As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches to new lengths and new variants are discovered, we have to ask ourselves: how does this affect Black people? And more specifically, Black people in Ottawa. There has been a lot of speculation suggesting that Black people are hesitant about taking the vaccine.
Moreover, with more restrictions being put in place towards people who are unvaccinated, it is not surprising that vaccine mandates are mostly affecting Black communities in Ottawa. Why do Black folks mistrust the vaccine in the first place? The answer to that lies in the depths of our history books. There has been a long history of unethical medical procedures that have negatively affected Black folks. The most obvious one would be the Tuskegee Experiment of 1932. Within a span of 40 years, both Black men and Black women were treated like lab rats, being injected with infectious diseases. This experiment further spiraled into modern day medical practices, a common one being Black women not receiving enough painkillers, or even proper assistance during childbirth. These attitudes towards Black women relate back to colonial ideas of Black women not being able to feel pain like other women, due to their body types. Such attitudes lead many Black folk to hesitate about this inoculation. Some Black folks even feel coerced into taking the vaccine because it will affect their jobs, or affected the quality of their jobs till date.
A frequent reader of the Bytown Blog has recently reached out, expressing his sentiments towards the Canadian Federal Government and their vaccine mandates. He works from home now, and has been teleworking since the Covid-19 pandemic started till date. The reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, stated that when he learned that the Government of Canada was imposing vaccine mandates on all federal public servants, he was worried. His worries stemmed from the fact that the vaccine went against his conscious, and ultimately, his religious beliefs. All Canadians who work for the federal government were told to attest their vaccination status by October 29th 2021. However, he chose to remain unvaccinated. He then applied for a religious exemption, but was recently rejected by an unknown committee within the government. As such, he revealed that he felt coerced into taking the vaccination, or he would have been placed on Leave Without Pay. Leave without Pay is another form of termination, however, he would still be a part of the working system. which is basically termination, he would not receive any pay but he is still in the system. The reader expressed to us that this action “felt like slap in the face” because the Federal Government preaches inclusion and fighting against discrimination. Notwithstanding, this same government was ready to put a Black man out on the street based on his religious beliefs.
One thing to keep in mind is that this same Black man who reached out to the Bytown Blog also lives alone. As such, he would not have endangered anyone but himself if he were to contract COVID-19. His decision to remain unvaccinated does not affect any of his co-workers, since he has been working remotely since March 2020. Unfortunately, he decided to go against his religious beliefs and took the vaccine. In his situation, he was left with no option but to cease and desist. Bytown Blog believes that other Black folks within the government have also been coerced into taking this vaccine as well, mostly because they all have to make a living, and many of them have families and dependents. Many others feel they have been forced to stay silent during this whole brouhaha, thus complying with mandates that– sorry to say–do not make any sense. They feel the isolation in many other industries as well. Come to think of it, for a country (and city) that preaches freedom of speech and pushes anti-racist legislation…it is quite hypocritical to see them turn their backs on the same people they claim to defend. This is one of the many reasons why Black public servants are suing the federal government. As time goes on, it is clear that discrimination and racist centiments run all the way through Canadian policies and public health actions. It is easy for one to say that they are not racist, and that they do not condone discrimination, but can they prove it with their actions? When it comes to vaccine mandates, the answer is “No”.
So how do we proceed? How do we fight back? The answer: we speak up and stand up for ourselves. Whether you are vaccinated or not, we must stand up to oppressive government policies that affect Black folks in the city of Ottawa and beyond. A Black man had to bend his personal ethics for a country that continues to preach freedom, democracy and no tolerance for racism. If that doesn’t make you want to stand up, we don’t know what will. Speak up, and stand up for what is right!!