Meanwhile in Canada, an Ottawa woman identified as Shania Lavallee reportedly circulated a Snapchat video online that appeared to mock George Floyd’s death.

Shania reportedy shared the video of her sister Justine Lavallee, who is a Program Officer at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), and Justine’s boyfriend, Gilmour Maurice Driscoll, who seemed to be re-enacting his final moments.

Shania has since issued an apology, saying they were “play fighting” and she sees how it could be “taken out of context.”

Her employer, Boston Pizza Orleans, which is minority-owned, said she was “terminated immediately.”

Update: Earlier reports indicated that Shania Lavalle worked for the Ottawa Catholic School Board but OCSB said she is NOT one of their employees. 

Correction: An earlier version of this post mistated that Shania Lavellee was a Ottawa U student. She recently graduated from the University of Ottawa.

Follow @Solitisak on Instagram for more info on what happened

Police chief Mark Saunders is calling for calm amid allegations of foul play in the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who fell to her death from a 24th-floor apartment balcony during an interaction with Toronto police.

He revealed that dispatch received three individual 911 calls regarding an assault at 100 High Park on Wednesday evening, two of which indicated that there was a knife present. The call sounded “rather frantic” and police presence was needed, he said. He also said he’s “very comfortable” with the number of officers that were at the scene.

He told reporters “there’s a whole lot I want to say” and wishes he could say more about what occurred, but can’t due to the SIU’s ongoing investigation. “It’s a lot of misinformation, it’s a lot of lies,” Saunders said.

The chief added, “I support my men and women based on the limited information that I have right now.” He said he’s “anxious” for the investigation to be completed and hopes the public gets to hear the “absolute truth.” He also called for the use of body cameras, saying this is a “textbook case” of why they should be provided.

He said people are “feeding into” the “outrageous lies” being spread on social media and is urging the public to “wait for the facts to come out.”

It still remains unclear as to exactly what happened in the moment’s leading up to Regis’ death.

Watch the news conference HERE.

 

May 28, 2020

STATEMENT ON THE DEATH OF REGIS FROM THE KORCHINSKI-PAQUET FAMILY

On Wednesday May 27, 2020 at approximately 5:00 pm a 911 call was made by a concerned mother, Claudette Beals-Clayton, for the safety and well-being of her child Regis Korchinski-Paquet.

Regis was in distress over a family conflict and her mother sought police assistance to bring calm to the situation.

Once police arrived at the residence they met her mother Claudette, Regis and Reece Korchinski-Beals, her brother in the hallway of 100 High Park in Toronto.

Claudette pleaded with police to provide assistance to her daughter and take her to CAMH to provide mental health support, as Claudette did not want the problem to escalate where it became unsafe.

Words were exchanged between Regis and the police officers, and Regis stated she had to use the bathroom and went into her apartment.

Her brother who was present, witnessed multiple police officers enter the unit after Regis went in.

When her brother attempted to go in after his sister he was stopped by police from entering the unit.

After approximately 1-2 minutes her mother and brother heard commotion in the apartment and then heard Regis cry out “Mom help, Mom help, Mom help.”

After that Mother and Brother heard silence.

Eventually an officer came out of the unit, knocked on the neighbour’s door, and stated to the family that she is over at the neighbour’s house or in the unit below.

After a few moments the mother then asked the officers if she is on the ground.

An officer went into the unit, then came back out and told her mother yes she is on the ground.

The family is distraught over the senseless loss of life and wants Justice for Regis.

The family wants answers to what happened. How can a call for assistance turn into a loss of life?

The family wants to ensure camera footage from hallway is secured by the SIU.

The family is extremely concerned that in recent times people with mental health issues across North America are ending up dead after interactions with the police.

D’Andre Campbell called for assistance on April 6, 2020 in Peel region and ended up being shot dead.

There has been a large outpouring of support online in the community, which is a testament to Regis’ effect on people.

