and start to talk about racism and how we intend to dismantle it or undo it,” Mate adds, “we’ll continue to place Band-Aids on the problem and not actually tackle the underlying causes.”

But has the Brigham’s work lowered the risk of death from COVID for Spanish-speaking patients? The hospital hasn’t updated the analysis yet, and even when it does, determining whether (or how) the interventions worked will be hard to prove, Sivashankar says.

“It’s never going to be as simple as ‘We just didn’t give them enough iPads or translators and that was the only problem,’ and now that we’ve given that, we’ve shown that the mortality difference has gone away,” said Sivashankar.

But Sivashankar says more interpreters, iPads, and better messaging to non-English speaking employees, plus all the other steps the Brigham has taken during COVID have improved both the patient and employee experience. That, he says, counts as a success, while work on the next layer of discrimination continues.

Source: The Pandemic Imperiled Non-English Speakers In A Hospital

Doug Ford’s ‘stay home’ message is absurd. Workers in the hardest-hit areas can’t stay home — they’re essential

Seeing more of these kinds of articles, making the needed comparisons:

A retiree in Rosedale is vaccinated against a virus she’s highly unlikely to catch. Meanwhile, the 35-year-old warehouse worker from North Toronto who is boxing up the retiree’s water resistant throw pillows just in time for patio season is still awaiting his shot. 

Maybe the warehouse worker (who is far more likely than the retiree to catch COVID-19) isn’t eligible for a vaccine yet, or maybe he is eligible but he isn’t sure where or when to get jabbed because everything is so goddamned confusing.

He checked the provincial website but no luck. 

He heard something about vaccine pop-up clinics emerging in his area, but the details are vague. He lives in a so-called “hot spot” but he isn’t involved in community groups; he doesn’t belong to a church or a mosque that would advertise such a clinic. If one pops up, unless he’s lucky, he may miss it. 

The good news is that the Rosedale retiree’s pillows will arrive at her house ahead of schedule. Saturday’s physically distanced backyard tea party will be lovely. 

The above is not an excerpt from the “Hunger Games,” or some Toronto-themed dystopia novel. It’s the reality of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Canada’s most populous city, one that despite city officials’ efforts has produced the following uneven result: those least likely to get the virus are vaccinated in large numbers while those most likely to get it are not. 

According to recent reporting by Olivia Bowden and May Warren, affluent Moore Park is “the most vaccinated neighbourhood in Toronto” (22 per cent of residents have received one shot), while Jane and Finch “where more than half the residents do not speak English as a first language, and where thousands of essential workers live, had the lowest vaccination rate” (5.5 per cent of residents have received one shot).

But this disparity isn’t just glaring in terms of vaccination rates. It’s glaring in terms of mobility too: how much time Torontonians are spending at home vs. out of the house. 

According to data presented at a Toronto Board of Health meeting Monday morning, Torontonians who live in the city’s northwest end — where essential workers tend to live — are leaving their homes more often than those in neighbourhoods where infection rates are lower. 

What’s more, between late March and early April when Premier Doug Ford pulled the “emergency brake,” time spent at home for Torontonians who live in some essential worker enclaves appears to have actually decreased slightly.

Toronto’s top doctor, Dr. Eileen de Villa, presented a map highlighting the disparity at Monday’s meeting. “What we have seen recently is a reduced mobility overall in the city but not equally experienced in all parts of the city,” she said. “We’re seeing more mobility in the northwest of the city which we know has had disproportionate impact of COVID-19.” 

This isn’t a coincidence says Toronto Board of Health chair Joe Cressy. “What’s critical to understand here is that as the people who aren’t staying home, they’re not going out partying — they’re going to their essential jobs. Since the stay-at-home order was issued, people are staying home more often, but not in those hard-hit neighbourhoods.” 

People are staying home more often, but not in those hard-hit neighbourhoods.

If ever there was a statement that defined the urgency of vaccinating essential workers immediately, this is it. If ever there was a statement that defined the urgency of easy to access paid sick leave, this is it. And if ever there was a statement that defined the absurdity of politicians’ repeated directives to “stay home” this is it. 

“Stay-at-home orders only work for people who can stay at home,” says Cressy. And yet, leaders like Ford continue to hammer home the “stay home” message to people who are already complying, or who can’t comply because they have essential jobs. 

On April 7, Ford tweeted the following: “Stay home. Stay safe. Save lives.” On April 10 he tweeted: “Gardening is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while staying at home.” Earlier this year, the premier butchered about a dozen languages asking Ontarians to stay home. 

