The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health and the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health issued the following statement to reflect on the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade:
Today, on the fifteenth International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, we take time to recognize the enduring legacy of the transatlantic trade which is tightly linked to ongoing structural racism and contributes to discrimination experienced by Black communities. Slavery in Canada was legal until 1834 and almost two centuries since the legal end of slavery, racist ideologies established during the period of colonization continue to drive stigma and discrimination.
The intergenerational legacy of trauma, stigma, and discrimination manifest in social and health inequities at many levels, including individual, interpersonal, institutional, and societal discrimination. Difficult and negative experiences have serious implications for mental health, and while many people reported deteriorating mental health during the pandemic, the COVID-19 crisis has disproportionally impacted and exacerbated the mental health of Black and racialized communities.
Our government recognizes the challenges faced by Black Canadians and is taking steps to address some of these challenges through the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Promoting Health Equity: Mental Health of Black Canadians Fund. By working in partnership with researchers, community-based organizations, and others in Black communities, we are supporting the development of focused programs and interventions that address culturally-appropriate mental health care and its determinants.
We also know that discrimination against Black communities, which is uniquely rooted in European colonization in Africa and the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade, is deeply entrenched and normalized in Canadian institutions, policies, and practices. That is why through Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy and with the support of the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat, we will continue to combat anti-Black racism to address health inequities within our health care systems.
Today, let us all take time to learn and reflect on the impact of slavery and the actions that we can all take to keep fighting for a more just Canada for everyone.
The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, P.C., M.P.