Other Homes of the Underclass During Covid-19: Meat Processing Plants, Prisons and Reserves

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jerrym
Other Homes of the Underclass During Covid-19: Meat Processing Plants, Prisons and Reserves

I chose this title, Other Homes of the Underclass During Covid-19: Meat Processing Plants, Prisons and Reserves, because I had already started a thread on long-term care homes where seniors are exiled. All of them are characterized by being undervalued in society and pushed to live in conditions that seriously affect their health. 

I had been thinking about doing this for a while, but life, other threads, and inertia kept from beginning this thread. The final impulse to start this was the news that 64 Cargill employees tested positive at its meat-packing plant near Montreal. So I will start there. 

When the union for food inspectors complains that its members face dangerous conditions when entering these plants, you know the conditions for plant workers must be beyond wretched. 

Cargill Ltd. is suspending operations at its meat-packing plant near Montreal after more than 10 per cent of its work force tested positive for COVID-19, marking the company’s second shutdown in Canada because of the novel coronavirus.

The company on Sunday said it will “temporarily idle” its facility at Chambly, Que., after 64 employees tested positive. The closing comes one week after the global agribusiness reopened its slaughterhouse in High River, Alta., the site of the country’s largest outbreak. The plant was closed for two weeks because nearly half of its 2,000 employees had tested positive for the virus.

Most of the workers at the High River facility have now recovered, and the company has ramped up health and safety measures there, including installing partitions between workers on the line. However, the Agriculture Union, which represents federal inspectors, is raising new concerns. It says that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is forcing its members to train for dangerous work in meat-packing facilities. In a statement late Sunday, the CFIA said that in order to protect the food supply and ensure employee safety, the agency is hiring new inspectors, bringing employees out of retirement, paying for additional overtime and reassigning staff to high-priority areas. When it comes to reassignment, the agency said it looks first for volunteers and, as a last resort, asks employees to take on slaughterhouse work. “Employees always have the right to refuse work if they have reasonable cause to believe there is danger,” the statement said. “There have been no cases of refusal to work to date." ...

Meat-processing plants in North America have emerged as COVID-19 hotspots. A recent Globe and Mail investigation into the Cargill outbreak in High River revealed an environment where employees, largely immigrants and temporary foreign workers, say they felt pressure, even incentivized, to continue working. They say this occurred despite testing positive for the illness, recently travelling abroad or having COVID-19 symptoms. The company did not start requiring employees to wear face masks until mid-April. ...

Cargill’s facilities in High River and Chambly are represented by the same union, but their experiences stand in contrast. In Chambly, the union said Cargill implemented physical distancing measures at the plant, provided personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves and visors to employees early in the pandemic, and responded to workers’ requests.

In High River, the union is seeking a stop-work order, arguing that the slaughterhouse remains unsafe after resuming operations on May 4 because protections are inadequate; the union has also filed an unfair labour-practice complaint with the provincial labour board, with a hearing slated for later this week.

In Alberta, workplace safety authorities have determined that Cargill’s High River plant failed to include worker representation during its health and safety investigation into the outbreak, according to a May 8 Occupational Health and Safety report obtained by The Globe. OHS gave Cargill an extension to May 18 to investigate the circumstances around COVID-19 infections that potentially stemmed from the plant, engage with the joint worksite health and safety committee, and resubmit its report.

A Cargill worker told The Globe this weekend that safety measures at the High River slaughterhouse have improved since the reopening last week, and that the company appears to be more responsive to health and safety concerns. The worker, whom The Globe is not identifying because of privacy concerns and fears of workplace reprisal, said employees still feel pressure to work.

Fabian Murphy, the national president of the Agriculture Union, which represents federal inspectors, is raising new concerns after the CFIA indicated that it intends to train inspectors who typically work in other sectors for reassignment in meat-packing plants. He said federal officials told him in a recent weekly call that if an inspector were to decline a reassignment for fear of contracting COVID-19, it could be considered an act of insubordination.

