Race and ethnicity data collection during COVID-19 in Canada

if you are not counted you cannot count on the pandemic response

This paper discusses arguments for race and ethnicity data collection during COVID-19 and theories of how and why differences risk and the impacts of COVID-19 are related to race and ethnicity.  It summarizes Canadian data on race ethnicity and COVID-19 before presenting ways to promote equity. There have been calls for race and ethnicity data collection to identify health disparities and promote heath equity in Canada for decades. They have not been heeded. COVID-19 has acted like a social x-ray, highlighting problems in our body politic. The higher rates and greater impacts of COVID-19 on racialized populations in Canada could be attributed, in part, to a lack of available data to identify inequities. But the fact that these data were not being collected; the fact that they still are not collected in most provinces; and, the fact the knowledge of disparities not has led to significant change in the pandemic response points to an underlying systemic resistance to pursuing health equity.  Collecting race and ethnicity data, developing appropriate processes for governance and analysis, and ensuring that data is used for action are vital parts of a health system fit for Canada in the 21st century.  But it will only happen if there is legislative change to deal with the systemic resistance to health equity for racialized people.  It should not be legal to set up health care or pandemic strategies that predictably do not meet the needs of Canada’s diverse populations. It should not be legal to be deliberately blind to health disparities.

Publication Date: 
Royal Society of Canada