Halifax professor examines harmful role stigma plays during coronavirus pandemic

Click to play video: 'Second wave of COVID-19 brings new wave of discrimination' Second wave of COVID-19 brings new wave of discrimination
WATCH: Survey examining role stigma playing throughout pandemic open to participants negatively impacted by discriminatory actions. – Nov 26, 2020

While the Halifax Regional Municipality settles into a second round of targeted lockdowns, a Dalhousie University professor says people across Canada are experiencing a third wave of COVID-19-related stigma and discrimination.

“There’s a lot of talk going around about the 18- to 35-year-olds as being the proponents of this newest lockdown, but in all these cases about trying to blame or identify someone as being the cause of this … where the real harm comes (is) to those communities,” said Robert Huish, an associate professor of international development studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Robert Huish is an associate professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax. He’s leading a survey examining the impact of stigma during the pandemic. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

Huish is leading a study that records and examines the harmful role social stigma and discrimination is playing throughout the pandemic.

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The survey is open to anyone who feels they’ve encountered a negative experience associated with stigma as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve heard a lot from people who are out of province, we’ve heard from essential workers as well. And we’ve heard from some people who appear to be of Asian descent,” Huish said.

Read more: The problematic unknowns of how stigmatization helps coronavirus spread in Toronto

Huish says in early spring, many participants were victims of racial harassment, particularly those living in the Vancouver area.

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“The hate crimes unit there reported a spike of 878 per cent of reports coming in against persons of Asian descent,” he said.

When summer hit, Huish says survey participants reported being ‘plate shamed’ and having to leave notes on their vehicles stating that they’ve completed isolation periods.

“People being aggressive in parking lots, microaggressions in stores, very aggressive road behaviour and vandalism of cars,” Huish said.

A note left on a vehicle during the summer in Nova Scotia. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

Now, Huish says the ‘blame game’ has shifted towards young people.

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Former Halifax mayoral candidate Max Taylor recently posted on social media, calling for people to stop blaming young people for going out to bars and restaurants while the provincial government allowed them to be mostly open.

“We followed the rules by going to these bars downtown at certain times because the bars were open and now we’re getting shamed for it,” Taylor said.

Read more: Stigma, shaming and fear: The hidden suffering of coronavirus around the world

Taylor says people should focus on encouraging one another to get tested, not shame them for supporting the food and beverage industry while they were open under public health measures.

As for the 60-plus person house party that took place in Halifax last weekend, Taylor said it was a “terrible idea. Nobody should do that.”

Both Huish and Taylor are of the mind that people should not feed into the echo chamber of stigma and shaming.

READ MORE: Canadians of Chinese ethnicity report widespread racism over coronavirus: survey

“When we exclude people by any category or measure, the likelihood of that group wanting to participate and engage in public health measures also goes down,” Huish said.

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“I think there needs to be a lot less shaming and a lot more applause for the people who do stand in the cold for hours waiting to get a swab shoved deep in their nose,” Taylor said.

Click to play video: 'Stigma of COVID-19 left ‘long hauler’ and her family feeling ostracized in rural Alberta' Stigma of COVID-19 left ‘long hauler’ and her family feeling ostracized in rural Alberta
Stigma of COVID-19 left ‘long hauler’ and her family feeling ostracized in rural Alberta – Oct 21, 2020


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