The problem is that when people have to go to work it doesn’t matter if you ask them nicely in their native tongue not to. 

It doesn’t matter how many empty directives our leaders give. Until vaccines pick up dramatically in Toronto’s inner suburbs and essential workers get paid sick leave that is effective immediately, the cycle will continue. 

The vaccinated will sit safe at home awaiting the contactless delivery of throw pillows. The people who make that life possible will get sick. Contactless delivery is not contactless for everyone. 

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2021/04/12/doug-fords-stay-home-message-is-absurd-workers-in-the-hardest-hit-areas-cant-stay-home-theyre-essential.html?li_source=LI&li_medium=thestar_recommended_for_you

Working from home is here to stay — and for some Canadians, that’s a big problem

Good highlighting of the inequalities between those able to work from home and those not, mainly younger, visible minority or immigrant workers with lower income. Working from home appears to be a good overall proxy for privilege and class:

Working from home has a bright side for a lot of us, and we really hope it will outlast the pandemic.

No morning commute, no mad scramble out the door with packed lunches and wet laundry left in the machine to grow mildew all day, no race at the end of the day to tie up all the loose ends before rushing home to make dinner.

But that’s not the case for everyone, and new research shows working from home over the long term is often far less than ideal for young workers, immigrants, racialized workers and people living with disabilities.

In other words, the very same people who have been at the sharp end of the stick during the pandemic now risk being thrust into a precarious situation yet again in a post-pandemic world where working from home becomes a norm.

We can decide right now not to do that.

The Environics Institute teamed up with the Future Skills Centre and Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute to figure out what the workforce of the future looks like and how COVID-19 has disrupted so much. They surveyed almost 5,400 people across the country on what their work-from-home experience has been like, and they also dug down into how age, race, immigrant history and income make a difference. 

And they do make a difference — both during the pandemic and, if the survey is a good indication, afterwards too.

Generally, those of us who are working from home are content with the way things are going, and hope to be able to continue spending at least a couple of days a week in our home offices when the pandemic winds down.

“There’s no going back,” says Andrew Parkin, executive director of the Environics Institute.

The stigma of working from home from time to time has dissipated now that so many people have shown it can be done without compromising quality, he added, and employers will need to figure out how to incorporate work-from-home arrangements over the long term.

Of course, not everyone has shared in that experience during the pandemic. As we know, it’s been mainly white-collar workers who have been able to set up shop at their kitchen tables. About half of us have been going into the workplace regularly throughout the pandemic, while 36 per cent of us have been able to work from home full time, according to a report published last week by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Abacus Data. 

Low-income workers, people of colour and young people have been more likely to have to keep going into their traditional workplaces. They’ve also been most likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic, according to employment data over the past few months. They’ve had a harder time getting back into the workforce. And they’ve also been more likely to be on the front lines of contagion, holding down essential jobs in taking care of the rest of us.

And now, because their jobs are more precarious, they face more uncertainty about how a work-from-home culture that outlasts the pandemic will benefit them. Doing without frequent face time with colleagues, bosses and networks does not sit well with those who have a fragile connection to their workplaces.

“While it’s reassuring to confirm that many workers in Canada have altered their work arrangement in order to minimize the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19, these survey results serve as an important reminder that the ability to do so is closely tied to one’s socio-economic situation,” states the Environics report obtained by the Star.

Young people, for example, say they like working from home and can maintain the quality of their work there. But they’re also more worried than others that working from home will hurt their career prospects — which are already hurting because the pandemic has knocked their employment levels severely.

The same fear is expressed by first- or second-generation immigrants as well as racialized workers, and they, too, have seen more of their jobs disappear during the pandemic.

On top of that, immigrants and racialized workers also say, more than others, that they aren’t properly equipped to work from home, and they’re worried the quality of their work has deteriorated.

Workers with disabilities are also far more likely to say they don’t have the right equipment to work from home.

The implications for post-pandemic work are far-reaching. Business groups have emphasized the need to make sure workplaces are safe to return to, with whatever personal protective equipment and health measures are needed to assure employees aren’t going to get sick.

But the new research shows it’s a lot more complex than that. Some people won’t want to come back, but at the same time, a full embrace of a work-from-home culture will penalize those who are already facing intimidating barriers to their careers and futures.

“The key word is flexibility,” says Parkin, pointing to a need to rethink office space and work flow to make sure a range of needs are accommodated.

