Coronavirus: CUPE survey reveals anti-Asian racism towards Manitoba health-care workers

Members of a medical team tend to a patient at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital on Tuesday May 1, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young. THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE/Chris Young

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is reporting a rise in COVID-19-related racism directed at Manitoba health-care workers.

CUPE says in a recent survey of Manitoba health-care workers, one in five who self-identified as being of Asian heritage experienced racism in the workplace in the last month.

For comparison, it says only one per cent of those who did not identify as being of Asian heritage reported instances of racism in the same time period.

“There’s no place in this community or in this country or in this world for racism. It needs to stop,” says Debbie Boissonneault, president of CUPE 204.

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The union represents around 37,000 health-care workers from the WRHA, Shared Health, Northern Regional Health Authority, and Southern Health-Santé Sud.

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It says there was a similar spike in racism directed towards the Asian population during the SARS pandemic, and says ethnicity, background, or country of origin have nothing to do with COVID-19.

“I think the hardest part is knowing that people can take something that’s happened somewhere else in the world, and then blame people for it in a different country, and there’s nobody to blame,” Boissonneault says.

CUPE is encouraging workers who are faced with racism — or any form of harassment — to contact the union and their employer.

“Can the government do anything about people’s racial comments? No, but they can definitely let people know at this time [that] people need to be kind to one another, and there’s no right for racial comments regarding any of this. It’s sad,” Boissonneault says.

1,877 CUPE health-care workers took part in the survey between March 30 and April 5, according to the union.

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