“Our folks are in these plants for eight hours a day, working shoulder to shoulder,” Mr. Murphy said in an interview Sunday, adding that it is not feasible for trainees to maintain proper physical distancing while shadowing trainers in noisy meat-packing plants. “The employer is not being realistic here or respecting the level of hazard that these employees are facing.”

Inspectors with concerns are free to file a grievance under their collective agreement, but are expected to accept their reassignment as they await a decision, Mr. Murphy said.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-cargill-shuts-down-montre...

 

jerrym

Here's more on the failure of Cargill in its High River meat processing plant to work with the union to create safe working conditions and the failure of the Kenney Alberta government and Trudeau federal Liberal government to offer the workers any significant protection. 

Cargill failed to engage worker representation during its investigation into the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the province, a review from Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) found.

There are now 952 COVID-19 cases to date at the meat-processing plant in High River, about 65 kilometres south of Calgary, representing more than 15 per cent of Alberta’s total cases. It is the biggest outbreak at a single facility in Canada.

Under the provincial OHS Act, employers are required to investigate in conjunction with the joint work site health and safety committee. In a report obtained by Postmedia, OHS investigators said provided documents and conversations with Cargill representatives revealed they were not following the mandatory procedure.

Thomas Hesse, president of UFCW Local 401, which represents workers at the meat-processing facility, said the findings further erode trust among staff and the public about Cargill’s ability to protect its roughly 2,000 employees.

“It’s disturbing how the employer is not in compliance with the law and yet the plant remains open,” said Hesse. “What the findings reveal very, very clearly is that no one is talking to the workers.”

The southern Alberta slaughterhouse reopened May 4 after a forced two-week shutdown, during which Cargill said it implemented additional safety measures to reduce the spread of the deadly virus that has killed one worker.

The union attempted to stop the reopening by seeking a stop-work order from OHS and filing an unfair labour practice complaint against Cargill and the provincial government.

“Our legal system is based on witnesses and they’re ignoring the witnesses, so anyone who came to the conclusion that the plant was safe to operate — it was artificial. If you aren’t talking to the workers, it is artificial,” said Hesse. “That’s why (OHS) law requires the participation of workers.” ...

Adrienne South, press secretary for Labour and Immigration Minister Jason Copping, said OHS has issued Cargill an extension to complete their investigation with the work site’s health and safety committee. The company has until May 18 to comply.

South said no further comment could be provided while the investigation is ongoing.

A hearing before the Alberta Labour Relations Board is scheduled for Thursday and Hesse said the union will be asking for “retroactive compensation and damages” for Cargill employees.

Hesse said the union has a heavy presence at the plant with representatives, union activists and workers’ compensation advocates dedicated to the Cargill file.

“There is still considerable apprehension and fear (among workers). We’re pushing every day for a safer workplace but it’s going to be a lot of test drives going on before anyone is convinced,” said Hesse.

https://calgaryherald.com/news/disturbing-review-shows-cargill-failed-to...

jerrym

Meanwhile Trudeaufederal help in the form of promised funding for worker protection may not arrive until the end of September, according to news reports, while federal and provincial governments at the same time are demanding that workers and federal inspectors work now. How many will die waiting for this?

Tens of millions of federal dollars aimed at helping food processors deal with a rash of COVID-19 outbreaks might not move until the end of September, and there are no details about what the requirements will be to qualify.

The $77.5-million Emergency Processing Fund Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last week is intended to help food processors adapt to COVID-19 protocols, including gaining access to more protective equipment for workers.

It is also supposed to help upgrade and reopen shuttered meat facilities that have had to close after becoming infected by COVID-19....

Details about who will have access to the federal funds to improve conditions at food plants, and what the requirements will be, are still being worked out, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. ...

As for when the money is expected to doled out, the department said that will happen "no later" than Sept. 30. In the meantime the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will order non-meat inspectors into meat plants under threat of discipline, according to the union representing agriculture workers. The agency has instructed some of its non-meat-inspection staff to train up to be deployed to meat slaughter plants that have seen outbreaks of COVID-19, the Agriculture Union said in a statement Monday, asserting that the federal food-safety agency will treat refusals as acts of insubordination.