We have a few months left of lockdown, constraint and forced work-from-home conditions before we have more options open to us in the world of work. Let’s use them to ensure the reopening is done carefully, giving a fair opportunity to those workers who have already paid such a steep price.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/politics/political-opinion/2021/04/12/working-from-home-is-here-to-stay-and-for-some-canadians-thats-a-big-problem.html

[CDC] Studies Confirm Racial, Ethnic Disparities In COVID-19 Hospitalizations And Visits

More evidence:

Days after declaring racism a serious public health threat, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a pair of studies further quantifying the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color.

The studies, published Monday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, examine trends in racial and ethnic disparities in hospitalizations and emergency room visits associated with COVID-19 in 2020.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a regular White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing that the new literature underscores the need to prioritize health equity, including in the country’s accelerating vaccine rollout.

“These disparities were not caused by the pandemic, but they were certainly exacerbated by [it],” Walensky said. “The COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportional impact on communities of color is just the most recent and glaring example of health inequities that threaten the health of our nation.”

After assessing administrative discharge data from March to December 2020, the CDC found that the proportion of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 was highest for Hispanic and Latino patients in all four census regions of the U.S.

Racial and ethnic disparities were most pronounced between May and July, it said, and declined over the course of the pandemic as hospitalizations increased among non-Hispanic white people. But such disparities persisted across the country as of December, most notably among Hispanic patients in the West.

The findings build on earlier studies about racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 hospitalizations by showing how they shifted over time and between regions.

Researchers point to two driving factors for the disproportionate hospitalizations among these minority groups: a higher risk of exposure to the virus and a higher risk for severe disease. They said differences in exposure risk associated with occupational and housing conditions, as well as socioeconomic status, are likely behind the demographic patterns they observed.

“Identification of the specific social determinants of health (e.g., access to health care, occupation and job conditions, housing instability, and transportation challenges) that contribute to geographic and temporal differences in racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 infection and poor health outcomes is critical,” they said, adding that a better understanding of these factors at the local level can help tailor strategies to prevent illness and allocate resources.

The second study examined COVID-19-related emergency department visits in 13 states between October and December, and found similar disparities between racial and ethnic groups.

During that period, Hispanic and American Indian or Alaska Native people were 1.7 times more likely to seek care than white people, and Black individuals 1.4 times more likely.

Researchers noted that these racial and ethnic groups are also impacted by long-standing and systemic inequities that affect their health, such as limited access to quality health care and disproportionate representation in “essential” jobs with less flexibility to take leave or work remotely.

“Racism and discrimination shape these factors that influence health risks; racism, rather than a person’s race or ethnicity, is a key driver of these health inequities,” they explained.

Such inequities can increase the risk of exposure and delayed medical attention, further heightening the risks for severe disease outcomes and the need to seek emergency care.

Looking ahead, researchers said their findings could be used to prioritize vaccines and other resources for disproportionately affected communities in an effort to reduce the need for emergency care. Walensky also emphasized the implications of the new studies on and beyond the country’s pandemic response.

“This information and the ongoing surveillance data we see daily from states across the country underscore the critical need and an important opportunity to address health equity as a core element in all of our public health efforts,” she said.

A renewed push to address such inequity is now underway at the CDC, which late last week declared racism a “serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans.”

Walensky has directed the agency’s departments to develop interventions and measure health outcomes in the next year. It’s also provided $3 billion to support efforts to expand equity and access to vaccines, in addition to $2.25 billion previously allocated for COVID-19 testing in high-risk and underserved communities. The CDC has also launched a Racism and Health web portal to promote education and dialogue on the subject.

One area of particular focus is making sure the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines across the U.S. reaches the communities that have been hit hardest.

Data so far indicate that Black individuals make up roughly 12% of the country’s population but just 8.4% of those who have received at least one dose, Walensky said. And while 18% of the country identifies as Hispanic or Latino, she said, they make up only 10.7% of those who have been vaccinated.

Officials at Monday’s briefing highlighted further progress in the race to get shots into arms, noting that 120 million Americans have been vaccinated — 46% of adults have had at least one dose and 28% are fully vaccinated. And in exactly one week, all adults will be eligible to sign up for an appointment.

“This means that there has never been a better time than now for seniors and those eligible to get their shots,” said Andy Slavitt, senior advisor on the White House COVID-19 Response Team. “Make an appointment today. And if you have someone in your life, particularly a senior, who has not gotten a shot yet, reach out and see what help they need.”

