On Thursday, Feb. 27, the Department of Health Sciences in partnership with Human Rights and Equity and the Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies will host the second annual Yosif Al-Hasnawi Memorial Lecture: Promoting Racial Justice in Health Care.
Notisha Massaquoi, former Executive Director of Women’s Health in Women’s Hands and a Lecturer at Ryerson University in the Department of Social Work, will present a talk entitled, “Today We Might Save A Life: Conversations About Racial Equity, Justice and the Canadian Health Care System.”
Massaquoi, who has facilitated the development of several health organizations and programs for Black communities in Canada, will discuss the disparities in access to health care and successful outcomes for racialized communities in Canada, racism as a barrier in the health care system and how a discussion of racial equity in health care can bring us closer to optimal service and quality care.
“We know that racialized people face clear disparities in access to health care in Canada,” says Margot Francis, Associate Professor in the Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies and co-organizer of the event. “We have to understand in detailed and concrete ways how this happens in order to change it.”
Francis notes that the lecture series, which is important for both memorializing Al-Hasnawi and encouraging advocacy for justice, is a fitting way to extend his legacy and honour his memory.
Al-Hasnawi was a first-year Medical Sciences student at Brock who had ambitions of becoming a doctor when, in December of 2017, he intervened on behalf of a stranger being accosted on the street by two other men and was fatally shot in the abdomen. Witnesses described how first responders failed to take the 19-year-old’s injury seriously, accusing him of lying about being shot before transporting him to a distant medical facility rather than a nearby trauma centre better suited to treating gunshot wounds. Two paramedics now face trial for failing to provide the necessaries of life.
“Supporting this annual lecture in our department is important as it allows us to draw attention to the persistent racism in the health care system and to the broader ways that racism shapes health inequities in Canada,” says Deborah O’Leary, Chair of the Department of Health Sciences. “Through this lecture, we want to provide opportunities for our students to engage deeply with these issues so that they can contribute to concrete solutions.”
Zanab Jafry (BSc ’18), the Brock medical sciences graduate who founded the Yosif Al-Hasnawi Memorial Lecture series, believes the annual lecture “helps fulfill a responsibility to treat anti-racism as necessary curriculum for future medical professionals.”
“As a Brock medical sciences alum, as well as Yosif’s Muslim peer, I have seen firsthand how systemic racism can fester in health systems if left unchecked,” says Jafry, who has set up a fundraiser to help Al-Hasnawi’s mother support his young siblings. “I feel strongly that memorializing Yosif must include a commitment to preventing such acts from happening again to other racialized people like him.”
“We are extremely grateful that Yosif’s mother, Amal Alzurufi, can attend the lecture,” says Francis. “Her determination to ensure that her son’s commitment to equitable health care is remembered inspires us all to do better in finding ways to challenge racism wherever we see it.”
What: “Today We Might Save A Life: Conversations About Racial Equity, Justice and the Canadian Health Care System” presented by Notisha Massaquoi
When: Thursday, Feb. 27 from 12 to 2 p.m.
Where: Pond Inlet