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Montreal, May 6, 2020 — A coalition of community groups in Côte-des-Neiges has joined CRARR in demanding that provincial and municipal public health authorities devote more attention and resources to support vulnerable residents in the borough – especially those who are racialized and English-speaking.

Based on data from Santé publique-Montréal of the past few weeks, the borough ranks second after Montréal-Nord in terms of infection and death caused by COVID-19. As of May 4, out of 16,991 cases in Montreal, Côte-des-Neiges – Notre-Dame-de-Grâce registered 1,427 cases (Montréal-Nord ranked first at 1,501) and 142 deaths of a total of 1,488 in Montreal (Ahuntsic-Cartierville ranked first with 186 deaths). COVID-19 data are only available in terms of age and gender. Women make up 59.1 per cent of those infected.

“Despite these alarming statistics, it is concerning that the residents of Côte-des-Neiges and NDG, and others who live west of Saint Lawrence Boulevard, have not received the kind of public attention as other residents in other parts of Montreal have,” said Fo Niemi, Executive Director of CRARR.

“We serve, support and work with thousands of Black and Asian families in Côte-des-Neiges, and we see their needs, their fear and their pain,” added Tiffany Callender, Executive Director of the Côte-des-Neiges Black Community Association (CDNBCA). “We see many people and families being left behind, because they are English-speaking, they are Black and Brown and often living at or below the poverty line,” she said.

Numerous community organizations that serve Black and racialized residents are not even listed and recognized by the local borough on its list of local resources. (

“This is an example of how groups are being left behind,” said Sharon Nelson, first Vice President of the Jamaica Association of Montreal (JAM).

“We provide food and other materials to individuals and families, Black and non-Black alike, the requests are growing during this crisis, and we have received funding from the provincial and municipal governments for our food bank specifically. So to not be even recognized as a community resource by the borough is deeply disappointing,” said Nelson.

Last Monday, JAM called for two mobile testing units to reach vulnerable residents who encounter barriers in accessing the sole screening clinic located at the Jewish General Hospital.

The Filipino Association of Montreal and Suburbs (FAMAS) voiced many of the same concerns.

“Like the borough’s Black community, many of our members are Filipino men and women who work in hospitals and seniors’ residences,” said FAMAS Vice President – External, Ramon Vicente. “They are putting their lives at risk to protect other people and there is nothing much to address their needs on or off the job.”

Last week, CRARR called on federal and provincial public health authorities to collect data on the race, language and household income of infected individuals. This is badly needed to better assess and adapt services to the needs of borough residents.

“Data in the U.S. show that communities of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 due to social and economic disparities such as poverty and poor housing,” Callender pointed out. “That’s why we need detailed data before it’s too late.”

“Let’s face it, we are ignored because, in addition to being people of color, we are English-speaking,” Nelson said. “The diverse English-speaking communities of Montreal must be consulted and involved in all aspects of public health decision-making to ensure better health outcomes for our people.”

The coalition put forward a seven-point Health Equity Plan to end exclusion and to ensure active community participation in public health decisions affecting the community. This included a request for governments to supply free masks and gloves to all citizens on social assistance and pensions and residents of public housing. The coalition is also asking for the creation of an advisory committee to guide provincial and municipal public health officials in coming up with adapted measures for Montreal.

The seven-point plan is also supported by the Council of South Asian Communities, Progressive Chinese of Quebec, the Chinese Association of Montreal, the Montreal Chinatown Economic Development Council as well as the Quebec Community Groups Network.

With more than 166,000 residents, Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce is the most populous borough in Montreal. Racialized residents made up 47% of its population. Based on 2016 Census, key racialized groups include Asians (Filipino, Chinese and East Asians), Blacks, Arabs and South Asians. Almost three quarters of borough residents are renters and the population has a high percentage of people living under the poverty line – 24% compared to the city-wide rate of 17.9%.