Source: Studies Confirm Racial, Ethnic Disparities In COVID-19 Hospitalizations And Visits

CDC: COVID-19 Was 3rd Leading Cause Of Death In 2020, People Of Color Hit Hardest

More confirmation of COVID-19 racial disparities:

COVID-19 was the third-underlying cause of death in 2020 after heart disease and cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Wednesday.

A pair of reports published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality WeeklyReport sheds new light on the approximately 375,000 U.S. deaths attributed to COVID-19 last year, and highlights the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color — a point CDC Director Rochelle Walensky emphasized at a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing on Wednesday.

She said deaths related to COVID-19 were higher among American Indian and Alaskan Native persons, Hispanics, Blacks and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander persons than whites. She added that “among nearly all of these ethnic and racial minority groups, the COVID-19 related deaths were more than double the death rate of non-Hispanic white persons.”

“The data should serve again as a catalyst for each of us [to] continue to do our part to drive down cases and reduce the spread of COVID-19, and get people vaccinated as soon as possible,” she said.

The reports examine data from U.S. death certificates and the National Vital Statistics System to draw conclusions about the accuracy of the country’s mortality surveillance and shifts in mortality trends.

One found that the age-adjusted death rate rose by 15.9% in 2020, its first increase in three years.

Overall death rates were highest among Black and American Indian/Alaska Native people, and higher for elderly people than younger people, according to the report. Age-adjusted death rates were higher among males than females.

COVID-19 was reported as either the underlying cause of death or a contributing cause of death for some 11.3% of U.S. fatalities, and replaced suicide as one of the top 10 leading causes of death.

Similarly, COVID-19 death rates were highest among individuals ages 85 and older, with the age-adjusted death rate higher among males than females. The COVID-19 death rate was highest among Hispanic and American Indian/ Alaska Native people.

Researchers emphasized that these death estimates are provisional, as the final annual mortality data for a given year are typically released 11 months after the year ends. Still, they said early estimates can give researchers and policymakers an early indication of changing trends and other “actionable information.”

“These data can guide public health policies and interventions aimed at reducing numbers of deaths that are directly or indirectly associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and among persons most affected, including those who are older, male, or from disproportionately affected racial/ethnic minority groups,” they added.

The other study examined 378,048 death certificates from 2020 that listed COVID-19 as a cause of death. Researchers said their findings “support the accuracy of COVID-19 mortality surveillance” using official death certificates, noting the importance of high-quality documentation and countering concerns about deaths being improperly attributed to the pandemic.

Among the death certificates reviewed, just 5.5% listed COVID-19 and no other conditions. Among those that included at least one other condition, 97% had either a co-occurring diagnosis of a “plausible chain-of-event” condition such as pneumonia or respiratory failure, a “significant contributing” condition such as hypertension or diabetes, or both.

“Continued messaging and training for professionals who complete death certificates remains important as the pandemic progresses,” researchers said. “Accurate mortality surveillance is critical for understanding the impact of variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and of COVID-19 vaccination and for guiding public health action.”

Officials at the Wednesday briefing continued to call on Americans to practice mitigation measures and do their part to keep themselves and others safe, noting that COVID-19 cases continue to rise even as the country’s vaccine rollout accelerates.

The 7-day average of new cases is just under 62,000 cases per day, Walensky said, marking a nearly 12% increase from the previous 7-day period. Hospitalizations are also up at about 4,900 admissions per day, she added, with the 7-day average of deaths remaining slightly above 900 per day.

Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at New York University who served as a COVID-19 adviser on the Biden transition team, told NPR’s Morning Edition on Wednesday that she remains concerned about the rate of new infections, even as the country has made considerable progress with its vaccination rollout.

She compared vaccines to a raincoat and an umbrella, noting they provide protection during a rainstorm but not in a hurricane

“And we’re really still in a COVID hurricane,” Gounder said. “Transmission rates are extremely high. And so even if you’ve been vaccinated, you really do need to continue to be careful, avoid crowds and wear masks in public.”

Source: CDC: COVID-19 Was 3rd Leading Cause Of Death In 2020, People Of Color Hit Hardest

Cross and Taylor: Lies, Damned Lies, And Race-Based Statistics

Reading this commentary reminded me of an anecdote that I can’t unfortunately locate: former PM Harper’s decision to replace the mandatory census with the voluntary, and less accurate, National Household Survey in 20ll was driven in part by the data being used by academics, advocates and activists as a basis for more progressive policies.

