Our Lives are Essential

Illustration credit: Xue Xu (@yumigou_) for CCNCTO

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter (CCNCTO) were sounding the alarm on incidents of anti-Asian racism across Canada. In a new report, they are lifting up the voices of Chinese Canadian frontline workers speaking out on the challenges they are facing at work and in life during the pandemic.

Our Lives are Essential: Chinese Canadian Frontline Workers Pandemic Report is the result of a two-part community research project conducted between January and March of 2021. It includes the results of a survey completed by 259 workers and community members, and a community-led storytelling and interview project connecting youth volunteers with other workers and community members in an intergenerational exchange.

The majority of workers surveyed are employed in low-wage and high-risk sectors. They reported that:

  • Frontline workers are working long hours for low wages under dangerous conditions.
  • Workplaces feel unsafe for the majority of frontline workers.
  • An overwhelming majority of frontline workers feel powerless to change their circumstances.
  • Frontline workers are suffering from high stress and other negative mental health impacts.
  • Workers are demanding more resources and progressive policies to better protect working class families and communities.

To address these issues, they are calling on governments and community groups to:

  • Expand employment protection for all workers, in particular essential workers, workers with low income, and precarious workers. In addition to living wages, workers deserve safe, fair and dignified work conditions.
  • Provide permanent free and accessible mental health care that is culturally appropriate and language specific for all workers as part of a COVID-19 just recovery plan.
  • Invest resources into Chinese Canadian working class communities to increase workers’ capacities to improve unjust and inequitable labour conditions.
  • Grant  permanent residency for all migrants, international students, workers and community members with precarious immigration status through an immediate and comprehensive program.

Read the whole report here, and check out an opinion piece about it in the Toronto Star