Community News Update - March 21, 2022

Today, Ontario reported 551 patients in hospital with COVID-19, including 181 in ICUs. These numbers continue to decline, though not as quickly as we would like. New cases remain plateaued above where they were at the peak of the fourth wave, so it is important that everyone remain cautious. As badly as we all want this pandemic to be over, it simply isn’t. Even with things improving, we lost four Ontarians to COVID today. None of those lives can be taken for granted

I am putting forward a motion in the legislature calling on the Ford government to mandate training for Black, Indigenous and racialized people's natural and textured hair within Ontario’s Hairstyling Program Standard as a step towards ending race-based hair discrimination in the workplace and school.

My motion would mandate culturally responsive hairstylist training specific to Black, Indigenous, and racialized people’s natural and textured hair be included within hairstyling education, so hairstylists in training receive inclusive education on all hair types, not only those that emphasize Eurocentric hair textures and beauty ideals such as straight and chemically relaxed hairstyles and treatments.

On days such as today, the International Day to End Racial Discrimination, it is important that decision-makers take actual steps towards combatting racial discrimination. Black actors and performers in Ontario’s film, television and theatre industry have long faced exclusion, injury and misunderstanding in their workplace due to stylists’ inexperience and lack of training in the proper styling and treatment of Black, Indigenous, and racialized people's natural and textured hair.

You can read more about this motion here: https://www.ontariondp.ca/news/ndp-mpp-introduces-motion-address-anti-black-racism-and-systemic-discrimination-ontarios

Lastly, tonight I will attend the annual Viola Desmond awards at my alma mater, celebrating the outstanding achievements of Black women. I am deeply moved to have an award in my honour, 'The Dr. Jill Andrew Alumni Award', named after me and awarded to Eternity Martis, a brilliant journalist and writer. You can learn more about this year’s awards here. Viola's legacy reminds us all, especially Black folks to CLAIM OUR SPACE and to do so unapologetically! Racism will NOT erase us! You can find more information about the Viola Desmond Awards and Bursaries here.

Today the Ford government lifted remaining mask mandates in most businesses. We all hope that this move is not premature and that we will not see another resurgence of serious illness. I would also remind everyone that mandates are still in place for public transit and congregate care and living settings. However, remember that business owners still have the right to require that customers wear masks if they see it as necessary to protect their staff and other customers. I urge everyone to show respect to those businesses that choose to continue requiring masking.

Lastly, regardless of what rules are in place, I encourage everyone to do their best to respect the safety and boundaries of the people around you. Many people still don’t feel comfortable being un-masked indoors with others. Please listen when you are asked to wear a mask, whether it’s by a business owner or a stranger. If someone still feels uncomfortable with in-person meetings, ask yourself if speaking to them over the phone is a possibility. We shouldn’t need a public health official to tell us to be kind to each other.

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