The agency has instructed some of its non-meat-inspection staff to train up to be deployed to meat slaughter plants that have seen outbreaks of COVID-19, the Agriculture Union said in a statement Monday, asserting that the federal food-safety agency will treat refusals as acts of insubordination.

The union, which represents more than 6,500 employees of federal agricultural agencies, called the approach "heavy-handed" and "unacceptable. CFIA is ordering its staff to work in facilities that obviously are not safe, and without the proper personal protective gear," president Fabian Murphy said in the release. The union says 18 of 37 inspectors working at the Cargill plant in High River have tested positive for the virus, and so have three of six inspectors at another plant.

The federal Agriculture Union of food inspectors says it's reached out to ministers on the matter but has not had a response. The union also raised concerns the CFIA has assigned inspectors to more than one processing facility, which could encourage the spread of the virus from plant to plant.

https://www.ctvnews.ca/business/funds-to-fight-covid-19-in-meat-plants-m...

jerrym

The urgency of getting PPE (personal protective equipment) to workers and food inspectors at meat processing plants hit home with the announcement of the third death of a worker at the High River Cargill plant just a few hours ago, while at the same the federal government says promised PPE and safety funding could arrive as late as September 30th.

While the name of the third worker to die has not been revealed yet, the names of the other workers suggest they were foreign born and/or ethnic minorities, something that is typical of the low pay, high risk work these people often face in Canada. 

A third death has been linked to the COVID-19 outbreak at a Cargill meat-processing plant near High River in southern Alberta, which is the largest tied to a single location in Canada.

On Monday, Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said a man who died over the weekend was an employee at the plant.

He was hospitalized with COVID-19 one month ago, she said.

The first two deaths linked to the outbreak were Hiep Bui, a 67-year-old woman who worked at the plant, and Armando Sallegue, the 71-year-old father of a worker at the plant, who was visiting from the Philippines. Sallegue's funeral was held Sunday evening.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/3rd-covid-19-death-cargill-meat-p...

jerrym

The following article from April 20 predicted exactly what has happened in North American meat processing plants, even though it is written for a close corporate ally of the meat processing industry, namely the grocery industry.

As COVID-19 ravages communities across North America, many analysts believe meatpacking plants, where employees work in close proximity to each other, are the next ground zero for the spread of the virus. Over a dozen plants have had to close over the last two weeks, at least five of which are in Canada.

The “Big Three” meat processors in Canada–Maple Leaf Foods, Olymel and Cargill–have all been impacted by COVID-19, and each has put it’s own protocols in place to put plants back into operation as quickly as possible. ...

A few issues do merit some attention. First, many of our plants need to be modernized. Since the beginning of the crisis, all plants in Canada under 10 years old have evaded COVID-19. That is a sign. The virus could eventually get in, but modern infrastructure can play a significant part. Those having issues have been in operation for decades and the result of years of patch work and provisional solutions. The high-volume, low margin nature of the agri-food sector puts tremendous pressure on the entire supply chain, in particular, in North America. ...

The other issue is worker mobility. Many plants hire workers who commute by bus from urban centres to remotely located plants. Complying with physical distancing rules on a bus can be complicated, if not impossible. In scope of management’s decision to deal with the pandemic, it should be making the safety of the community one of its priorities. Maple Leaf, Olymel, and other companies made the right decision to temporarily close their facilities to clean and establish safety measures.

Employees at the Cargill plant have continuously voiced concerns about the safety of the working environment. Despite teleconferences, a few interviews here and there, Cargill has failed to reassure the safety of its employees. One can only imagine how different the outcome would be if Cargill was in fact a publicly traded company.

http://www.canadiangrocer.com/blog/covid-19-meat-packers-need-to-mitigat...

 

jerrym

Here's more on the problems of Canada's and America's meat processing industries, its ".last Occupational Health and Safety assessment of the plant before its closure was conducted via cellphone video, ...increasing corporate concentration, industry deregulation and growing dependence on the low-waged labour force of racialized and often exploited workers, ... Throughout the food chain, extreme corporate concentration has seen the slice of the economic pie grow dramatically in these companies’ favour, ...most farmers and nearly all workers are on the losing end of this".

