SONIA Furstenau, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Cowichan Valley, said on Monday that while she was heartened and relieved that another safe and effective vaccine had been approved for use in Canada, there remained a gap in the information the Province was basing its COVID-19 policies on.
Furstenau said in a statement: “Over the past year experts have time and again called for the collection of comprehensive race-based data from the B.C. government.
“The B.C. Human Rights Commissioner has stated repeatedly that COVID-19 is aggravating existing injustices, making it all the more ‘critical that the government of B.C. collect and analyse disaggregated data to identify inequalities and advance human rights in this province.’
“As the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health told the New York Times in December, ‘When I look at my data, the average age of death from COVID for a white person is 81, but for a Latinx person it’s 67, and for a Black person it’s 72.’ This information has massive implications when designing an age-based vaccine rollout.
“With better information we can design better policies. That is why today in Question Period I asked the Premier why his government is not making the collection of race-based data a priority.
“The Minister of Health answered on his behalf and mentioned – as I noted in my supplemental – that B.C. does have much better data on the health risks faced by Indigenous British Columbians. During the pandemic this data has helped us make vital policy decisions, as outlined in the briefing this morning.
“Because the Ministry of Health has information that indicates Indigenous people face a disproportionate risk from COVID-19, both in terms of illness and fatalities, they were able to change the vaccine rollout strategy to reflect that – saving precious lives in the process.
“However, what I remain incredibly worried about are the other people and communities we are missing. The existence of systemic racism in health and economic policies is well founded – if we are not actively anti-racist in our pandemic policy development we risk compounding those harms.
“In June, 2020, Premier Horgan wrote to the B.C. Human Rights Commissioner and requested her advice on how he could move forward with the collection of race and ethnicity-based data, noting: ‘Hopefully, through your work we can develop progressive and rigorous framework that can guide future public policy decisions.’ To my knowledge, the B.C. NDP government has not moved forward with that work.”