Collateral impacts of COVID-19

Paul Taylor’s testimony to the Standing Committee on Health

On Monday April 26, 2021 FoodShare Executive Director Paul Taylor testified before the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Health about the ways that longstanding inequality has caused Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) and queer communities- and folks at the intersections of those identities- to endure significant collateral impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

His full remarks to the Committee are here: 

“Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. My name is Paul Taylor. I’m the executive director of FoodShare Toronto, an organization that works in partnership with communities across Toronto. We serve as a catalyst for advancing meaningful solutions to food access injustices. 

We do this by advocating for the permanent dismantling of the oppressive systems that cause food insecurity in the first placeone of which is racism. 

The very fact that Black households are 3.5 times more likely to be food insecure than white households in Canada  is an example of how anti-Black racism causes food insecurity. 

The anti-Black racism that we experience, that causes disportionate food insecurity, is literally making us sick and taking food out of our mouths.

It affects our income levels, access to education, housing, employment and a list longer than we have time for today.

It’s important for me to start there, because COVID-19 didn’t create this reality for us; these inequities existed long before the pandemic. But when you add COVID-19, the result has been that Black Canadians are infected and hospitalized at disproportionately higher rates. 

We’re also three times more likely to know someone who has died from the virus. Every day I worry that I’m going to hear about another loss of life in my community. 

This kind of grief is sadly not new to us, neither are the ways that our calls to address these inequities have gone ignored. 

Here we are in the third wave of this deadly virus, the collateral impact of which is that our community continues to suffer disproportionately. One of the ways that we’re seeing this play out is in the pandemic induced delaying of surgeries and visits to our doctors, whether it’s for a check-up or to address an existing or new health issue – we’re not able to get the help we need right now. 

I’ve long said that I believe that we only have a “sick-care” system in this country, but ultimately we’ve been forced to depend on it, because it’s all that our governments seem to prioritize. 

I say a sick-care system, because a healthcare system wouldn’t be divorced from ensuring access to nutritious food and housing for us all. 

But again, it’s all that we’ve got at the moment. The result of things like these delayed visits to doctors and delayed surgeries will be our worsening health and the deepening of health inequities for generations. 

Instead of prioritizing our health, I mean our actual health, the reality is that Black Canadians are sentenced to things like food insecurity, and now less access to vaccines, less access to testing, and even more policing of our communitiesultimately more government sanctioned injustice targeted at Black Canadians. 

At the intersection of my identity proudly exist both my Blackness and my queerness. Growing up materially poor, gay and Black means that many of us don’t always have the typical family support system to fall back on in times of need, be it the loss of a job or the onset of a serious illness, like COVID-19.

Not to mention, that many in the queer community work in the arts and hospitality, sectors that have been decimated by the virus. Making queer folks are especially vulnerable to food insecurity, homelessness, and the health impacts that come with both. 

Like any group, in times of tumult we cling to our community for support. Many of us find chosen family in our community spaces, ones that are safe and accessible. Safe space that we have long been losing – thanks to gentrification. 

Week after week another of our community spaces or queer-owned business shuts its doors for good.

We shouldn’t have to suffer more as a result of this pandemic, because we’re queer, or Black, or trans, or disabled, or low-income, or a refugee. We all deserve to be protected and kept safe, especially in a crisis like this.”