Tyson, though, was referring specifically to the crisis in the American meat packing industry caused by the closure of more than a dozen plants due to devastating COVID-19 outbreaks among workers. Just three of those plant closures – including the Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo, Iowa – have already reduced U.S. pork production by 15 per cent.

In the Waterloo plant alone, nearly half of the plant’s 2,700 workers have already tested positive for COVID-19. Despite health risks to workers, President Donald Trump has ordered meat-processing plants to stay open.

Given Canada’s even deeper level of corporate concentration – with only three meat processing plants accounting for 95 per cent of all beef production in the country – our supply chain has been even more disrupted by the pandemic than its U.S. counterpart. Two plants, accounting for 70 per cent of Canada’s beef output, have already seen serious COVID-19 outbreaks. Last week, the massive Cargill Foods plant in High River, Alta., was forced to shut down completely after more than 500 local cases of coronavirus and one death were linked to the facility.

The thousands of the mostly racialized and vulnerable meat packing workers falling ill in the past few weeks is even more awful given it could have been avoided by a more robust regulation and inspection system. Before the first cases in High River were confirmed, workers from the plant wrote a letter stating, "We the workers and our families are worried and scared for the possibility that we might bring the virus with us at home.”

Yet, in the case of the High River facility, the last Occupational Health and Safety assessment of the plant before its closure was conducted via cellphone video. The operation was then given the go-ahead to stay open despite crowded working conditions that make physical distancing impossible.

As we found while researching our book, this combination of increasing corporate concentration, industry deregulation and growing dependence on the low-waged labour force of racialized and often exploited workers has significantly weakened our food supply chain. And it’s not just the meat industry where COVID-19 has brought into focus the vulnerabilities at the heart of our food system.

Just four multi-billion dollar corporations (Cargill, JBS, Maple Leaf and Olymel) control nearly all of Canada’s meat production; 80 per cent of the retail grocery market is owned by only five companies (Loblaws, Sobeys/Safeway, Costco, Metro and Walmart), and just a handful of companies (Bayer, ChemChina, Corteva and BASF) control more than 60 per cent of global seed and pesticide sales.

Throughout the food chain, extreme corporate concentration has seen the slice of the economic pie grow dramatically in these companies’ favour, while only the largest farm operations have been able to stay profitable. Even then, these farms have gone into millions of dollars of debt while continually being pressed to overlook their lands’ soil and environmental health, cut labour costs and become dependent on temporary foreign workers and undocumented labourers.

Make no mistake: most farmers and nearly all workers are on the losing end of this, whether it’s the cattle ranchers who suddenly have no market for their beef following the closure of only two plants, the grocery store workers who put their lives at risk every day for low wages, or the more than three-dozen temporary foreign workers at greenhouse operation Greenhill Produce in Kent Bridge, Ont., who just tested positive for COVID-19. Their lives and livelihoods are the weak links in a food chain that has been forged by government policy to disproportionately benefit the rich and powerful.

The food supply chain really is breaking. But it’s breaking because our food system has been transformed to disproportionately benefit massive multination corporations like Tyson, Cargill and JBS at the expense of farmers, workers and – as we’re now seeing in the form of empty grocery store shelves and steadily rising food prices – consumers.

Tyson, though, was referring specifically to the crisis in the American meat packing industry caused by the closure of more than a dozen plants due to devastating COVID-19 outbreaks among workers. Just three of those plant closures – including the Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo, Iowa – have already reduced U.S. pork production by 15 per cent.

In the Waterloo plant alone, nearly half of the plant’s 2,700 workers have already tested positive for COVID-19. Despite health risks to workers, President Donald Trump has ordered meat-processing plants to stay open.

Given Canada’s even deeper level of corporate concentration – with only three meat processing plants accounting for 95 per cent of all beef production in the country – our supply chain has been even more disrupted by the pandemic than its U.S. counterpart. Two plants, accounting for 70 per cent of Canada’s beef output, have already seen serious COVID-19 outbreaks. Last week, the massive Cargill Foods plant in High River, Alta., was forced to shut down completely after more than 500 local cases of coronavirus and one death were linked to the facility.

