Covid-19 Testing Privilege

The Story of COVID-19 Testing in Ontario | Public Health Ontario

Covid-19 Testing Privilege: Are we really all in this together?

After experiencing some symptoms on the Covid-19 list, I booked off school and set out to get tested. I wanted to make sure I would return to my school Covid free, keeping my students and my school safe.

First Test

This was my second time getting a Covid test. In April of 2020, it took 4 days of waiting before I was able to get a Covid test. It took me over a week to get the results as the website told me I needed to speak to a nurse several times … what! Did I have Covid? The answer was no as the website/system was not working properly. I hoped that the second time around would be easier and faster as I had to self isolate for 10 days.

Second Test

It took me a bit of time to figure out where I should go for a test as the available options were not evident. I found many websites with contradictory information as to whether I needed an appointment or not. After trying to book an appointment online with little success, I opted to book my appointment over the phone.

I wondered about a possible source of my undiagnosed symptoms. As I purposely keep my contacts to a minimum, only going to school and back home, I knew if I was infected the source would be my school. I also knew that if I was off, it was unlikely that I would have a supply teacher cover my class.

The person on the phone asked me if I had been in contact with an infected person. I responded that I was not sure as there were four cases of Covid in my school and two closed classrooms. I had no idea which classrooms were closed as staff were not told. I also had no idea which students were in these classes. As my classroom is near the Behaviour Teacher Assistant’s room, I interact with many students who pass by.

The person online stated that I should be fine since “students were learning with social distancing in place.” I almost peed my pants at the statement and corrected the person saying that students in my school were in crowded classrooms sitting about six inches apart … instead of six feet. I did not give the person on the phone a hard time as I knew they were just doing their job. After five minutes, I had an appointment the next day.

Waiting at the hospital

As my partner drove onto the hospital grounds, I noted a very small line for Covid-19 testing. It was easier than the first time as I had a short wait to get into the hospital to be processed. As I knew what to expect, the very long probe that was inserted into my nose (almost touching my brain) was not a big deal. The drive, test, and return home took 40 minutes.

While waiting in line, I spoke to a woman with her grandchild. It turned out that he was her great grand child! She told me that she spoke to her mother every night on the phone before they retired to bed. Wow, five generations in one family as the boy had a living and healthy great-great grandmother.

Privileged assess in health care

As I looked around, I noted that the people in the Oakville hospital, like me, had a great deal of privilege. The people all arrived to the testing location by car. Women could get tested without their children in tow, as they had adults to watch their kids. People had extra money to pay for parking their cars and access to Internet and/or a phone to book an appointment. Due to lower Covid outbreaks in Oakville, the testing lines were shorter than lines in Toronto, Peel, and York.

Challenges of Single Parenting

As I reflected, I remembered the days when I was a single parent. My children were four and six years old. My son, TWS, had undiagnosed ADHD and he was a tornado of a child, never able to stay still. As a single parent, it was taxing to take him anywhere.

Due to the challenges of both parents working, my children’s father and I decided that one of us would stay home to care for our children of 3 and 5 years old. As a result, I was the one to quit my well-paying marketing job. About a year later, my children’s father wanted a divorce. I was in an abusive relationship and I had to get away from this abuse.

I had no income, no vehicle, and few resources. As I could not afford a babysitter, I often took my children to my doctor’s appointments. While I attended an appointment, my son decided to rummage through my “talking “doctor’s reception desk resulting in him being covered with stamp impressions. Another time I had a PAB test done while trying to distract my daughter with a toy.

As a single parent, I could not afford cable TV and we made do with three channels using a “Rabbit Ears” antenna. I could not afford a cell phone until after I got a job as a teacher. I certainly would have not been able to afford internet.

Covid Testing as a Single Parent

As I have become more aware of the privilege I carry in my life, I considered my experience as a single parent going for a Covid-19 test. I imagined this experience through the lens of my own life as a single parent with my own children.

I know I would have had a challenging time booking a Covid-19 test as I only had a landline. It would have taken me time to figure out which location would be best for my circumstances. With no car, I would have had to take public transit which would have meant keeping my son, TWS, from not pulling the “stop request” cord. I would also likely have to transfer to another bus route making the journey more challenging.

Once at the testing location, I would have had to keep my children occupied while we waited. Further, I would have also decided to get my children tested. My daughter, KIS, would have complied to a test as long as there was some reward after. As I could hardly get TWS to agree to swallow medicine, I know he would not have agreed to have a very long probe shoved down his nose … he would have needed people to hold him down. The whole experience would have been a calamity.