She was proud of her Ukrainian and Nova-Scotian heritage, she was a talented gymnast, and used her skills to teach children and give back. She volunteered selfishly at her church and was a well known pillar of the congregation.

She is loved and will be missed by her Father Peter Korchinski, Mother Claudette Clayton-Beals, sisters Shyna, Shantiga, Renee, brother Reece, and her 12 nieces and nephews.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist the family.

All inquiries can be directed to info@maatlegal.ca

Toronto police are being accused of pushing a Black woman off an apartment balcony to her death in the city’s High Park neighbourhood. 

The incident took place on Wednesday, May 27, at around 5:15 pm. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) said Toronto police responded to a “domestic incident” at an apartment building on High Park Avenue. While inside a unit on the 24th floor, police “observed” a woman on the balcony. “A short time later, the woman fell from the balcony to the ground,” according to a news release from the SIU. Police did not release the woman’s name but family members publicly identified her as Regis Korchinski-Paquet. 

In several videos posted on his @rocawrld Instagram account, her cousin alleges that police threw her off the building and left her body at the scene for hours. He says the police claimed she committed suicide. 

The family’s lawyer Knia Singh said the victim’s mother, Claudette Beals-Clayton, sought police assistance because Regis was experiencing a mental health crisis, and pleaded with them to take her daughter to CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) for mental health support. 

Singh said words were exchanged between Regis and the police officers in the hallway before she went inside her apartment to use the bathroom. 

Multiple officers followed her in the unit while her brother was blocked from entering. About two minutes later, her mother and brother heard commotion inside and Regis crying out for help. Eventually an officer came out and told her mother that she was on the ground.

The family is demanding #JusticeforRegis and wants answers to how a call for assistance resulted in her death. Singh finds it suspicious suicide is being mentioned considering Regis asked building management for weeks to install a protective screen around the apartment balcony.

Police Chief Mark Saunders and Mayor John Tory offered condolences to his family, while the SIU is asking anyone with information to contact the lead investigator at 1-800-787-8529 or upload any video evidence on the SIU website.

A protest for Regis has been organized at Christie Pits on Saturday, May 30 at 2:00 pm.

Read the full statement HERE.

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) released a disturbing report regarding five high-risk long-term care homes in Ontario: Orchard Villa in Pickering, Altamont Care Community in Scarborough, Eatonville in Etobicoke, Hawthorne Place in North York, and Holland Christian Homes Grace Manor in Brampton.
 
Some of the key findings include:
  • Residents being left in bed in soiled diapers
  • Unsafe nursing medication administration errors
  • Cockroach infestations
  • Improper use of PPE by staff and doctors
  • COVID-19 patients being housed with residents who have not tested positive
  • Residents crying for help with no response from staff for 30 mins to over 2 hours
  • Residents not bathed for several weeks
  • Residents forcefully fed
  • COVID-19 positive patients allowed to wander around freely
Premier Doug Ford said it was the “most heart-wrenching report I’ve ever read in my entire life.” One of the homes – Orchard Villa – has been named in a $40-million class action lawsuit on behalf of all the residents and their family members. Many Canadians are also calling for the resignation of Merrilee Fullerton, the Minister of Long-Term Care.
 
The Ontario government has already launched an active investigation into the five privately-owned homes and has started the process of taking over management at four of the facilities. The fifth, not included in the report, is Camilla Care Community in Mississauga. An independent commission into Ontario’s LTC system is scheduled to begin this July.
 
You can read the full report here 👉🏾 https://tinyurl.com/yb8gc395

A Canadian Human Rights organization is sounding the alarm after Ontario quietly gave police services access to a new database with the names, date of birth, and address of everyone in the province who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The emergency order, issued by the Ministry of Health back in April, allows the personal information of COVID-19 patients to be shared with police, firefighters and paramedics. The government said the data would provide first responders with the “tools they need to do their jobs and keep Ontarians safe.”

