Provincial Update: Paid sick days are a step towards racial justice

Submitted by Joel Harden, MPP for Ottawa Centre

On Feb. 16, I was in Toronto for the resumption of the Ontario Legislature. 

At the very first moment, the Official Opposition put forward nine bills & motions for unanimous consent. These bills and motions offer immediate help and hope to those hit worst by COVID-19. 

At the top of our list is a provincial program of paid sick days as proposed by my colleague Peggy Sattler, MPP for London West. We want to ensure no worker feels compelled to work sick and spread the virus. The Ottawa Board of Health has urged Premier Ford to do this. 

So far, the Ford Government has resisted these appeals. They insist the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit is enough, but this federal plan is not working. Benefits are delayed, and too many are excluded. We need a plan that pays out benefits right away, lives are at risk.  

Last month was Black History Month, and it’s important to offer a racial analysis here. 

On April 2, 2020, several of Ontario’s Black health care leaders insisted we acknowledge the racialized impact of COVID-19 in the workplace: “Black workers, (particularly Black women), are over-represented in front facing service provider roles, including among PSW and RPN’s. Many are providing essential services, yet unable to access support for their families. These factors will exacerbate precarity, food insecurity, isolation and mental health concerns.”

In June 2020, Ottawa Public Health began collecting race-based data at its COVID testing centres after the Province declined to do so. They found that 66 percent of COVID-19 positive cases were Black and other racialized people. And we know racialized workers are predominant in precarious jobs without paid sick leave. 

All of which is to say: paid sick days are a step towards racial justice, and a major way we can stop the spread of COVID-19. That’s why we are fighting for this at the Ontario Legislature. Shamefully, Premier Ford and his caucus blocked our motion to quickly pass paid sick days by unanimous consent, but the fight isn’t over. We’re keeping up the pressure to pass this bill and make it a law.  

If you have a story about sick days you’d like to share with us, please do so at, and let us know if we can share your story publicly. You can help make this happen. 

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