Racism, homophobia, transphobia, and all forms of discrimination or oppression are public health issues

This passed UNANIMOUSLY tonight:

WHEREAS racism, homophobia, transphobia, discrimination, and stigma are associated with poorer physical, mental, and emotional health and greater mortality, making racism an important public health issue; and

WHEREAS Public Health has a role in promoting the health of the entire population by working with others to ensure fair opportunities for health and well-being; and

WHEREAS Niagara Region and its Board of Health is guided by Objective 2 in Niagara Region’s Strategic Plan to foster a high quality of life through safe, healthy, and inclusive neighbourhoods and delivery of quality, affordable, and accessible human services; and

WHEREAS members of the Black, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQQIA, and many other communities experience physical, social, mental, and emotional harms due to racism, homophobia, transphobia, and other discrimination and stigma present across sectors, including health, education, employment, housing, child care and child welfare, policing and law enforcement, and the criminal justice system; and

WHEREAS the Region of Niagara has become a member of the Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities and committed to appropriately resourcing the work of the Coalition;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:

1. That Regional Council ACKNOWLEDGE that racism, homophobia, transphobia, and all forms of discrimination or oppression are public health issues;

2. That Niagara Region COMMIT to using an equity, diversity, and inclusion lens in all future decision-making; and

3. That Niagara Region COMMIT to considering social determinants of health, including income, education, employment, early childhood development, food insecurity, housing, social exclusion and social safety network, health services, aboriginal status, gender, race, and disability, in all future program and budget decisions including revising the Region Budget By-Law Principles to include healthy communities; and

4. That Niagara Region RECONFIRM its efforts through the Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities to promote social inclusion, human rights, and diversity, as well as eradicating all forms of racism and discrimination that continue to persist in Niagara.

5. That this motion BE CIRCULATED to the local area municipalities.

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My speaking notes to the motion were as follows:

The relevance, importance, and absolutely the timeliness of this motion is certainly confirmed by the number of people who registered to speak to Council tonight. And thank you to everyone who did speak to us tonight. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and lived experience with us. And thank you to all of my colleagues for listening so intently this evening.

Several others reached out to me to indicate that they would have liked to speak, but they didn’t feel safe in doing so. They were concerned about hostility and, indeed, racism. To be clear, that fear and discomfort is not a reflection on any individual person here, but, rather, a reflection on the spaces that have been created for this sort of dialogue. There are people in the community who do not feel safe in this kind of forum, in large part because they do not see themselves represented here.

I want to share something from a citizen who reached out to me.

She is a Black woman with four children.

She said: I can’t begin to describe the amount of trouble I have had securing a rental home for my family. Myself and 4 children. I have everything a landlord would require, yet no one will rent to me. I’ve been told that units are already rented only to see them reappear for rent elsewhere. I’ve had landlords tell me they can’t approve my application without any explanation as to why. A lot of times, I just never hear back. This has been the case for months. I’m very discouraged, and it has greatly affected my emotional and mental health. I’ve even considered moving out of this region. With a full-time salaried job, good credit and references, it still doesn’t appear to be enough. I’m moving forward with human rights complaints due to this. With the motion that you will bring forward tomorrow, I just wanted to share my experience with you.

With our resolution to join the Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities and the reports that were written to support that resolution, we affirmed our commitment to organizational diversity, including BIPOC, gender and sexually diverse, and people living with cognitive or physical disabilities. Through that resolution, we also committed to doing more work for the wider community to ensure everyone in Niagara feels they are able to realize their goals with respect to economic, social, and political inclusion and contributions in Niagara.

In light of recent events globally, nationally, and – indeed – locally, it is imperative that we acknowledge that racism, homophobia, transphobia, and all forms of discrimination or oppression are public health issues and that we further our commitment to active and immediate work toward making Niagara a place where everyone feels they belong and has access to the programs and services they need, including with citizen committees for anti-racism, diversity and inclusion, and 2SLGBTQQIA.

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If you’d like to watch the proceedings of the meeting, you can do that here. You’ll want to begin at 00:33:30 into the meeting and it continues until 1:58:15

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