COP-COC | Reconstruction and Reset Plan for Canada

La version française suivra.

COVID-19 has exposed and significantly increased pre-existing racial inequities in Canada. The pandemic has amplified major racial inequalities in employment, healthcare, access to senior care, housing, access to justice and education.  While the Canadian government is working on a recovery plan from the pandemic, we need to reimagine what a society founded on justice, equity and dignity would truly look like. To that end, the Colour of Poverty Colour of Change (COP-COC) is proposing a Reconstruction and Reset Plan for Canada, one that will not only address racial inequality, but pave the foundation for a more prosperous and fair society for all.

Read the full  COP-COC’s Reconstruction and Reset Plan:

La COVID-19 a révélé et considérablement accru les inégalités raciales préexistantes au Canada. Les réponses politiques des différents ordres de gouvernement n’ont pas réussi à corriger les désavantages structurels et systémiques selon des critères raciaux. Pendant que le gouvernement canadien travaille sur un plan de rétablissement après la pandémie, nous devons réinventer ce à quoi ressemblerait vraiment une société fondée sur la justice, l’équité et la dignité. À cette fin, la couleur de la pauvreté, la couleur du changement (COP-COC) propose un plan de reconstruction et de rétablissement pour le Canada, qui non seulement s’attaquera à l’inégalité raciale, mais posera les bases d’une société plus prospère et plus juste pour tous.

I am Canadian, but do you see me as one?

Avvy Go, Clinic DirectorChinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic

Yet another video has gone viral within the social media platforms frequented by Chinese Canadians about a customer refusing to wear a mask inside a store.  At first brush, this video is no different from others as it depicts a white guy arguing with a clerk inside T&T, a Chinese supermarket, in Mississauga, over the wearing of a mask.

But 30 seconds into the video, the racist ideology of the customer rears its ugly head when he started to call mask-wearing a “Chinese communist lie”, and that COVID-19 is a “communist virus coming from Wuhan China …. just like you”, referring to the T&T clerk, who appears to be a Chinese Canadian man in his 60s.  But the insults did not end there.

As the customer continued on with his racist rant and demanding to know where the clerk came from, the latter could be heard repeatedly stating, “I am Canadian”.  In response, the customer said, with visceral contempt, “you are as Canadian as my butt”.

In total, the clerk repeated “I am Canadian” about 20 times, as if that was his only defence when confronted with unabashed, literally in-your-face, racism.

But then again, what else could we as Chinese Canadians say or do when words seem to fail to convey the anguish and profound sense of loss we feel when our very existence in the country we call home is being rejected?   

Being a Canadian has not helped scores of Chinese Canadians and other Asian Canadians who have been attacked, both verbally and physically, on the street, in public transit, at work, and pretty much anywhere we go during this pandemic.  Indeed, our very identity as Canadian is under attack, when our loyalty to Canada is being questioned, and our decision to wear a mask, or not, is being linked to our race.

Not only do we have to contend with racism because of the colour of our skin, Chinese Canadians also have to fight against xenophobia because no matter how long we have lived in this country, how many generations of our families have settled here and how much we have contributed to the building of our nation, we are still regarded as foreigners.  As long as this country has been around, starting with the first Prime Minister John A MacDonald who called us “strangers in a strange land”, our right to belong has never been fully accepted.

At times like this when systemic racism is being openly discussed and acknowledged by officials at all levels of government, there has been no out-pouring of support for Asian Canadians battling anti-Asian racism.  No celebrities coming to the aid of this T&T clerk, who was simply doing his job by following his company’s policy and as of July 10, the order of his city, mandating all residents to don a mask while indoor.

This video was reminiscent of a similar incident back in March when a group of Asian Canadian women were kicked out of a Metro store in Toronto for wearing masks.  They too were berated by a white customer, but with the support of the store employees.  As in the case of the T&T clerk, the Canadian public turned a blind eye, while the demand from a Chinese Canadian advocacy group to Metro to explain their action has been left unanswered.

Since when has wearing a mask and requiring others to wear one become a crime?  The answer: when you are Asian.

When I hear the T&T clerk declaring over and over again “I am Canadian”, I wonder how many more of us must do the same before the Canadian Government will hear our cries and take our issues seriously.  How much hope do we have to achieve true equality when the very strategy that Canada has adopted to combat racism does not even acknowledge the existence of anti-Asian racism?

As more and more cities begin to make mask wearing mandatory, I fear there will be more attacks on our community. Just as Chinese Canadians have been blamed for bringing the virus to Canada, we will be blamed by the anti-maskers for being forced to wear a mask designed to protect all of us from getting the virus.  

All I can do is ask my fellow Canadians, I am Canadian, but do you see me as one?

