News & Events

Why COVID lies spread in refugee and newcomer communities

By Canada’s National Observer

As children of immigrants, we often take on additional roles that would otherwise be fulfilled by our parents. In a new country or a country that isn’t the only one we’ve ever known, we become the children who help with the chores, sometimes with the taxes, and often with explaining to our parents the documents health-care providers or airline personnel are asking for.

In the COVID-19 pandemic, some of us have also become the translators of information, the finders of news, the kids who keep our parents away from the unreliable stories they seem to be coming across through the people they connect with on social media.

But what about those who are in Canada for the first time — who came to the country not long before the pandemic, and who haven’t been here long enough to build their communities and networks? Who may be alone, while they wait for their family that is in another country, sometimes an entire continent away?

What about the refugees and the newcomers?

Last fall, in one of our journalism classes at Carleton University, we came across surprising information about refugees and newcomers in Ontario during COVID-19: a September 2020 report by ICES, a not-for-profit research institute focusing on health-related data in the province, found that while immigrants and refugees accounted for only about a quarter of those tested for COVID-19 between January and June, they represented 43.5 per cent of the positive cases.The report also found refugees had the highest positivity among those tested — 10.4 per cent versus 7.6 per cent in other immigrants and 2.9 per cent in Canadian-born and long-term residents.

While no other organization has tracked COVID-19 cases among refugees and newcomers in the country since, Jennifer Edmonds, a master’s student at the University of Geneva and co-author of “Refugees in Canada during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says that a significant reason for high infection rates in refugee and newcomer communities may be the misinformation and disinformation they’ve come across during this time.

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