We wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to formally request that he mandate the collection of race based data across the country. Thank you to everyone who showed their support by signing their name to our letter.
We will continue to accept signatures to our letter to show our Prime Minister how important this request is to Canadians.
Mandate race based data collection
Dear Mister Prime Minister,
We are Cheyenne Scarlett and Kamika Sylvester, Black perinatal health care advocates and the founders of The Black Birth Project. We are writing to you today to formally request that the federal government mandate the collection of race-based data related to perinatal and infant health expeditiously.
Mister Prime Minister, we recently saw the video you posted online about your stance on abortion. We are so glad to hear that you support and plan to protect the reproductive rights of Canadians. We hope that this means that you will support us in our mission today.
In the United States, Black people risk dying from a childbirth-related issue at three times the rate of white people. Similarly in the UK and in Brazil, they are five times more likely to perish because of racism within health care systems. In Canada, this data is not being collected or reported on at the federal or provincial level. We know that there are healthcare inequities, we just don’t have the data to understand how large the issue is or how to effectively address the problem.
The Black Birth Project was created to collect qualitative data from our community members so that we may support Black folks as they prepare for birth as well as provide training opportunities for health-care professionals. As a community based research project, our impact is limited to those we can reach through social media and word of mouth. A federal database is needed to fully understand the extent of the Black infant and perinatal mortality and morbidity rates.
Mrs. Scarlett has conducted formal research at Toronto Metropolitan University on the childbirth experiences of Black women in the GTA and has found that much of the Black childbirth experience is laden with racism, bias and microaggressions. Provider bias, out of touch hospital policy and an unwillingness to examine racism in Canada is at the root of this problem.
Mrs. Sylvester is a traveling nurse and has seen first hand the atrocities Black folks experience in the Canadian health care system in both Ontario & Alberta. Unfortunately, there is no available data to support the narratives she encountered working in urban and rural emergency departments. Based on her first hand accounts, and the experiences of many others, this is a matter of life or death in some cases. When the providers we trust our health with have ideals, practices and biases rooted in anti-Black racism, Black Canadians are exponentially at risk for harm. Not only emotional harm, but fatal harm as well.
As Black women, we have both accessed the health care system for issues related to reproductive health. We know firsthand that there are changes that need to be made and the work we do every day solidifies this for us. In our society, lived experience is not as highly valued as hard data is. Unfortunately, without data, numbers, and percentages being collected we cannot even begin to talk about the issue when we need to “prove” there is an issue in the first place.
The collection of race-based data is vital in ensuring health care inequities can be addressed quickly and effectively. We know that the collection of race based data would not only benefit Black birthing people but would also benefit other marginalized groups, most specifically Indigenous birthing people.
Canada has built its reputation on being welcoming and inclusive to all. This belief has allowed us as a nation to remain complacent and assume that everything is well and fine. This belief has made it difficult to address issues related to racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia because there is an underlying assumption that those issues just don’t exist here. We know there are issues that need to be addressed related to reproductive justice and the collection of race based data is the first step. We are asking you to support this mission and start doing the work towards protecting Black birthing people and their families.
We appreciate you taking the time to read this letter today and look forward to hearing back from you as to how you plan to address the lack of race based data in Canada.
Cheyenne Scarlett, MA
Kamika Sylvester, RN