There are calls for a change in the structure of Hamilton’s board of health to ensure all voices are reflected within policy decisions.
Health experts and representatives of racialized communities issued that call during a series of presentations to the board on Monday morning.
Hamilton’s board of health is currently comprised of the 16 members of city council.
Lyndon George has asked councillors to consider following the lead of Toronto and Ottawa, where community voices are represented at the table.
“It is something that has worked,” George said. “They have been able to bring in health experts, lived experience and been able to shape public discourse.”
McMaster pediatrician Dr. Natasha Johnson adds that the pandemic has highlighted a need for diverse voices, citing the example of vaccine hesitancy among racialized communities.
“We all have blind spots”, she said. “Having diverse members with different experiences and expertise will help shed light on those blind spots and make planning more robust and inclusive.”
Dr. Johnson adds that, “Some communities have a difficult and traumatic historic legacy with the health-care system. This must be considered when public health policies are being implemented.”
City councillors, in a vote of 10-2, have asked staff to report back with options for changing the governance structure of Hamilton’s board of health.
Flamborough Coun. Judi Partridge agrees it is time to consider alternate models, “particularly as our city is growing in diversity.”
“I will not abdicate my responsibilities,” said Ward 6 Coun. Tom Jackson, speaking forcefully against changing the governance structure, which would require provincial government approval.
Jackson added that he can’t support “community members, non-elected, equal voting, decision-making voices at this table.”