After this ordeal, I would have had to get back on a bus to go home while giving my children snacks as a couple of hours would have passed. Exhausted with no extra support, we would have arrived home to have an early dinner and then bedtime.

Service Industry Workers

Most people in the service industry do not have many or any paid sick days. With testing, single parents and their children would have to self isolate until results were posted. This would result in a loss of pay for a parent and a loss of time in school for children. I could write an entire blog about the precariousness single parents face in their employment when dealing with their own health and the health of their children.

With privilege comes more available resources

I acknowledge that I have a great deal of privilege as an educated, employed, English speaking, non-immigrant, married, mobile (not physically disabled), White woman with resources like a car and working internet. As my children are now adults (now almost 27 and 28 years old), I am also relieved of the parental responsibilities of childcare and the monetary need to support them. Not all parents have these resources or privilege.

Are we really all in this together?

Regarding COVID-19, I’ve heard people say “we are all in this together” … but are we? The people who live with limited resources via housing, funds, and access to health care do not have the same privilege as people in higher socioeconomic circumstances. People who must work for minimum wage in service industries such as factories, warehouses, groceries stores or in long term care facilities do not share the same privileges. This community of people only share the disadvantage of being economically insecure which makes them more vulnerable to infection from the virus. As a result, they are not those with resourced privilege and this is likely why the virus is raging in their communities.

So, if you go for a Covid-19 test, remember how privileged you are to have easy access to getting this test.

Collaboratively Yours,

Deb Weston, PhD

COVID-19 test and testing location information

Equity or Anti-Racism

Equity vs Anti-racism

As part of my advocacy for students, I’m on a school-based committee to address systemic equity issues within my school board. These board wide equity issues deal specifically with documented Black racism.

Within our committees’ discussions, a debate launched into what our committee should be called. Some members wanted the title, Equity Committee. Others preferred, Anti-Black Racism Committee. A third group of voices discussed a blend of both, Anti-Black Racism Equity Committee.


Equity is defined as “justice according to natural law or right specifically freedom from bias or favoritism” or “the quality of being fair or impartial; fairness; impartiality: something that is fair and just.” The idea of equity does not address the systemic issues that people face. Making all things equal does not compensate for the underlying challenges faced by groups such as oppression and socio-economic factors. Equity does not always invoke the action needed to overcome deeply rooted systemic cultural issues.


Anti-racism “is a form of action against racism and the systemic racism and the oppression of marginalized groups. Being antiracist is based on the conscious efforts and actions to provide equitable opportunities for all people on an individual and systemic level.”

In order for anti-racism action to be effective, all people involved must take a conscious approach to face their own privilege by acting against acts of racial discrimination and changing personal biases.

Does equity work, really work?

Over my various careers as a Geologist, Marketing Manager, and now Teacher, I seen many equity committees come and go. Well meaning participants discussed the importance of promoting equity in organizations but in the end, they failed to meet their goals as the initiatives merely scratched the surface. These committees also did not address organizational cultures that support systemic barriers and prevent the implementing of real change.

Equity for Women’s Rights

As a Geologist, over 30 years ago, I faced many systemic walls and gatekeepers that discouraged me from moving forward in my career because I was a woman. I lost track of how many times I was told that I should “just get married and have babies.” My colleagues were mostly White privileged men with wives who did the unpaid work of managing family and home. These men had the privilege of devoting all their time to their work. They rarely faced barriers.

Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value

As a Marketing Manager for a Canadian corporation, I was part of an “equity” committee. Here we discussed ways to give more equity to women. During an “Equal Pay for Equal Work” program, my corporation rated my job title to a job title in their warehouse; it probably had more to do with what I was getting paid instead of my level of responsibility. I did not get a raise in pay.

More Workplace Equity for Women

The equity committee discussed surface level approaches to support more equity for women in the workplace. But the managers and directors of the company were all men with White privilege. I felt I was treated equally to men most of the time, until I had children. Having children unearthed the many inequities faced by all working mothers. Besides finding good daycare, I had challenges staying home with my children when they were sick. Their father refused to take time off as it was a “career limiting move.”

I started talking with women parenting while working and suggested creating a support lunch group called “MAW – Mothers At Work.” This was quickly shut down by my supervisor as the gatekeepers were not comfortable with the existence of this group. I knew then that starting a daycare at the corporation was not going to happen!

The most significant memory I have of this time was when a meeting went over time and I told my supervisor that I had to leave to go home and feed my child. I could not get home late; I was breastfeeding at the time and had an hour’s commute to Burlington. My boss told me that if I left the meeting, it would be a “career limiting move.”

