July 24, 2020 — There is growing awareness of the importance of collecting race-based, ethnic and Indigenous identity data to understand patient diversity and to measure inequalities.

The lack of race-based data in the health sector in Canada makes it difficult to measure health inequalities and to identify inequities that may stem from racism and discrimination. To harmonize collection and ensure high-quality data, CIHI is proposing pan-Canadian standards for collecting race-based and Indigenous identity data in health systems. This work has been ongoing for several years and has included a detailed review of the literature and engagement with researchers, clinicians, organizations representing racialized communities and federal, provincial and territorial governments. These proposed standards are adapted from the Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate’s standards that are currently supporting race-based data collection in the education, justice and health sectors.

An interim standard to collect race-based data was released on May 29, 2020, in response to the urgent call to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic within racialized communities. This discussion document is an update that contains the proposed standards and detailed considerations for the appropriate collection and use of race-based, ethnic and Indigenous identity information to measure, monitor and address health inequalities.

Standards are important for consistent reporting in health and health care. The proposed standards for race-based and Indigenous identity data collection and health reporting facilitate the measurement of inequalities that potentially stem from bias and racism in health systems. The race-based and Indigenous identity data standards map to existing Statistics Canada national standards. This way, information can be integrated and compared with other important data sources, including the Canadian Community Health Survey and the Census of Population. Statistics Canada’s national standards connected to these topics include Indigenous Group, Population Group (including groups designated as visible minority) and Ethnic Origin. For more information on Statistics Canada’s standards, refer to the Related resources section below.

To advance equity in health care, Canada’s health systems need to be able to recognize and respond to health inequalities experienced by racialized groups. We continue to seek feedback to identify best practices and implementation approaches across practice settings and jurisdictions. Questions to spark continued feedback and engagement are listed in the document.

We want to hear from you! Email our team to share your thoughts. 

Featured resource

Discussion document

This document proposes race-based and Indigenous identity data collection standards for health care, including context, guidance and considerations for ethnicity.

Explore the discussion document (PDF)