June 23, 2020
Systemic racism is not new. For centuries racialized people, and especially Black and Indigenous people, have experienced interpersonal, systemic and institutional racism. In the last few months, the deaths of Chantel Moore, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, D’Andre Campbell, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Oluwatoyin Salau, among many others, have brought this reality to the attention of mainstream media and society at large. We all have a responsibility to recognize the systemic racism that continues to exist in Canada and to work to eradicate racism in ourselves and our communities.
Over the past few weeks, our team has been discussing how harmful it is to not speak up and actively work to oppose racism. We need to do better. We have also been discussing what changes need to happen within Jack.org and in the healthcare and mental health systems in order to do better by Black, Indigenous, and racialized youth.
What we should have said from the beginning, and what we are saying now in no uncertain terms: We condemn racism in all its forms. We stand in solidarity with Black, Indigenous, and all racialized communities. As an organization, we commit to ongoing learning and unlearning towards improving the mental health education we provide and to push for equity across our organization, our programs and the delivery of youth mental health services in Canada. We will help educate people in Canada on the impact of systemic racism on youth mental health, specifically on racialized youth and advocate for equitable access to support for all young people across Canada.
As a youth mental health organization that educates and empowers young people in Canada to ensure they can care for their mental health and look out for their loved ones, it is our responsibility to ensure that young people have the education they need to understand how racism affects their own mental health and that of people around them. We need to speak up about the mental health implications of racism. We need to address the specific barriers racialized youth face within our mental health system. We need to advocate for equitable, culturally-relevant services to address the youth mental health crisis of access.
To that end, we have made the following initial commitments:
1. Elevate and amplify the voices of Black and Indigenous youth in our network in a way that does not tokenize or place a burden on them, while also committing to greater representation of all racialized youth.
2. Address equity gaps in our practices, including sourcing an external facilitator to help Jack.org define our long-term commitment to equity, inclusion and anti-racism.
3. Contribute to this national conversation in French as well as in English.
We want to take a moment to recognize that Black, Indigenous, and racialized youth shoulder a disproportionate burden when it comes to educating and informing others about racism; this should not be the case. To the young people who have been doing this work, who may be exhausted and overwhelmed, and who are looking out for their own mental health and that of their communities right now, we see you and we stand with you.
While the responsibility to educate ourselves is on us, we welcome your feedback and guidance. We promise to continue to listen, learn, and iterate our programs and processes to educate people on the intimate connection of racism and mental health.
With love and solidarity,