The COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge disruptions and innovations, alongside significant loss, preventable death and increased criminalization. Measures previously thought impossible – large-scale income supports, stay-at-home orders, restrictions on travel – were swiftly implemented. Now, as vaccination rates rise and cases fall across Canada, a growing sense of optimism is emerging about a “return to normal.” Yet reactions range as restrictions ease, depending on what our lives looked like before and during the pandemic.
For many gay, bi, trans, Two-Spirit and queer (GBT2Q) people, that reclamation of the status quo does not inspire hope. We’ve spent decades pushing back against a so-called “universal” health care system that has often failed our communities – even more so for those of us impacted by systemic and intersecting oppression based on race, income, ability and more. The pandemic, in many ways, amplified the injustices and inequities embedded within our systems and society. Rather than a “return to normal,” we must leverage the disruption caused by COVID-19 to re-imagine a system that addresses the gaps in care that existed before the pandemic and were heightened during it.
This includes addressing persisting gaps like:
- The uneven coverage of, and access to, critically important care, including medications to treat and prevent HIV/STBBIs, gender-affirming care, mental health and harm reduction services, and more.
- The lack of cultural competency in our healthcare system, including providers who often know little to nothing about our bodies, sexual relationships and drug use, and who are unable to understand the importance of our pronouns and partners.
As advocates, community-based organizations and researchers, we’ve attempted to push for change on structural barriers and social determinants before, and we are long overdue for widespread, systemic change. As we head into a “post-pandemic” era, coupled with reinvigorated calls for racial justice, truth and reconciliation, many Two-Spirit, queer, trans and non-binary people are mobilizing to disrupt the systems that have failed our communities. As long as Canada’s health care system continues to prioritize some bodies over others, health equity will remain a foundational challenge to address.
At Summit 2021, we prioritize how we achieve equity in health care for our communities. If there are no limits in this reimagined system, what programming or services can be envisioned to address HIV/STBBIs, mental health, substance use, and other health and social issues that do not reinforce existing disparities? Summit 2021 challenges participants to lean into the disruption of the pandemic as an opportunity to rewrite routines of care and deconstruct systems that continue to leave out or deprioritize communities.
The oft-used pandemic rallying cry of “building back better” can only happen when we confront structural discrimination and stigma in order to achieve an inclusive and equitable vision of health and wellbeing for everyone in our communities.
Everyone and anyone is welcome to submit a presentation proposal for Summit 2021. Submissions may include, but are not limited to, short oral presentations, panels, workshops, roundtable discussions or an alternate format that you propose. Proposals must be submitted by August 11, 2021.
Registration for the virtual Summit, as well as the pre-Summit webinar series on October 18-26, will be released in early September.
To see complete information on submitting presentation proposals; suggested topics and issues; and how to stay up to date on developments, visit Summit page.