[Materials Posted] Race Matters – Now Make It Count: Virtual discussion by Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change (June 22, 2020)

Monday, Jun 22, 2020 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm [EDT]

Race matters when it comes to health, and other social indicators of well-being and life chances. But Canada does not collect race-based data in health or other areas. Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change (COP-COC) is hosting a public discussion to consider why we should collect race-based health data in Canada, who should collect it and what are the challenges. Our panelists will tell you what is happening right now in Canada in the data collection environment, who can benefit from race-based data collection, and reflect on the role people, community groups, health institutions and governments should play. You will have an opportunity to connect directly with people who know data, understand the issues and ask questions of your own.


• Dr. Notisha Massaquoi – Principal Consultant, Nyanda Consulting; former Executive Director, Women’s Health in Women’s Hands

• Amy Go – President, Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice

• Marc Lachance – Acting Director General, Health, Justice, Diversity and Populations, Statistics Canada

• Dr. Anna Banerji – Continuing Professional Development Chair for Indigenous and Refugee Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto

Moderated by Samya Hasan – Executive Director, Council of Agencies Serving South Asians and Steering Committee member of Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change.

If you have any questions about this event please contact

For more information about Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change visit


By Amy Go, President, Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice

COVID-19 does not impact all of us in the same way. It’s easy, but simplistic, to think otherwise – that this horrible virus can infect and affect everyone equally, regardless of wealth, fame, race, etc. Some celebrities have fallen into this trap, trying to find commonality with their fans by showing how they are also self-isolating and everyone is in the same boat. Sadly, some of our well-respected health professionals and other leaders have also taken this simplistic but misguided approach, in opposing demographic statistics that can provide analysis and support for the parts of our community who are disproportionately affected by this pandemic.

Toronto Public Health, as well as Peel Public Health, recently acknowledged that “who you are” affects how susceptible you are to COVID-19 and how the disease would impact on you. By collecting data on race and income, Toronto is just following the principles of social determinants of health that underpin the Public Health system. It is about time that all our Federal and Provincial Public Health authorities, including our Prime Minister, do the same. We must all “face race”, and recognize that our race matters in this pandemic and more generally in all of our lives in Canada.

I recoil when reading about the disproportionate and tragic impact of COVID-19 on Blacks and Hispanics in the U.S. This does not come as a surprise, knowing that being poor, prone to certain diseases, and working in low-paid frontline essential services would put the Blacks and Hispanics in the U.S. at much greater risk. I can only hope that the public attention will be sustained and eventually lead to longer term and systemic improvements for Blacks, Hispanics and other people of colour.

My heart aches seeing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on prisoners, seniors and residents in long term care, and people in homeless shelters and refugee shelters across Canada, and around the world. The heart-wrenching accounts of affected family members touch all Canadians deeply.

However, absent in these stories are the profiles and voices of the frontline workers in these settings, in particular, nursing staff, personal support workers, housekeeping, and food and environmental services workers. Based on my 18 years of experience managing a long term care home, a significant number (likely a majority of them in Ontario) are women of colour.

Just like their counterparts in U.S., people of colour in Canada are working in the frontline serving and delivering food, caring for the sick, working in farms, meat/food plants and factories producing masks and other supplies. People of colour in Canada, as in the U.S., are more prone than the average population to heart diseases, diabetes and asthma. Poverty is also more prevalent among people of colour communities in Canada as well. Let’s not forget that Indigenous Peoples in Canada fare worse by many of these measures. Sharing this reality of racial inequality with the U.S., it is only logical for Canada to also collect and report the race and income of people affected by COVID-19. Collecting and reporting this data shows our respect to the people of colour who are exposing themselves to higher risks so that the rest of us can stay home safe.

Who we are in terms of age, gender, income and race impacts on more than just the risks of exposure and the outcome of care. Race also matters in how we are being treated just from being out in the public during the pandemic. For Chinese and Asian Canadians, race alone puts you at risk of racist attacks when going about your daily lives in the pandemic.

My niece, a Chinese Canadian internist in Toronto, is one of the frontline health care workers who is taking care of COVID-19 patients in acute care. For fear of infecting her parents, she has been isolating herself in a condo and taking public transit every day for work. The horrifying image of the 92-year-old Asian senior dragged and assaulted in a racist incident in Vancouver made me far more worried about my niece’s safety on the streets of Toronto than in the hospital.

After a political leadership candidate (MP Derek Sloan) suggested that our Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, is more loyal to China than Canada, he did not face any sanctions for this racist attack. This signifies to all Canadians that it is open season for racism against Asian Canadians. The only right thing for Andrew Scheer, as a leader of Opposition, to do is demonstrate that the Conservative Party does not tolerate racism by expelling Derek Sloan and barring him from running as leader.

Our federal and provincial public health leaders should follow the footsteps of the Public Health departments in Toronto and Peel Region, in collecting and reporting race and income of people affected by COVID-19. We commend the Prime Minister for setting up an advisory group addressing disabilities issues arising from COVID-19. We urge the Prime Minister to establish an advisory group dedicated to addressing racism issues in the pandemic. In fighting this virus, we must also fight its disproportionate impact, and we must “face race.”