The alternative, as Cross and Taylor appear to advocate, is not to have visible minority breakdowns in the labour force survey to avoid this use of data. To my mind, it is a head in the sand approach as such data is needed to understand how well Canadian society is working in terms of economic integration.

COVID-19 has demonstrated the various inequalities between different groups. The regular censuses have also captured these inequalities as well so expanding this to the labour force survey (and public service employment equity reports) is consistent with long-standing practice.

To my mind, issues lie more with respect to how the disparities are interpreted, whether narrowly or looking at the range of factors that influence these disparities.

For example, when I look at public service employment equity data, groups that have lower levels of educational attainment (e.g., Blacks, Latin Americans) are less represented among occupations requiring university degrees. This disparity, of course, likely reflects in part earlier barriers and discrimination encountered by those groups (e.g., streaming of Blacks into non-academic streams, recently addressed by the Ford government).

Disaggregated date is need to be aware of disparities and point towards questions regarding the reasons for these disparities, and assess the degree to which policy interventions, and which kinds, may be warranted.

To their credit, Cross and Taylor do some analysis, looking at occupations and visible minorities, highlighting that Koreans, Filipinos and Southeast Asians are more concentrated in the accommodation and food service industry than not visible minorities as an explanation of why these groups were more affected by COVID-19 lockdowns.

But it is ingenuous, at best, to present socioeconomic circumstances as completely unrelated to barriers faced by some groups.

And of course, the data will be used and sometimes misused by advocates and activists, and one could argue that Cross and Taylor are equally and legitimately using data to support their position.

But curious for a former statistician to be arguing for less data and thus less needed information for evidence-based policy. And using France as a model?:

Since July, Statistics Canada has been publishing labour-market data divided into 12 ethnocultural categories including Chinese, South Asian, Southeast Asian, West Asian, Korean, Japanese, Arab, Black, Filipino, Latin American, White, and Others. Sliced this way, Statcan’s figures reveal the unsurprising fact that unemployment is unevenly distributed across Canada’s racial populations, just as it varies by region, gender and age. The adult Canadian unemployment rate in January was 9.4 percent, but 20.1 percent for Southeast Asians, 16.4 percent for Blacks and 16.6 percent for Latin American Canadians. “Others” had a slightly-better-than-average unemployment rate of 8.9 percent.

This move to produce racially-specific labour-market data may well have been inevitable, given the intersectional enthusiasms of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who recently declared his next budget will be an explicitly “feminist”document. It also follows logically from his government’s creation of Statcan’s Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics in 2018. Equally predictable is the effect this new information has had on public discourse.

The release of race-based labour-market data has provided further fuel to the ascendent view that Canada is an inherently unfair and racist country. Lobby groups and organizations representing the various racial groupsidentified by Statcan have latched onto the new data to back up claims regarding the “negative labour market impact of racism on Black youth” and other collective sins aimed at Canadian society. The figures are also frequently held as proof that employment equity programs and other government market interventions must be scaled to industrial proportions to eliminate the discrimination baked into Canada’s labour market.

But when it comes to fomenting outrage, Statcan is just getting started. In a recent commentary in The Globe and Mail, Anil Arora, Chief Statistician at Statistics Canada, explained his organization’s intention to double down on the collection and dissemination of race-based data. Because the initial effort last July revealed such glaring “racial disparities”, he wrote, Statcan will now be using “data from varying lenses…to measure those inequalities and track the progress being made to address them.”

French law specifically forbids INSEE from processing or analyzing data regarding “ethno-racial classifications” because it could violate constitutional requirements that all citizens must be treated equally.Tweet

As exciting and progressive as all this may seem, however, Statcan should tread carefully. Collecting race data is inherently contentious and divisive, something all national statistical agencies must recognize. While the United States has a long history of collecting very detailed race-based data, others such as France’s Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (INSEE) do not disseminate any race statistics. In fact, French law specifically forbids INSEE from processing or analyzing data regarding “ethno-racial classifications” because it could violate constitutional requirements that all citizens must be treated equally “without distinction of origin, race or religion.”

As we shall see, unequal racial outcomes revealed by national statistics do not necessarily prove racism, and often lead to intractable debates. This is especially so in a country like Canada, where there’s a large overlap between visible minorities and immigrants who historically take years to match the outcomes for Canadians born in the country. Feeding a culture of grievance that denies any role for cultural differences in generating observed inequality can, paradoxically, perpetuate unequal racial outcomes. And as the state of affairs in the U.S. suggests, a surfeit of race-based statistics is no guarantee of racial harmony.

