Message on COVID-19, Allyship and EDI Supports

Expressing Our Gratitude

As we continue to come together as a community to respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Office of Inclusion and Diversity would like to recognize and thank everyone working in health services and research, who bravely continue to provide care to patients and study COVID-19 in search of a treatment. We also express our deep gratitude to all other essential workers who continue to provide vitally important services, many of whom whose contributions are often undervalued, such as caretakers and grocery store workers. 

You Are Not Alone

Updates on COVID-19 continue to be shared by the Faculty of Medicine. We are mindful that we are all  living in a time of uncertainty and change, which may result in feelings of fear and isolation. We are heartened to witness communities finding creative ways to come together online to provide each other with support and care. We would like to emphasize that you are not alone. As always, if you have any equity-related concerns, such as facing or witnessing discrimination or harassment, are experiencing isolation and searching for e-resources on mental wellness, and/or are interested in collaborating on an online event regarding emerging equity issues, please do not hesitate to contact our office at

Equity Considerations

We acknowledge that marginalized communities are disproportionately impacted by health pandemics such as COVID-19, as they face unique barriers to accessing resources, safety, health care and other services. For example, Indigenous land protectors at the Unist’ot’en Camp are still working to resist the Coastal GasLink, which continues to be constructed during this pandemic, despite calls for social distancing. Also, the pproximately 35,000 Canadians experiencing homelessness on any given night may not have a safe place to practice social distancing, especially as there is challenges with overcrowding in Toronto shelters. It is important that we keep in mind the way that systemic inequities play out as we work towards providing services and care during the pandemic. This may include ensuring online learning and meetings are offered in an accessible way, considering accommodations students and staff may require as they may be facing invisibilized barriers, and ensuring the needs of the most marginalized populations are being taken into consideration when responses to COVID-19 are being developed and implemented. Check out the list of resources below to find assistance and information related to accessibility, accomodations, allyship and health equity.

Responding to the Rise in Anti-East Asian Racism 

With the spread of the virus there has been a spike in acts of Anti-East Asian racism, including acts of physical and verbal violence, and the proliferation of stigma and microaggressions. While these acts are often targeted towards people of Chinese descent, all East Asian communities have been affected. We acknowledge that Anti-Asian racism is not a new phenomenon in Canada; rather, it has been further exposed in responses to COVID-19. We want to reiterate that racism and xenophobia are completely unacceptable. If you are experiencing or witnessing racism, xenophobia, or any other forms of discrimination, you are encouraged to reach out to supports, such as the Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office, the Faculty of Medicine’s Office of Inclusion and Diversity or Faculty of Medicine Human Resources. These offices will be able to provide you with helpful information and guidance on addressing these issues.  

This rise in anti-East Asian sentiments provides a unique opportunity for allyship. For example, if you witness a microaggression happen, please consider how you may interrupt the harmful message being shared and provide the person receiving the comment with support. Check out the resources that our Office has compiled on how to be an effective ally. 

Examples of Microaggressions related to COVID-19 and Ally Responses

The following are some examples of microaggressions related to the spread of COVID-19 that may arise in your spaces, including an explanation of why they are harmful, and suggestions of ally responses.

1) Using terms such as “China Virus,” “Wuhan Virus,” or “Asian Virus” to refer to COVID-19

  • Why this is harmful: Using the above terms to refer COVID-19 is harmful, because it equates the virus with East-Asian communities, encouraging stigma, stereotyping and biases. 
  • Ally Response: Please use the term COVID-19. It was chosen by the World Health Organization and signifies that the virus cannot should not be equated with a location or community. Our focus should be on working together to stop the spread, not stereotyping people.
  • You can check out several campaigns which focus on reducing stigma being placed on East-Asian communities in response to COVID-19:
    • Stop The Spread 
    • #IAmNotAVirus 
    • #WashTheHate 

2) We should stop social distancing now since the strongest will survive anyways.

  • Why it is harmful: This sentiment suggests that the most marginalized communities in our society are expendable. However, people that are homeless, have a disability, or are immunocompromised, for example, are no less deserving of care and safety.
  • Ally Response:  People that are home-free, have a disability, or are immunocompromised, for example, are no less deserving of care and safety. It is an important time to emphasize the importance of equity, inclusion, and accessibility.

3) That person is probably infected with the coronavirus because they are Chinese. 

  • Why it is harmful: The assumption that members of particular communities, such as Asian Canadians, are more likely to spread the virus is a negative stereotype based in fear and bias. It can result in both covert and overt harmful acts of racism, which have serious impacts on one’s mental and physical wellbeing.
  • Ally Response: It is important to rely on facts rather than fear. You can’t assume someone is positive for COVID-19 based on their race or ethnicity. Also, you cannot assume an Asian person is Chinese just by looking at them. Diversity, inclusion, community and collaboration will enable the most effective response to the pandemic. 

Empathy and Support: If you witness or hear about  microaggressions such as these being enacted, is also important to provide support to the person it was directed towards.

  • For example, you can empathize with them by saying, “That wasn’t okay. I am sorry that happened. What they said was harmful.”
  • You can also be supportive by saying, for example, “Is there anything I can do to support you? I am happy to bring that person aside and explain why that wasn’t okay. I would like to share some resources with you on dealing with this, if that is okay with you. ”