The 2020 theme for Black History Month is: “Canadians of African Descent: Going forward, guided by the past.” Inspired by the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), this theme acknowledges the important contribution made by people of African descent to Canadian society and works to propose concrete measures to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances.
While Black History Month is a time to learn about the many important contributions of African, Caribbean, and Black Canadians to the settlement, growth and development of Canada, it’s important to note that members of these communities face numerous/ongoing challenges. These include racism, sexism, poor access to education, low employment rates, inadequate housing, and poverty, all of which are barriers to accessing mental health and addictions support.
According to the Black Health Alliance website:
- Black Ontarians of Caribbean descent experience 2 times the delay in accessing evidence-based services than individuals of white European descent
- Black Ontarians experience higher rates of restraint and confinement while under the care of the mental health and addictions system
- People of Caribbean, East and West African origin in Ontario are at a 60 per cent increased risk of psychosis
Currently, there is limited research on how stigma affects mental health within the Black community and affects access to services, especially when living with experiences of racism, sexism, and ageism. The lack of race-based data, as well as the absence of culturally appropriate services and resources that specifically target Black communities within Canada, result in many people struggling alone and in silence. To help address this issue, the Government of Canada recently announced funding for five community-based projects to develop culturally focused programming, capacity and knowledge to improve mental health supports for Black Canadians in their communities. Learn more about these initiatives at the fund webpage.
For more information about Black History Month, visit the Government of Canada website.