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Community groups frustrated Quebec won’t collect race-based coronavirus data

Click to play video 'Minority groups push for COVID-19 data tracking' Minority groups push for COVID-19 data tracking
WATCH: Studies out of the United States, England and even Toronto indicate Covid hits minorities harder than white communities. But Quebec has no plans to conduct race-based testing. Black and minority community groups say they're disappointed with that. So they've decided to collect some race-based Covid data of their own. Amanda Jelowicki explains. – Aug 20, 2020

Several Montreal community organizations have banded together alongside a Montreal entrepreneur to create a survey-based website to analyze how the coronavirus crisis has affected marginalized communities.

Thierry Lindor helped created the Colors of Covid website. The survey, which he estimates takes less than two minutes to fill out, covers not just health questions but also socioeconomic factors.

Lindor was inspired to create the website after seeing many Black friends and family members get sick with COVID-19, with several dying from the virus.

“The Black community has suffered disproportionally compared to the demographic we occupy in Quebec,” he said.

“I did some research and found out during the 2004 SARS pandemic if you were Black in Toronto you were 10 times more likely to contact SARS. So I thought, what does that mean 16 years later in Montreal for a virus that seems more impactful than SARS?”

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Read more: Montrealers raise awareness of the importance of Black community spaces on Emancipation Day

The groups behind the website hope to collect data, and then present the information to the government. Eventually, they hope it will mean more resources to community organizations in the areas that need help most.

“The community organizations who are the experts were not consulted by the government when their plans were put into place,” said Tiffany Callendar, the executive director of the Côte-des-Neiges Black Community Association.

“We were left with the aftermath of ensuring our community is served. So the Colors of Covid will inform us what we already know. We will use that to inform the government what they should know.”

In the spring, the director of Quebec’s Public Health department Dr. Horacio Arruda said the government would collect race-based data. But earlier this month, he said the information was too sensitive.

“Public health has said it many times, we fully understand the importance of this issue and are very sensitive to it. However, at this time, we are not compiling the information,” the public health department told Global News in a statement.

“Also, on May 21, the Ministry asked the INSPQ to partner with the Direction de santé publique de Montréal to carry out a study that will assess whether ethnocultural status is a risk factor in cases of covid in Quebec.”

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But community groups say that’s not enough.

They say the areas in Montreal hardest hit, including Montreal North and Côte-des-Neiges, have high numbers of people of colour.

And recent Toronto numbers indicate COVID-19 hit Black people much harder than white people.

Countries like the United States and England are collecting race-based data.

“We are of the mindset that if Black lives matter, Black data should also matter. If the government refuses to act, we have to act,” said Lindor.

Read more: Want to support Black people? Stop talking, start listening

Fo Niemi of the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations says it’s a sign the government doesn’t want to deal with systemic racism.

“The government is afraid the data will show more racial disparities in the way COVID-19 affects certain groups and the population, particularly in Montreal,” said Niemi.

Colors of Covid hopes to collect data from Quebec, and then across the country, over the next few months.