Neither is Statcan exempt from the principle of opportunity cost. Collecting one set of data inevitably means foregoing others – some of which may be of greater value. For years, researchers from social policy groups such as Cardus have asked for better data on how marital status affects employment and income. This would provide more detail on the important role played by family in the labour market. Yet these requests have long been ignored for cost reasons. Statcan presumably has better things to do with its limited resources. Now, however, in the middle of a pandemic, the agency has suddenly discovered the means to produce divisive race-based unemployment data.

Pandemic and Race

There are many pitfalls and risks associated with attributing different outcomes experienced by different racial groups exclusively to race, especially when these accusations are based on superficial statistics. In its July 2020 labour market report that, for the first time, segmented unemployment by race, Statcan itself noted that the top line figures showing poorer outcomes for most visible minorities categories reflected, in large part, the tendency of certain racial groups to work in industries deeply affected by the pandemic.

For example, 19.1 percent of Koreans, 14.2 percent of Filipinos and 14.0 percent of Southeast Asians were employed in the accommodation and food industry, according to the 2016 Census, compared with only 5.9 percent of Whites. Given the dramatic effect the pandemic-related lockdowns and other measures have had on the hospitality sector, it seems reasonable to conclude that race played little or no role in these unequal outcomes. Rather, it was the circumstances of the industries they were working in.

It has also been widely reported that different racial groups contract Covid-19 at different rates. Some concluded that this was because these groups are particularly disadvantaged by a racist society, while others wondered whether particular racial groups might have a different genetic susceptibility to the virus. As a recent U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research study warns, merely noting differences among racial groups without knowing their source means “the political discourse can gravitate toward ‘biologic explanations’ or explanations based on racial stereotypes which are harmful in themselves and get in the way of policy solutions.” The same study made plain that it was the socio-economic circumstances of particular groups that affected their exposure to the virus. This was due to working in particular industries and using public transit, which increased their contact with other people and, in turn, led to a higher rate of infection. Once the data was corrected for these variables, visible minorities in the U.S. were found to be no more susceptible to the virus than whites.

Given how easily some data can be misinterpreted or misrepresented, it would seem that Statcan has a clear responsibility to caution users about its proper use. Figures regarding the distribution of federal government revenues and spending by province, for example, are regularly twisted by politically-motivated analysts and governments. As a result, Statcan published an article in 2007 offering a detailed explanation for why these statistics should not be considered a scorecard for which provinces are gaining or losing from their dealings with the federal government.

Much of the current debate over racism in Canada arises from the presumption that all aspects of life should be perfectly evenly distributed, and that any deviation from pure equality must be considered prima facie evidence of systemic racism. Tweet

It is, accordingly, curious that these new race-based labour-market figures do not come with a similar warning; race data is far more emotionally and politically incendiary than provincial fiscal data. It is also surprising that Statcan did not directly address the issues raised by France’s refusal to collect race-based data.

Racism of the Gaps

Much of the current debate over racism in Canada arises from the relatively recent presumption that all aspects of life should be perfectly evenly distributed, and that any deviation from pure equality (a term also recently redefined from equality of opportunity to sameness of outcomes) must be considered prima facie evidence of systemic racism. With dizzying speed, this eminently contestable claim has been elevated nearly to conventional wisdom.

In an insightful commentary published earlier this month by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Vancouver-based writer Sonia Orlu tackled head-on the notion that “any disparity in outcomes between blacks and whites is the direct result of racism, as opposed to class differences, culture, personal ‘(ir)responsibility,’ or any other myriad of situational factors.” As Orlu, who is black, points out, this “racism of the gaps” generally relies on surface-level observations lacking in context or detail.

Nowhere is this assumption more explosive than regarding claims that members of visible minorities are disproportionately targeted, arrested or killed by police. As Orlu points out, a case for systemic racism in policing can only be proven with detailed race-based data showing police interactions as a share of the overall criminal population, rather than the population at large. While racism may create the conditions in which visible minorities commit more crime, simply arresting more visible minorities is not, in and of itself, proof police are acting with racist intent.

Orlu notes, however, that Canada does not collect the sophisticated race-based data necessary to come to an informed observation on this heated topic. With only the most basic statistics available regarding race, arrests and incarcerations, it is easy to conclude that police actions are driven by racism rather than other factors. And even when detailed race and crime evidence is available, as it is in the U.S., Orlu points out it is generally ignored by the media and public because it does not align with popular “anti-racism ideology” narratives. More information, in this case, does not produce a better debate or better decisions.