The corporations’ gatekeepers pushed for the equity committee, not to promote equity, but to give the impression of promoting equity as they were comfortable in the systemic culture that kept them firmly in place.

Systemic Organizational Barriers Against Anti-racism

I cite the above personal experiences as examples of how untargeted equity work is ineffective in making real change for those who need it. Real change means unearthing barriers to equity. This means that gatekeepers can either change their ways, or be replaced. In order to effect change, this means that people, who identify as racialized, must see people like themselves in leadership roles. Having a token person who identifies as racialized does not cut it.

Parents without their Voice Being Hears

As a teacher, I attended a school board meeting where a group of parents were advocating for special education support for their children. These parents had already asked teachers, principals, superintendents, and school board trustees for support for their children and this was their next step.  Listening to their stories, I wondered why these parents had to go to such lengths to get this support. In order to support these students, resources would need to be found. It became clear to me that the school board did not want to pay for the psychoeducational assessments needed to unearth these students’ specific special education needs. The board probably noted that if these parents got this support, then it would open the flood gates of more board paid psychoeducational assessments. Providing more opportunities for board paid students assessments would be very costly. These students were Black and lived in low social-economic households.

Lack of Resources to Support Students

In my role as a teacher, I’ve witnessed Black students not getting the support they needed to be academically and socially successful. Many reasons exist. Students may be on long waiting lists for psychoeducational assessments that are paid by school boards; note that resourced parents don’t wait for these assessments and pay for them privately. A lack of funding for extra supports, such as social work, could also be an issue in getting students’ support. Additional issues could be that students’ significant socio-economic issues distract from getting to the root of academic challenges. In the end, these students still move from grade to grade without the supports they need, falling further behind.

Targeting historic, systemic legacy of racism

Here, the heart of Black racism starts with the Transatlantic Slave Trade. As early as the year 1503, the Black Slave Trade devastated African countries, making many Europeans and North Americans very rich. To what is now Canada and the United States, the Slave Trade shipped millions of people, forced into bondage into a lifetime of work in fields, households, and mills. It is estimated up to 12 million Africans were captured and forced into the slave trade as human property. Unfortunately, more that a million people never set foot on North American soil as they died on the journey.

In Upper Canada, now Ontario, a former slave, Peter Martin, brought the mistreatment of Black slaves to the attention of Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe.  Simcoe pushed for the legislation of 1793 Act Against Slavery. The Upper Canada elected executive council members, “who were merchants or farmers who depended on slave labour, saw no need for emancipation”. The Assembly did pass an Act Against Slavery that legislated the gradual abolition of slavery. This meant “no slaves could be imported; slaves already in the province would remain enslaved until death, no new slaves could be brought into Upper Canada, and children born to female slaves would be slaves but must be freed at age 25”. It took until another forty years, in 1833, for Britain to abolish the slavery of Black people.

Enslaving Black Africans and African Americans would not end until after the American Civil War on December 18th, 1862 (only 158 years ago). This resulted in many freed slaves becoming poorly paid sharecroppers and workers. White supremacy movements and Black Codes were launched, a year after, in 1877.

In the 1960s, the Civil Rights movement achieved political and social gains. This would still be not enough as the Black Lives Matter movement would rise in 2013.

A legacy 360 years of social and economic systemic oppression

The 360 years of slavery would leave a legacy of social and economic systemic oppression for all people who identify as Black.

As Dunia Nur, the president of the African Canadian Civic Engagement Council (ACCEC), states

Will Anti-racism work to overcome systemic bias?

For me, the push for equity for all is not enough. There are documented issues of racism against Black students within school boards in Ontario. It is time to dig deeper into challenging the systemic racist structures within school systems in order to give our students, who identify as Black, a chance to overcome their own barriers to social and academic success. As educators, we must take this difficult task of challenging our own biases towards those who identify as Black. Teachers work to promote the best opportunities for all students’ futures. We have more work to do.

I write this blog as a White woman with economic and educational privilege. I live my life carrying my White Backpack of privilege, never worrying about being carded or being asked to see a receipt when I leave a store. When my students, who identify as Black, complain about police bothering their families, I acknowledge that this happens and we talk about the roots of racism. When my students note that books have “all White kids” in illustrations, we talk about why this is the case and how it should change.

I will work towards Anti Black racism on an Anti-Racism committee as I unpack my White backpack …  as it is a life long task.

Collaboratively Yours,

Deb Weston, PhD