Statement from Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health, on Supporting Indigenous Communities During This Difficult Time


In light of the tragic discovery last week of the remains of 215 children found buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, I would like to send my condolences to the families and communities affected. Sadly, this is another reminder of the systemic racism that Indigenous peoples across our country have faced for centuries and continue to encounter to this day.

As a Canadian, I am encouraging everyone to denounce racist acts when they see them, whether they are committed by individuals, or as in this case, governments or institutions. Acknowledging racism is the first step towards eradicating it and ensuring that future generations of all ethnic groups and races have a brighter future in our country. While we cannot change the shameful history that led to last week’s discovery, we can all work together to ensure that atrocities like the ones that took place at residential schools never happen again.

As a health professional, I also want to point out that racism is a social determinant of health and a public health issue of great concern. Racism is a root cause of social inequities, isolation and segregation that lead to higher rates of mental and physical illness in victims of racism.

And that is why as a country, we are long overdue to go beyond merely denouncing acts of racism, but to take actions to stop them from happening in the first place. This is an important issue that will, without a doubt, lead to peaceful demonstrations for social change across the country. The health unit is therefore reminding anyone participating in a public event to take the precautions required to keep everyone safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

If you or someone in your household is at greater risk for serious illness from COVID-19, you may want to consider virtual alternatives to show your support. If you are sick or have any possible COVID-19 symptoms, it’s important to stay at home and follow public health instructions.

If you choose to participate in a demonstration, please do the following to protect yourself and others from COVID-19:

  • Take a COVID-19 self-assessment before attending.
  • At all times, try to keep a minimum distance of 2 metres (6 ft) from other participants.
  • Wear a mask for added protection. Avoid touching your face or the mask.
  • Bring hand sanitizer and use it often.
  • Avoid shouting because it can project respiratory droplets into the air and onto people. Instead, use signs, drums or musical instruments to express your support.
  • Don’t share water, food, posters or other items.

Following the demonstration:

  • Remove and wash your clothes immediately.
  • Shower as soon as you can.
  • Disinfect any materials that you carried.
  • Monitor yourself for COVID-19 symptoms and get tested if needed.
  • Avoid contact with those who are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease (e.g. older people, those with pre-existing health conditions).