In a statement posted on their Twitter account, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) said, “Providing personal health information directly to law enforcement is an extraordinary invasion of privacy. Such a measure should only be taken when clearly authorized by law and absolutely necessary given the particular circumstances.”

Toronto-based lawyer Abby Deshman, Director of the Criminal Justice Program at the CCLA, said the province “needs to be extremely clear what the use for the information is, why it’s necessary and how this is legal.” She told CTV News Toronto police officers are going to get incomplete information because testing is limited, adding, “It’s hard for us to see how police will use this information to protect themselves or the public.”

Deshman emphasized that health information is usually “tightly controlled and disclosed only to health providers” and finds it worrisome it is being shared with law enforcement. 

Officials say the database will be inaccessible to first responders once the state of emergency is lifted, but have not disclosed any more details.

After months of pressure from Black community advocates and health experts, Ontario announced it will soon begin collecting race-based and socioeconomic data on COVID-19. Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams said the province is consulting with health equity experts to determine what information to collect. So far, no further details have been provided. However, Ontario health official Dr. Barbara Yaffe revealed they are in the process of updating the questionnaire distributed to patients by public health units. 

Just last month, community leaders issued a joint statement on COVID-19’s devastating impact on Black communities in Ontario, and urged public health officials to collect race-based data to better inform the government’s pandemic response. Ottawa’s first Black councillor Rawlson King also authored a letter of support, noting the importance of using the data to design a more equitable healthcare system, as well as improve resource allocations for Black communities. 

Citing long-standing structural and systemic inequities rooted in anti-Black racism, they outlined concerns the pandemic has amplified existing health and socioeconomic disparities, including poorer health outcomes; poverty; low income; unaffordable housing; and incarceration, which research has shown affects the Black population at disproportionately higher rates.

Black workers, particularly Black women, are overrepresented among essential workers in frontline jobs like PSWs or RPNs; and in service jobs that require close contact with the public. Many of them are providing essential services – such as grocery store clerks, cleaners, and warehouse workers – yet unable to access social and financial relief for their families. 

Black families are more likely to live in multi-generational households and may find it difficult to practice physical distancing or self-isolation. Black Canadians are also more likely to have pre-existing health conditions (i.e. diabetes, hypertension, etc.), and lack access to healthcare, putting them at increased risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19.

Canada’s lack of race-based COVID-19 data hurting Black Canadians: experts

WATCH: Unlike the United States, provinces and territories in Canada, are not collecting data about which groups have been impacted by COVID-19. Health experts say governments need to commit to collecting this data because, otherwise, it’s difficult to glean a full picture of how minority communities are being impacted.

Rachel holds multiple jobs as a social services front-line worker in the Greater Toronto Area.

Recently after a long shift, she left work, went to the grocery store and returned home to her children. Global News has agreed to use a pseudonym for Rachel, as she fears reprisal from her employer.

That night she got a call from a crying co-worker  — a resident they cared for was sick and was sent to the hospital to be tested for the novel coronavirus. Both she and her colleague are Black women, as are most of the relief and part-time staff where she works, she said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — City of Toronto to start gathering race-based data connected to COVID-19

While her colleague had learned about this from another co-worker, management did nothing to notify staff that a resident was sick and was now in hospital, Rachel said.

“Had the management contacted staff to say ‘Hey, we’re not going to disclose which resident, but we’ll keep you in the loop to the results,’ I would have been satisfied,” she said.

This is a facility where management or on-call staff would be available to support the residents if anyone decides not to come in due to a potential coronavirus outbreak, she said.

But the failure to be transparent with staff about the wellness of residents, especially when many managers are able to do their jobs at home, makes her feel they simply don’t care about the safety of her and other Black women taking care of residents.

“It’s disheartening,’” she said. “But when this happens … they don’t have the responsibility to notify us to self-quarantine or watch out for symptoms.

