July 2020
by: Mouhammad Kaddoura

My name is Mouhammad Kaddoura and I am a second-year student in the Department of Physical Therapy at Western University. I would like to thank the Global Health Division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association for the opportunity to share my perspective and commentary on anti-racism. I'm in full support of the anti-racism movement and I hope that it becomes the new norm and not just a new “trend.” Through my personal experiences, learning from rehabilitation science students and reading the news, my perspective on racism is the following: it is a systemic epidemic that can be targeted towards and done by people of any race. For example, my family is Palestinian which immigrated from Syria to Canada in 2005 and has experienced racism on many occasions. I was bullied in school and felt like I was “brushed off” from conversations for having a bit of an accent. It made me feel like my words did not have as much “value” as those spoken with a Canadian accent. In addition, my mother had been verbally attacked twice for being a Muslim, Arab, and wearing a hijab (head scarf) and was told that “you should go back to your country!” Unfortunately, the most recent event happened amid the anti-racism movement on Monday, June 22, 2020.               

In addition to my personal experiences, I have learned from rehabilitation students over anti-racism Zoom calls about their bullying experiences related to their race. Some were bullied for the food they brought to school or stereotyped by their peers. It saddens me to hear students reporting “not feeling Canadian enough” for reasons such as their skin colour or practising their culture. This comes back to the point that racism is a systemic epidemic that can be done to anyone of any race.                        

The systemic racism in Canada has implications to myself as a future physiotherapist and to the physiotherapy profession as a whole. I believe that it starts with us dropping any sort of prejudice, discrimination, and/or stereotypes towards people of colour. I could tell you from personal experiences and friends’ stories that even if a person hides their prejudice/discrimination, a person of colour can still notice it. These actions can have a significant impact on mental health, wellbeing, and quality of life. Therefore, I hope that we get to know each person for who they are and understand their individual characteristics rather than assume categorizations. Second, I believe that fostering a strong therapeutic relationship with clients is an essential part of our therapy in order to help clients find trust in speaking with us about any sort of racism they may have experienced. Third, it is equally important that we become equipped with effective resources and tools to guide affected clients to seek appropriate help, if they wish. Fourth, I hope that considering clients’ experience(s) with racism as a yellow flag becomes a new norm in the physiotherapy profession.                                            

Thank you very much.

Warm regards,                                        

Mouhammad Kaddoura
Physical Therapy Candidate (Class of 2019-2021)