What is Emancipation Day?
Emancipation Day commemorates the enactment of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 on August 01, 1834, in Canada and other territories once colonized by the British. The Act signaled the intention to abolish the enslavement of Africans which had begun with royal approval in 1663, across the Americas, and would come to an end in 1838 in Canada.
Unanimously designated as Emancipation Day by the House of Commons on March 24, 2021, Emancipation Day is significant in the opportunity it offers all Canadians to acknowledge our collective history, which includes the history of slavery. In acknowledging that history, we are also gifted an opportunity to examine how the contemporary realities of the descendants of those once enslaved remain impacted by the experience.
According to Statistics Canada, as recently as 2020, approximately 63 per cent of Canada’s Black population reported experiencing discrimination, nearly double the proportion of the broader population (32 per cent). Data show that Blacks are more like to be precariously housed, have negative interactions with the police and are disproportionately incarcerated. Similarly, research suggests that discrimination, including systemic racism, within the healthcare system is a significant contributor to lower health outcomes for persons of African descent.
The commemoration of the Day remains a poignant reminder that emancipation has not been altogether achieved, and that the struggle for justice continues.
As we enter the penultimate year of the International Decade for Persons of African Descent, designed on pillars to foster recognition, development and justice for Black people globally, the United Nations suggests that it will be important to “. . . promote greater knowledge of the history and heritage of people of African descent, including through research and education, and promote full and accurate inclusion of the history and contribution of people of African descent . . .”
A Shared Vision
At Women’s College Hospital our shared vision is to create a healthier, more equitable world for everyone.
We strive to live up to this promise each day in everything we do from the clinical programs and services we intentionally design to ensure that everyone gets the safe, culturally appropriate care they deserve to the welcoming, diverse and inclusive workplace culture we are building for our staff, physicians, scientists, learners and volunteers.
We also understand that we still have much work to do to dismantle the structures within our own organization that contribute to anti-Black racism.
Dismantling Anti-Black Racism
Aware that it is not enough to not be racist, WCH’s Anti-Black Racism Corporate Commitments are anchored in the principles of equity diversity and are deliberately and intentionally designed to be anti-racist – generally – and to denounce anti-Black racism – specifically.
Through our commitment to anti-racism, Women’s College Hospital is taking important steps to address health issues which impact the Black community, including:
- The establishment of the African, Black and Caribbean Employee Resource Group, designed as an accountability framework for our WCH ABR Corporate Commitments, and a forum for education around issues of Black culture and Black Health Equity.
- Our on-going engagement with Black community organizations to empower Black women with health and wellness information tailored specifically to them, through our Breast and Cervical Cancer screening events for Black Women and the establishment of Every Breast Counts, a breast cancer resource hub by Black women for Black women.
- Our clinical research which focuses on the Black community and attempts to address persistent gaps in health outcomes, including:
- The Black Headache Study: It’s Not Just a Migraine, led by Dr Suvendrini Lena
- Research on the intersection of cardio-oncology research by Dr. Husam Abdel-Qadir
- Dr. Aisha Lofters’ work on cancer screening, immigrant health and health equity, using secondary database analysis and community-based participatory research.
Emancipation Day serves as an opportunity to recommit to agitate and to advocate in our various spheres of influence to ensure that policy, legislative, constitutional, socio-economic and cultural machinery operate in tandem to produce equitable outcomes for all.
The Office of Equity