As the world continues to deal with this horrific Covid 19 pandemic, we also have the issue of Black Lives Matter and how systemic racism has and continues to have such a negative effect on the basic human dignity every human being is born with and deserves.
Whether we are discussing Covid 19 or racism, we here in Canada, as all countries, have been affected. The test of any government or nation and its citizens is how they react to a crisis. Make no mistake that both Covid 19 and racism are crises. One is new while the other has been with us in its various forms forever.
Our Canadian government has seen a remarkable example of how all levels of government from various political parties coming together as one singular force to deal with the pandemic. In addition, our healthcare system and more centralized form of government has enabled Canada to flatten the curve while providing various financial supports to individuals, businesses and other services. A crisis can also expose weaknesses and in Canada this is demonstrated in the high number of cases and deaths in adult care and nursing homes as well as those who are homeless. It will be important to see how we react to this issue and make systemic changes to our current services.
As we also face the reality that systemic racism does exist in Canada, we must also recognize that this is a crisis for which a positive reaction is long overdue. If we are to deal with racism in Canada, there is a real need for all levels of government and political affiliations to find common ground before we can envision any positive change. Canada cannot address these changes without including the many and complex issues related to Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
It takes strong leadership that is promoting a positive and hopeful message which can unite everyone when dealing with a crisis. We can see examples everyday on our TV’s, computers and phones on the damage that can be done when our national leadership uses words and take actions that clearly show us that racism still exists. Such negative words and actions can only stoke and incite those who share these views as well as those who are strongly opposed to them. Until those of us born into white privilege begin to understand the effect of racism on people of colour, we will not be able to achieve any successful results. We need to understand the issues, challenges and solutions through the eyes and minds of those affected by racism. Those affected must have a voice and be an integral part of any discussions and actions.
Let us remember the warning Frederic Ozanam gave us over 175 years ago when he warned that there is a growing gap between the haves and the have nots, and if we do not take action to address this gap, there could well be an uprising and protest. These very prophetic words are more relevant than ever before in today’s world.
Poverty and racism have always been intertwined. If we do not include address both, it will be difficult to realize any positive results that may finally lead to Justice For All. Please pray for an end to both Covid 19 and racism in our world.
About the author:
Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is past president of the Ontario Regional Council of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. He is currently chair of the National Social Justice Committee of the Society in Canada. He is married to his dear wife Pat and they have six daughters and eleven grandchildren. Jim has been a member of the Society since the 1970’s.
Opinions expressed are the author’s own views and do not officially represent those of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.