There is unfortunately both individual and systemic discrimination in Canada. While there is ongoing work to reform these systems, many individuals living with brain injury have experience with some form of discrimination.
Racism is the belief that racial differences produce a superiority over others. Racism can be both individual, because of a person’s beliefs and upbringing, as well as systemic/institutional which played a large part in social and political systems when they were established. Systemic racism feeds and shapes individual racism over time.
Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities often have less access to services and resources for support after brain injury recovery due to systemic issues such as geographical location of services, poverty, accessible housing, and more. This impacts recovery, making it harder for people to return to work and live independently. This further contributes to systemic racism.
Individuals with a brain injury may be discriminated against based on disability. Institutions, systems and infrastructures were often designed without considering universal accessibility. This means that people with cognitive, behavioural, and/or physical disabilities may not have access to the same services and resources as the general public. This can make activities of daily living (ADLs) more difficult and can also discourage a person with a brain injury from going out in the community.
A stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace or shame. When people use the word stigma today, they mean that large sections of society perceive something (like brain injury) as negative. Stigmas can be incredibly hurtful and untrue: they can also be difficult to combat because they are so entrenched in society. But it’s important to do what you can to eliminate stigma. There is no shame in brain injury, and no one should make you feel that way.
Ways to combat discrimination & stigma
Not only is it fundamentally wrong to discriminate against people, but studies have been done that show discrimination can be detrimental to mental health. Discrimination at every level of society needs to be dismantled. There are steps you can take to help eliminate discrimination person-to-person and on a systemic level.
Share resources to educate family members and friends
Within family and friend groups, there are often different ideologies and lived experiences. In some cases, there are viewpoints/opinions that are discriminatory. It’s important to speak up and engage in dialogue with family and friends so they understand why what they say or do can be seen as discriminatory, how it affects you, and how to make improvements. These are difficult conversations to have but are necessary to make sure we are all moving towards the goal of equality.
Read anti-discrimination legislation
We all have rights under the Canadian constitution, and there is anti-discrimination legislation in place to protect those rights. It’s important to be aware of your rights so you can make sure they aren’t being violated.
Become an advocate for yourself and others
Discrimination of any sort against individuals with brain injury is wrong, and organizations such as Brain Injury Canada make advocacy for accessible supports and services a key part of their mission. You can advocate for yourself or others on issues of discrimination and for better supports and services.
Watch this presentation from 2022’s Brain Injury Canada Conference on implicit bias
More information & resources
- An article on advocacy and people with disabilities written by a research analyst for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities
- The Council of Canadians with Disabilities
- Ending discrimination against people with disabilities from the Canadian Union of public Employees
- The Canadian Human Rights Commission