A year later, and after what police said was the targeted killing of a London Muslim family, the decision in June 2020 by Middlesex-London’s board of health to identify racism as a public health crisis was both profound and necessary.
And Islamophobia, both here and across the country, is one of the components of that crisis.
If you can turn your mind back to a year ago, we were just emerging from our first round with COVID-19 and understanding the global movement to recognize systemic racism and find ways to put an end to it.
About 10,000 people rallied in Victoria Park to support Black Lives Matter and city council asked local agencies to step up their efforts. The motion to declare racism as a health crisis at the health board passed unanimously.
Fast-forward to this heavy, heavy week. It was probably the first time in 15 months the pandemic was pushed to London’s back-burner. Grief and outrage over the violent deaths of the Afzaal family, killed in a hit-and-run while out for a walk, took over from concerns about case counts and vaccination rates.
There were positive developments on COVID-19 front: fewer cases, with just 12 new ones reported Friday, more first and second doses in arms and some promises that the provincial government will be evening up our vaccine deficit. Step 1 of reopening Ontario began on Friday sending people out in droves to retailers and outdoor patios. Concern over the Delta variant increased across the province, prompting the government to pledge more vaccines in hard-hit regions.
Sadly, there was another death in Middlesex-London reported Friday, a man in his 30s, a reminder that while our attention has been pulled away from the 15-month-long public health crisis, it’s not over.
And we can’t forget about it. The health unit kept up its twice-a-week media updates this week although, as would be expected, they were markedly subdued. But the message was, we can’t brush away one crisis to deal with the other.
Part of the health unit’s strategy to get the community vaccinated is working with racialized communities. They are increasing their mobile clinics to take the vaccine to the people. Several have been conducted with the Indigenous community. One recent clinic was supported by the mosque.