The thousands of the mostly racialized and vulnerable meat packing workers falling ill in the past few weeks is even more awful given it could have been avoided by a more robust regulation and inspection system. Before the first cases in High River were confirmed, workers from the plant wrote a letter stating, "We the workers and our families are worried and scared for the possibility that we might bring the virus with us at home.”

Yet, in the case of the High River facility, the last Occupational Health and Safety assessment of the plant before its closure was conducted via cellphone video. The operation was then given the go-ahead to stay open despite crowded working conditions that make physical distancing impossible.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-as-meat-plants-shut-down...

jerrym

We are also facing a predictable crisis in Canadian prisons because of Covid-19. On April 24th, Canada's prison ombudsman, Ivan Zinger, warned "Measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country's prisons violate their human rights even if authorities are acting in the context of a public health emergency". 

Zinger said strict isolation of inmates has put them in difficult circumstances, although he did not address specific incidents of unrest said to be related to the pandemic.

"The stark choice for many infected inmates comes down to taking a shower, or making a call to a lawyer, my office or a family member," said Zinger, the correctional investigator. "Fundamental human rights and dignity...must be respected."

Data from Correctional Service Canada show at least 196 inmates in five of the country's 43 prisons -- in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia -- have tested positive for the coronavirus, with 65 of them at B.C.'s Mission Institution. About 80 guards have similarly been infected. There has been one death.

Zinger called it "deeply concerning" that prison authorities had flagged about 400 inmates as under some form of medical isolation, meaning being locked in a cell for all but 20 minutes a day. Some may be isolated for other illnesses or non-COVID reasons.

The ombudsman noted prisons had locked down inmates, shut gyms, libraries and other communal spaces, and suspended programs and communal meals. Even more restrictive measures were in place in those facilities with outbreaks, he said.

"Daily access to the yard and fresh-air exercise have been extremely curtailed, offered only every second day, half hour twice per week or sometimes simply suspended outright." ...

Investigators have been unable to visit prisons because of the pandemic, but Zinger said his office was functional and had taken about 150 COVID-related complaints since mid-March....

Only 743 inmates -- around five per cent -- have been tested.

https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/canada-s-prison-ombudsman-calls-covid-isol...

 

jerrym

Canada's prison ombudsman, Ivan Zinger, did visit a Canadian prison to help him write up his report on the violation of prisoners' human rights. As is so often the case, in the example of prison human rights violated in this article, the example is a First Nations person.

Zinger made a personal visit to the Port-Cartier Institution, about 600 kilometres northeast of Quebec City, in mid-April. The maximum-security penitentiary on Quebec's North Shore was the first penal institution to report cases of COVID-19 in Quebec.

In an interview with CBC News, Zinger said he found prisoners who tested positive for COVID-19 or were awaiting test results were being held in isolation almost round the clock. Even those who are not believed to be infected are spending 23 hours a day inside their cells, due to the pandemic lockdown — conditions Zinger calls "extreme." 

"People are locked up basically in [a cell] the size of a bathroom that might be, you know, less than 100 square feet," Zinger said.

According to Jeff Wilkins, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, COVID-19 appears to have been inadvertently spread through the facility by an infected employee who caught the virus through community transmission, sometime between March 9 and 14.

The prison went into lockdown mode on March 26, when the case was confirmed.

More than half of the facility's 200 front-line correctional officers were sent home for 14 days by local public health authorities in an effort to contain the spread, Wilkins said.  ...

"It was over the next [few] days that we learned first hand how incredibly viral COVID-19 is," Wilkins said. 

Right now, 13 guards at Port-Cartier are infected and off sick, according to the union.

"I understand the necessity to isolate and to impose restrictions," Zinger told CBC after his visit to Port Cartier.

But he said he is concerned about the toll on inmates who are facing these kinds of restrictions, even at prisons not affected by COVID-19. There have been increased instances of self-harm and suicide attempts across the country, he said, which he called "indicative of problematic conditions of confinement."