This problem is further illuminated by economist Tim Harford in his fascinating new book The Data Detective. Harford offers the example of an algorithm called COMPAS (Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions) used in the U.S. to predict the probability of a criminal being re-arrested. Because the algorithm produced racially disparate results – giving higher probabilities for blacks to be re-arrested than whites under similar circumstances – it was accused of perpetuating systemic racism. And yet the algorithm itself was colour-blind; race was not an input factor.

A detailed investigation by a team of statisticians revealed that the differing results were the product of members of different races behaving differently and/or living in different neighborhoods. As Harford concluded, “The only way in which an algorithm could be constructed to produce equal results for different groups…would be if the groups otherwise behaved and were treated identically.” Such an outcome adds evidence to the proposition that unequal results between races do not prove racism if behaviour and circumstances differ.

Examples of the racism gap fallacy are in ample supply elsewhere. Last month, for example, Akim Aliu, a former NHL player and founding member of the lobby group Hockey Diversity Alliance, claimed that an observed lack of racial diversity in the National Hockey League could only have one possible source. “There are still owners in the league who don’t even believe [racism] is a problem,” Aliu complained to Reuters in a Black History Month article. “To me that is just unfathomable, 95 per cent of your league is white and you don’t see there is an issue of race.”

Yet visible minorities make up a vast majority of the lineups in many other sports. The National Basketball Association is 74 percent black, and the National Football League 68 percent. While the Canadian Football League does not provide readily-accessible race-based statistics, the number of black players in this league also appears to far exceed representation in the general population. Should all this be taken as self-evident proof that football and basketball are equally prejudiced, but in favour of visible minorities? Of course not.

In another fixation on gaps, Statcan’s Arora in his Globe and Mail commentary emphasizes the importance of moving “toward levelling the uneven economic playing field”, citing the unequal unemployment and poverty rates among immigrant women as a key example. It must be noted, however, that there is a large overlap in Canada between visible minorities and immigrants. The lagging labour market outcomes for visible minorities and other Canadians reflect the long-standing challenges of immigrants establishing themselves in Canada.

In 2016, for example, Canada admitted thousands of Syrian refugees, many with limited education and little or no knowledge of either of Canada’s official languages. Do inferior incomes and more joblessness among the women of this group in the short time since they arrived prove the “playing field” in Canada is uneven? Inferior outcomes for some players don’t necessarily indicate a tilted field, it may merely demonstrate that they were sent out onto the field without the skills and training needed to compete. It is also worth remembering that the prevalence of poverty and inequality of income is much greater in the countries most immigrants come from, than is their inequality compared with native-born Canadians.

 The Inconvenient Truth that some Minority Groups Outperform the Majority

Racism – defined as the presence of deep-seated prejudices that affect individual and collective behaviour – certainly exists in Canada, as it does in all countries. And wherever present, it should be challenged and overcome. That said, collecting race-based data may not contribute to that worthy goal at all. It could instead cultivate a mentality of grievance and entitlement that undermines the impetus for individuals to strive to achieve more for themselves and their children. Look how easy it was for Aliu, for example, to take a simple statistic regarding the race of NHL players and turn it into a bitter accusation.

Arora’s recent Globe commentary, meanwhile, laments the “many economic challenges facing racialized populations, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups” as proof of the need for Statcan’s big move into race data. But might it not be more useful to study how certain minority groups have overcome even-greater challenges in the past? Few groups have suffered more persecution and discrimination than Jews, yet their internal culture enabled Jewish people to achieve superior results in multiple fields of endeavour in country after country. Japanese Canadians are another example, overcoming their forcible removal from their homes to be quarantined in remote camps during the Second World War, and going on to achieve one of the highest income levels of any racial group.

It is too easy to dismiss the achievements of certain races or ethnic groups as the result of advantages and privileges. While the lagging performance of some visible minorities is automatically assumed to be evidence of Canada’s innate racism, the opposite conclusion is never drawn from the superior results displayed by other minority groups (such as Chinese, to use Statcan’s terminology) in terms of employment, scholastic achievement or avoidance of crime. Looking south of the border, pre-Covid U.S. Census Bureau data revealed that the real median household income of Asian-Americans is nearly 30 percent higher than that of whites.