 Toronto Public Health begins tracking race-based data for COVID-19
“It’s the devaluing of my life and the lives of my colleagues,” she said, important to recognize that Black people are over-represented among front-line workers, who bear the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rachel says there isn’t widespread recognition of racialized workers putting themselves at risk everyday often in jobs they can’t afford to quit. With no national or provincial efforts to collect data about whether Black communities are more likely to be infected or die from the coronavirus, she said she isn’t hopeful policy changes will come about that could provide solutions.

The impact of coronavirus on Black people

In the United States, data from 29 states shows that the coronavirus has killed Black Americans at a disproportionate rate, according to the Atlantic.

Earlier in April, an analysis by the Associated Press found that 42 per cent of COVID-19-related deaths in the U.S. are Black people, double their share of the population. Health disparities, a higher chance of working front-line jobs, less access to health care and being more likely to live in crowded, denser neighbourhoods are all factors contributing to a higher death rate, according to the AP.

In Canada, race-based data about which groups have been impacted by COVID-19 hasn’t been collected. Toronto Public Health announced on April 22 that it would begin to collect this information so it can address health inequities.

U.S. minorities face greater risk of death from COVID-19

U.S. minorities face greater risk of death from COVID-19

READ MORE: Coronavirus is killing Black Americans at a much higher rate

Even without that data, the health of Canada’s Black communities has long been a concern and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, according to a statement from Black leaders in health care across Ontario published by the Alliance for Healthier Communities on April 2.

In Ontario specifically, research shows Black people face barriers to employment and often rely on gig economy jobs, which are more precarious. Black women are more likely to be working front-line jobs as personal support workers (PSWs) or registered practical nurses, for example, according to the same statement.

 

A study by Ryerson University in 2009 — the most recent study available — found that 42 per cent of PSWs identified as a visible minority, close to double their share of Canada’s population at the time.

This week, the death of 51-year-old Arlene Reid, a Black woman who provided home care in Peel Region outside Toronto, sparked comments from the union representing community health-care workers across Ontario, claiming PSWs do not receive proper protection.

Why health inequalities exist in Canada

Black Canadians historically have worse health outcomes due to a myriad of factors that all stem from anti-Black racism — including the types of jobs to which they have access, where they live, income levels and lack of available resources, said Arjumand Siddiqi, Canada Research Chair in population health equity.

“What we know about the relationship between race and health suggests that it’s almost impossible to imagine that these disparities aren’t happening,” said Siddiqi, who’s also an associate professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

For instance, Black women are 43 per cent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women, according to the Black Health Alliance, a national health advocacy organization. Black women are consistently underscreened for breast and cervical cancer, Global News reported last year.

Those who face various forms of systematic oppression and a lack of resources as a result almost always suffer the worst health, Siddiqi said.

Lack of access to safer jobs during the coronavirus pandemic — meaning workers can stay at home — is also a concern for Black communities, as they are currently more likely to be front-line workers, she says.

“Autonomy and income from those jobs also provides us with the resources to eat better and to live in more comfortable homes,” she said. “This is why these kinds of fundamental things about your resources, and your status, start to affect every mechanism to every disease.”

COVID-19 pandemic has ‘highlighted disparities’

Safia Ahmed, executive director of the Rexdale Community Health Centre west of Toronto, says she sees a clear health disparity in the communities her organization serves.

“What COVID-19 has done is that it’s highlighted those disparities,” she said.

Ahmed says her organization provides health promotion services to residents in the community of Rexdale and addresses social determinants of health that may prevent them from accessing care.

Many of their clients are either new immigrants or Black Canadians and have either lost their jobs due to COVID-19 or are working on the front lines, she says.

“People in these communities are experiencing food security issues, unemployment issues, and some are struggling to pay rent,” she said. “There are all these other social factors impacting one’s health … not having access to medication, your outcome when you contract disease is worse.”

The announcement that Toronto Public Health will start collecting race-based data for COVID-19 has been encouraging, and she hopes this data will be used to inform decisions and tackle health disparities in communities like the ones she serves, she says.