He said there have also been increased reports of disciplinary problems, threats against staff, assault and protests by inmates.  ...

An inmate at Joliette who CBC has agreed not to identify due to her concern she would be penalized for speaking to the media, said she is spending about 80 per cent of her day in her closet-size room. 

The woman doesn't have COVID-19. She said because of concerns about the spread of the virus, only one inmate at a time is being allowed in the facility's common areas....

"I'm telling you emotionally, [I'm] at a breaking point right now," she said, "...to the point where I had an anxiety attack, where I literally had to climb up to my window, just to get some fresh air."

This week, lawyers filed an application for a class-action lawsuit on behalf of one of the inmates there, Joelle Beaulieu. She contends Correctional Service Canada did not move quickly enough to contain COVID-19.

According to the filing, Beaulieu began to experience COVID-19 symptoms on March 21 but was not tested until six days later. 

The lawsuit, which has not yet been approved by Quebec Superior Court, states that when her test came back positive, she began a two-week stretch inside a cell. She had limited access to toilets and just 15 minutes a day to use showers or phones. 

The inmate, who is Ojibway, said she was denied access to an Indigenous elder or a mental health worker despite her requests. She said she suffered panic attacks.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/canada-prison-conditions-covid-1...

jerrym

The largest Covid-19 outbreak in prison has occurred at the Mission Institution near Mission BC where "133 inmates and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 by May 3rd. Across Canada, 290 federal inmates have been infected. Among correctional officers, 84 have tested positive and 41 remain active cases." Prison advocacy groups are demanding major reforms. 

A justice advocacy group says it wants prisoners at a federal institution in British Columbia ravaged by a COVID-19 outbreak to know there are people in the community fighting for their safety.

Meenakshi Mannoe of the Vancouver Prison Justice Day Committee says members were rallying outside Mission Institution Sunday, making noise from their cars or at a safe physical distance from one another.

The committee is calling for the urgent care of all prisoners across Canada and the immediate release of detainees to ensure adequate physical distancing and quarantine measures.

Inmates' sentences should not include exposure to a potentially fatal respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Mannoe said.

"However we feel about the crimes people do, they're not supposed to be subject to further punishment inside,'' she said. "We want to let them know we're out here making noise and we're calling for action from all levels of government and the Correctional Service of Canada to make sure people have safe living conditions.''

The group is also calling for broader testing of all prisoners, and daily updates with details of the situation for their family members. It is also among more than three dozen organizations demanding an immediate inquest into the death of an inmate at the prison last month. ...

The Vancouver Prison Justice Day Committee organized its first rally outside Mission Institution following an inmate's death on April 15 from apparent complications related to COVID-19. ...

When the committee calls for the release of inmates, it doesn't mean simply setting people free, Mannoe said. It means allowing them space to self-isolate or quarantine with community supports in place for rehabilitation.

"We need to release people into communities in a safe and just way that services the prisoners themselves and the people who have been impacted by their harm,'' Mannoe said. "I'm not saying open the doors, I'm saying let's resource people and get them out of a system that's not serving them and a system that a lot of survivors (of crime) would also say doesn't necessarily lead to justice on their end.'' ...

A COVID-positive prisoner at Joliette Institute in Quebec filed a proposed class-action lawsuit on April 21 against Correctional Service Canada's handling of the pandemic.

On April 23, the Correctional Service of Canada said it was "conducting an analysis of the offender population'' so it could make release recommendations.

The Parole Board of Canada said it had been trying to streamline processes and speed up decisions. In some cases, parolees might be allowed to move home instead of to a halfway house, the board said.

To combat possible infections in its prisons, Newfoundland and Labrador has released 65 inmates under the public health emergency the province declared on March 18. So far, that province's jails have been COVID-free.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/b-c-rally-calls-for-safe...

jerrym

First Nations in Canada and the United States are facing increased problems with the arrival of Covid-19 because poverty, poor living conditions and low levels of health care are a prescription for infectious disease disaster. 

