This weekend, the U.S. announced that they would reach their vaccination targets sooner than planned, and many Canadians expressed sentiments of jealousy.
But forgotten are a group of Canadians who face constant worry.
These are the Canadian truck drivers who drive hours daily, back-and-forth over the Canada-U. S. border in a pandemic to deliver food and essential supplies to our homes.
54 per cent of truck drivers in Toronto are South Asian immigrants, and 56 per cent in Vancouver, according to data from the Ontario Trucking Association, The average truck driver age is now at 48. A significant proportion of workers are racialized and immigrants, the most vulnerable in our society. This is also now the age group that is at high risk of hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 variants.
As a health care worker who has been participating in live Punjabi discussions on ethnic radio and TV shows, I’ve heard truck drivers calling in frequently expressing concerns over the risks they put themselves through during transportation of essential goods during the pandemic. They listen to ethnic shows while driving and call in with hopes that someone would be listening to their plights and hope for their vaccine turn to be soon.
Recently, someone called during the show and alluded to the fact that as more Americans are getting vaccinated, he seen less compliance with masks. He added that it’s very scary as he remains unvaccinated and is unsure at this point where he falls on the vaccine rollout in his province. Some places in the U.S. such as Texas have removed the mandate to wear masks in public places, meanwhile Canadian drivers continue to expose themselves while travelling to these high risk areas without any vaccination protection.
It is concerning that a significant proportion of truck drivers are above the age of 45. While they are being exposed to the highest risk, they don’t seem to be prioritized and often their voices are missing in mainstream media. With rising COVID-19 variants, and potential higher risk of hospital admission, and death, it is of utmost importance that these drivers’ voices get heard, and they are provided with adequate workplace protection and immediately prioritized for vaccine.
As these workers call into Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu and various ethnic channels with their plights, they hope they are next to get vaccinated and they plead other Canadians to advocate for them.
But are we listening and advocating for these essential truck drivers that have put food on our table the last 12 months while risking their lives and continue to cross vaccinated borders while remaining unvaccinated? Unfortunately, they feel forgotten and unsafe.
We need to push governments to prioritize these transportation workers along with all other essential workers and they need to be vaccinated immediately. Any other response is ungrateful and endangers the lives of our pandemic heroes.