QUEEN’S PARK — Bhutila Karpoche, Ontario NDP critic for Mental Health and Addictions, and Ontario NDP Black Caucus member and critic for Youth Engagement Faisal Hassan will table a private member’s bill today calling for the first Monday of March each year to be recognized as Black MentalHealth Day in Ontario.
The bill acknowledges that anti-Black racism contributes to poor mental health, and that BlackOntarians have a harder time getting the care they need because of discrimination and stereotyping. In addition to recognizing Black Mental Health Day in Ontario, the bill would mandate the collection of race-based health data in Ontario and require the provision of culturally appropriate health services.
“Racism is an everyday reality for Black Ontarians, leaving no part of our lives untouched,” said Hassan. “It’s not having pain taken seriously when you go to the hospital; it’s being passed over for a job; it’s having a rental application rejected; it’s the sting of something said on the playground or in the workplace. This discrimination exacts a toll, and too many Black Ontarians are paying the price at the expense of our mental and physical health.
“The care and supports we need often aren’t there when we need them — and, both the Liberal and Conservative governments have let the root causes of this problem fester and grow. The Liberals didn’t do enough to fight anti-Black racism when they had the chance, and Doug Ford’s Conservatives are only making it worse.”
The Liberals refused to collect race-based data in the health sector, despite pleas from professionals. And now the Conservatives have all but eliminated Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate, and scrapped its subcommittee tasked with fighting anti-Black racism. They’ve slashed the anti-racism initiatives budget to just $1,000 for the year.
“Black Ontarians deserve better,” said Karpoche. “It’s time for the government to acknowledge the impact of anti-Black racism on mental health and address the unique mental health needs of BlackOntarians, including providing culturally appropriate services.”
Karpoche and Hassan’s bill builds on the NDP Black Caucus’s work fighting anti-Black racism in Ontario. That work includes an earlier call for the collection of race-based health data and a push for the government to meaningfully address anti-Black racism in schools.
Aseefa Sarang, Executive Director of Across Boundaries: An Ethnoracial Mental Health Centre
“Pathways to care are more complicated for Black communities, but we continue to invest more in the criminalization and incarceration of Black bodies, rather than health care, employment, affordable housing, accessible universal transit and affordable child care. Proclaiming Black Mental Health Daywill force difficult conversations to take place and ultimately create a mechanism for accountability for improved mental health and addiction services for Black communities.”
Liben Gebremikael, Executive Director of TAIBU Community Health Centre
“The impact of Anti-Black Racism on the mental health and wellbeing of the Black communities is systemic in nature and will require long term and sustainable effort to address it. The Proclamation of March 2 as Black Mental Health Day in Ontario will enable the Black communities and the health and social services institutions as well as various level of governments to acknowledge the problem, continue with engagement and conversation and work towards developing a strategy and an action plan to confront this epidemic in our society.”