Immigrants and racialized communities in Ottawa are at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19, according to a new report.
The summary report titled The impact of COVID-19 on immigrants and racialized communities in Ottawa was based on a virtual community dialogue event hosted by The Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP) and funded in part by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
Sociodemographic data shows that racialized communities are over-represented among those who have tested positive to COVID-19. But why is this the case?
This is the question the community dialogue group discussions sought to answer. In addition, OLIP aimed to understand the best way to protect the community from the spread of the virus. The following are some of the findings.
Affected communities may face hardships when it comes to social aspects that largely impact people’s health and wellbeing. These include aspects such as employment, housing, transportation, racism, discrimination and access to healthcare.
Opportunities to gain good employment are not common among racialized communities due to systemic racism and discrimination. As a consequence, many immigrants end up gaining front-line jobs such as personal support workers, caregivers, childcare workers, cleaners and ride-share drivers.
Many cannot afford to buy a car or use personal transportation such as ride-share apps or taxis. As a consequence, they would depend on public transportation, where risk of exposure to the virus is greater.
Some members of affected communities live in over-crowded houses. If one household member tests positive for COVID-19, it would be difficult for others to physically distance themselves.
Many immigrants and members of racialized communities are temporary residents, such as international students, refugee claimants and temporary foreign workers. They may be uncertain about their immigration status. Some workers would like to complain about unsafe working conditions but fear that they will lose their job as a consequence.
In addition, many face difficulties accessing healthcare. Newcomers who are not covered through the Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP) due to complications in their immigration status, usually have access to the Interim Federal Health Program. However, many providers are currently not accepting this program.
Extending your stay in Canada
Temporary foreign workers, students and visitors may have the ability to extend their stay in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, the Canadian immigration department has given temporary residents a chance to extend their stay.
In order to be eligible, applicants must have been in Canada legally between January 30, 2020, and May 31, 2021. They must have stayed in Canada since entry, and must have lost their status during this period. They must also pay the required application processing fees.
Ending the stigma and developing protection plans
Participants in the community dialogue suggested ways to end stigmatizing affected communities, and those who contract the virus. This includes educating the public on the inequities of the impact of COVID-19, through public education campaigns.
To ensure the effectiveness of the protection plans for the affected communities, participants suggested engaging the communities directly, by sharing crucial information on the COVID-19 response. Participants also suggested that testing should be more widespread, and in locations that are accessible to these communities.
COVID-19 vaccines to be available to immigrants
The Public Health Authority of Canada (PHAC) maintains that the COVID-19 vaccine will be available to everyone in Canada regardless of their immigration status.
Priority for vaccination is given to residents and staff of care homes, health care workers as well as adults in Indigenous communities.
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