Message from the Minister of Health and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health to Mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination


March 21, 2022|Ottawa, Ontario|Health Canada

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed every year on March 21, on the anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre, when South African police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid "pass laws" in 1960.

This year's theme—Voices for Action Against Racism—highlights the importance of strengthening meaningful and safe participation and representation of racialized people in civic space, to prevent and combat racial discrimination. For Health Canada, this day is an opportunity to reflect on the effects of racism on patients receiving health services and the importance of building safe health systems for all.

The Government of Canada recognizes that systemic racism, resulting from long-standing oppressive and discriminatory practices, remains embedded in Canada's health systems and continues to have catastrophic effects on all racialized communities. Systemic and overt racism and mistreatment when accessing health services has led to considerable wariness within racialized communities, and a significant lack of trust in health systems and institutions. In turn, this has lead to poorer health outcomes and widespread health disparities for racialized populations in Canada.

The lingering COVID-19 pandemic has amplified and further exacerbated social, health, and economic disparities for Indigenous peoples, Black communities, and racialized and religious minority communities. The pandemic has also propelled anti-Asian hate and discrimination, both here at home and around the world. For these populations, the pandemic has also meant reduced access to health and social services, reduced employment, and reduced housing security.

Racism is also a major contributing factor to mental health challenges faced by racialized populations. If today brings up difficult emotions, we encourage anyone to use the services of the Wellness Together Canada online portal, which offers free and confidential substance use and mental health services. The Hope for Wellness Help Line also offers culturally competent mental health counselling and crisis intervention in several Indigenous languages.

While we have made progress toward a more just society, more still needs to be done, and the Government of Canada remains committed to this work. Through Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy and with the support of the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat, we will continue to work to combat systemic racism in Canada. Furthermore, just last month, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, we invested 26.3 million in 69 new research projects focused on health equity across the country.

These projects will focus on the impact of the pandemic on Indigenous, Black, and racialized communities, as well as children and youth, and people living with HIV, mental illness, and chronic health conditions.

In Canada, everyone should have the right to high-quality health services without the fear of discrimination. The Government of Canada's priority is to ensure the health and safety of all people in Canada by actively addressing health inequities, regardless of factors such as race, socio-economic status, access to health and social services, employment and housing security. We remain committed to working with provincial and territorial governments, and health system partners to ensure that Canada's health systems work for all racialized communities in Canada.

The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, M.P.


Marie-France Proulx
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Health

Maja Staka
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

Media Relations
Health Canada

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