Thomas Sowell, the renowned black economist at the prestigious Hoover Institution at Stanford University, has written extensively on the use and misuse of race-based data. His insights on the importance of the culture internalized within racial groups provides a good lesson on the pitfalls of superficial interpretations of race data. As Sowell observed in his 2013 book Intellectuals and Race: “Different races, after all, developed in different parts of the world, in very different geographical settings, which presented very different opportunities and restrictions on their economic and cultural evolution over a period of centuries.” Further, people tend to blame racial differences on bias, which ignores “internal explanations of intergroup differences in favor of external explanations.”

As Sowell noted wryly in his 1996 book Black Rednecks and White Liberals, “all things are the same except for the differences, and different except for the similarities.” Given current demands for diversity in all things, he was observing, why should anyone expect identical outcomes as a result? Perhaps that comment should be attached to every Statcan press release on racial differences in the labour force survey.

The Politics of Distribution Versus the Economics of Growth

There is a growing sense of malaise in Canada, including worry that we are falling well short of our economic potential. Our political and economic leaders ought to be focusing on creating the macroeconomic and cultural conditions wherein all groups can thrive. Instead, our country’s growing fixation on racial issues – including the collection of race data – invites policymakers to think in terms of improving Canada one micro-group at a time.

We have already seen its nefarious impact. The most salient fact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been its devastating impact on all of Canada, with 5.5 million people losing their jobs or having their work severely curtailed in the spring of 2020. Rather than proposing general solutions to support growth and allow the reopening of the economy, numerous special interest groups have used the pandemic as an excuse to advance their particular pet policy projects, re-packaging old proposals that have circulated for years or decades to “solve” a once-in-a-lifetime crisis. The ideas include greater provision of day care, universal basic income, universal Pharmacare, extended employer-paid sick leave and so on, almost ad infinitum, as if budget constraints no longer existed.

The greater influence of broad economic conditions than specific social policies is revealed by Arora’s own reference to the “significant progress” visible minorities were making towards equality before the pandemic set them back. He cited a sharp drop in poverty and “rapidly rising employment rates among working-age immigrant women” as evidence of this happy situation. Such pre-pandemic levels of achievement – closing numerous gaps with the rest of society – was not the product of programs targeting specific aggrieved minority groups, but the result of an improving and robust economy-at-large. As Canada as a whole grows, its gaps shrink.

The best way to resuscitate the fortunes of visible minorities is the same as for all other Canadians: reopen the economy as quickly as possible and adopt policies and attitudes aimed at supporting long-term economic growth. Tweet

The same phenomenon was in even greater evidence in the U.S., where wage gains in 2019 were led by the lowest wage-earners, especially visible minorities. In recognition of this, more Latino and black voters cast ballots for Donald Trump last November than in 2016, despite his obvious negative attributes. The clear lesson is that better macroeconomic policy and economic growth always outweigh the impact of targeted government programs.

It is important to remember that the reversal of fortunes for minorities during the pandemic was because our economy was struck by the economic equivalent of a thermonuclear device, not because Canada overnight became more racist. The best way to resuscitate the fortunes of visible minorities, therefore, is the same way as for all other Canadians: reopen the economy as quickly as possible and adopt policies and attitudes aimed at supporting long-term economic growth.

Statcan’s new race-based data invites the facile conclusion that one group’s success explains another group’s relative failure and justifies its grievance. And our faltering economic growth reinforces the sterile view that the size of the economic pie is fixed and any gain by one group comes at the expense of others. The result is a focus on the politics of distribution instead of the economics of growth.

To be fair, Statcan did a lot of good work in response to the pandemic. This includes flash estimates of GDP, adjustments to how it measures labour under-utilization, more timely data on firm turnover, and innovative ways to track population mobility during a lockdown. The agency’s recent move into race-based data does not, however, rank among these useful innovations. And its effects may outlast all the others due to the appeal it holds for groups dedicated to fanning the flames of internal complaint.

With race-based data now being widely disseminated, this process may be unstoppable. Any move to cut off funding for this project will be widely condemned by the many vocal advocates of the “race industry”. Canadians should thus prepare themselves for a steady stream of studies in the coming years declaring the presence of gaps that allegedly prove the existence of systemic racism, but which tell us nothing about their origin or the best way to reduce them. All this is an unfortunate but costly distraction from the bigger and more important issues of innovation, investment and entrepreneurship that will be necessary to restore an economy that will benefit all Canadians – of every race and colour.

Philip Cross is a senior fellow of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and the former chief economic analyst at Statistics Canada. Peter Shawn Taylor is senior features editor of C2C Journal.

Source: https://c2cjournal.us19.list-manage.com/track/click?u=e8efce716429c34122979e2de&id=ca577642d5&e=4174a59277