But beyond Toronto, the provinces and the federal government need to commit to keeping this kind of data as well, otherwise, it’s difficult to glean a full picture of how minority communities are being impacted, she says.

The need for race-based data 

The lack of data available, along with the absence of a national conversation on which groups are the most impacted by COVID-19, continues to put minority groups in danger, said Kathy Hogarth, an associate professor of social work at the University of Waterloo.

“When our society is built on inequality, we already have those that are way outside that social safety net,” said Hogarth. “And it makes some bodies disposable.”

“Without data, it’s all speculation, and as long as it remains in speculation, we can dismiss it,” she says. “What we need is a very rigorous way of collecting our data that looks at inequalities. I guarantee you there are inequalities; we are not all impacted in the same way.”

As Canada goes through this pandemic, it’s important that we think about how we want to collect data so we can better prepare in the future and work to protect marginalized communities, she says.

“Though we haven’t put the resources into collecting that kind of data, will we do it now? I wish that we would because I think it’s a detriment that we don’t.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

Arlene Huggins was handpicked by Education Minister Stephen Lecce to investigate the PDSB’s compliance after its failure to adhere to 27 Ministerial Directions it received.  The former president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) earned a law degree from the University of Toronto in 1989. She was also on the founding Board of […]

Following the release of a damning report of systemic anti-Black racism within the Peel District School Board (PDSB), Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce issued 27 directives on March 13, 2020 that were to be implemented by the organization under strict timelines.

In a news release, the Ministry of Education stated that these directives to the PDSB are “aimed at addressing the systemic discrimination, specifically anti-Black racism; human resources practices; board leadership and governance issues.”

The PDSB, which is responsible for over 155,000 students across 257 schools in Caledon, Brampton, and Mississauga, has since admitted to “systemic racism” within the Board, and issued a formal apology for the “hurt and harm” inflicted on the Black community.

Last November, the Ontario government announced a formal review of Canada’s second largest school board, stemming from years of racism and human rights complaints. The three-member Review team was led by Human Rights lawyer Ena Chadha, lawyer and former president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) Shawn Richard, and former deputy minister Suzanne Herbert.

From December 2019 to early February 2020, they considered over 160 written submissions, conducted 115 interviews and held 4 community and engagement sessions, where they heard from more than 300 individuals in various Peel and Toronto locations.

Below are some key findings from the Review published in March:

  • 83% of high school students in the PDSB are racialized yet 67% of its teachers are white
  • Black students were subjected to constant police intervention
  • Black students were grossly overrepresented in suspensions, some as early as junior kindergarten. They are only 10.2% of the secondary school population, but account for 22.5% of the students receiving suspensions
  • Black students felt that they were held to higher standards and different codes of conduct in comparison to White or other racialized students
  • Black students expressed that Black History should be a part of the curriculum and it should be more than just about slavery
  • Teachers and principals made degrading, inappropriate and racist comments about Black students and staff
  • Failure to intervene on the part of teachers regarding the frequent use of the N-word by students and micro-aggressions in the classroom
  • PDSB Director of Education Peter Joshua has served in his role since July 2017 but has never had a performance appraisal
  • Numerous Black educators had been promoted out of their positions when they spoke out against White supremacy and oppression

Despite saying work had already begun on the directives, reports are that little has changed in the Board. After a breakdown in mediation last month, Education Minister Stephen Lecce took further action and appointed lawyer Arleen Huggins to conduct an investigation into the PDSB’s compliance with the Minister’s binding Directions.

Lecce said he would not tolerate “delay or inaction” when it comes to “confronting racism and discrimination” and “will do whatever it takes to ensure these issues are addressed immediately and effectively.”

Ms. Huggins is expected to deliver her report to the Minister by May 18, 2020.

Minister’s Directions: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/new/minister-directions-pdsb-review.pdf
Final Report: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/new/review-peel-district-school-board-report-en.pdf