Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Some of the Canada's newest citizens who work on the front lines of the health care system are asking people to remember the immigrants who cared for them during the pandemic.
In a video that's been seen more than 35,000 times, Winnipeg nurse Jerome Espital is one of nearly a dozen new Canadians working in health care who asks people to consider the next time they hear a racist joke or vote, not to forget the newcomers who helped them.
"Will you remember that I was the one caring for your grandmother?" Espital asks in the video, which was produced by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. It's part of a campaign to raise awareness of immigrants’ front-line contributions during the COVID-19 crisis.
The national campaign is in response to an increase in racist incidents, many directed against Asian Canadians. In one incident, a grocery store shopper in Markham, Ont., yelled at an Asian Canadian to "get away"; in another, Ontario Conservative MP Derek Sloan tweeted that chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam "must go."
Espital, who immigrated from the Philippines and became a Canadian citizen in February, said he's aware of the racism and xenophobia. He welcomed the invitation to join the campaign.
"There's a lot of issues going on and I'd like to share my experiences," said Espital, whose employer prevents him from identifying where he works in any media interviews. He's found Winnipeggers to be welcoming and accepting because they're more familiar with diversity.
"A lot of staff in (my workplace) here in Winnipeg are international and came from different countries," he said. "People in Winnipeg are starting to acknowledge and are knowing they will be taken care of by a person from another country. They are getting used to it."
That hasn't always been the case, said the 34-year-old who worked as a health care aide in northern Manitoba before becoming a nurse. One incident in The Pas with a patient from that time stands out.
"As soon as I entered the room, he told me 'Why did you come to this country? You're taking away our jobs.'" Espital said he didn't respond to the elderly patient, who may have had cognitive issues, but the nurse who was with him did.
To all the immigrants, migrant workers, and new citizens working on the frontlines of the #COVID19 crisis, we thank you and we stand with you.— Institute for Canadian Citizenship (@inclusion_ca) May 19, 2020
Let’s #StandTogether against xenophobia and racism. Share this video and spread the word. https://t.co/JyYblmeeLX | #YouClapForMeNow pic.twitter.com/fNTSmI77Kv
"She said I'm not taking anyone's job: 'He's here to help us because we're short of staff'," the nurse told the patient.
"After that incident in The Pas, I've had no issue," said Espital, who knows that's not the case for all new Canadians, and saw the national campaign and video as an opportunity to speak up.
Immigration Partnership Winnipeg launched its own anti-discrimination campaign earlier this month following increased reports of racist incidents related to COVID-19 toward people of Asian heritage, including verbal harassment on buses, workplace gossip, derogatory social media posts, being shunned in public spaces and refused tenancy by property managers.
A recent survey of 1,877 provincial health care workers by Canadian Union of Public Employees Manitoba found that one in five respondents who self-identified as Asian had experienced racism at work throughout March and April.
Public opinion polling conducted by Leger Marketing for the Association for Canadian Studies early in the pandemic indicated 32 per cent of Manitobans worried about being in contact with people from Asia or Iran.
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.
Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.
To those who have made donations, thank you.
To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.
The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.
After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.
If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.
We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.
Updated on Saturday, May 30, 2020 at 12:05 PM CDT: Corrects reference to Institute for Canadian Citizenship