Amid growing instances of COVID-19’s community transmission in Canada, Indigenous communities are bracing themselves as the virus migrates beyond urban hotspots to rural and remote pockets of the country

The virus will have grave impacts on the world’s most vulnerable populationsand is now highlighting existing vulnerabilities in Canada’s Indigenous communities. 

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, expressed concern for the outbreaks in high-risk settings susceptible to rapid spread

"A single case in any First Nations, Inuit, or Métis community is high cause for concern. These communities are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 due to distances, access to necessary resources, and underlying health conditions," she said during a press conference

In a seperate news conference, Marc Miller, the federal minister of Indigenous Services, said that while cases on reserves remain comparatively low, no one should be complacent. He added that while many Indigenous communities are implementing aggressive measures to help keep the COVID-19 out, they could still be more greatly affected by an outbreak, due to long-standing social and economic inequities.

Isolation, so far, has protected many of Canada’s remote Indigenous communities from coronavirus, as they are distanced from big cities, where the virus is taking its heaviest toll

However, as COVID-19 cases begin to pop up in Indigenous communities nationwide, isolation may end up being their greatest weakness. 

Should people in these remote communities contract the virus, there are few accessible hospitals and those nearby are ill-equipped to accommodate a serious outbreak and influx of patients. That fear is compounded by the fact that Indigenous communities are uniquely exposed to the ravages of COVID-19, due to higher rates of pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and respiratory illness.

Sweeping one-size-fits-all federal preventative recommendations are incompatible with the circumstances of rural reserves. Frequent handwashing presupposes access to clean water — many reserves are under boiling or do not drink advisories. Federal calls to social distance or self-isolate hinge on access to stable spacious housing, but Indigenous communities nationwide struggle with chronic overcrowding. As merchants forgo cash transactions to limit contact and turn to debit and credit cards, essential supplies end up out of reach for those on low or fixed income with limited payment options. ...

On March 24, the Assembly of First Nations declared a national state of emergency, calling "for increased resources and support to First Nations — based on needs and equity," stressing the need for "specific consideration for northern, remote, and isolated communities."

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/covid-19-in-canada-indigenous-c...

jerrym

By May 7th, there were " 164 confirmed cases on First Nations reserves", causing "First Nations, Inuit and Metis leaders are raising concern about a growing number of outbreaks of COVID-19 in Indigenous communities and say it’s getting harder to find the money and supplies to deal with them." As usual the Canadian government response to the crisis does involve indigenous input.

The Metis have largely been left out of the limited help the federal government has provided to other indigenous groups. 

National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations told a House of Commons committee Friday that provinces and jurisdictions should be cautious about lifting pandemic restrictions, given that the number of COVID-19 cases in First Nations has increased. ...

“While the virus has been slower to reach First Nations, the number of cases is rising daily,” Bellegarde said.

“I fear there are already more cases among our people than we currently know.”

Bellegarde pointed to a number of systemic issues that make Indigenous populations more vulnerable to contracting the virus, including overcrowded housing, inadequate health services in many communities, food insecurity, lack of clean water and the remoteness of northern, fly-in communities. “Canada’s response must take all of these unique factors into account,” Bellegarde said. ...

Ottawa is making decisions about how it allocates resources to First Nations to deal with the crisis without the input or involvement of Indigenous leaders, Bellegarde said, which is something he said should change immediately.

“Canada must engage First Nations directly to properly address the circumstances we face and respect First Nations’ jurisdiction. That includes a seat at any table addressing the current health crisis _ even in the future when you start looking at reopening the economy, we have to be at those tables.” ...

Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, told the committee he is grateful that northern territories have been spared of large outbreaks of the virus so far. In all of Inuit Nunangat _ including 51 Inuit communities spread across the northern regions of four provinces and territories _ there have been only 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases. All have recovered. However, Obed noted that pandemic restrictions are having major impacts on the Inuit territories, which already face economic challenges.

The reliance on annual sealift shipments that transport non-perishable goods to the territories during the four or five months when the waters are ice-free is causing great concern this year, Obed said.

“The ability of individuals and businesses to place orders has already been impacted in warehouses in the South that would typically start to fill up by now, but are sitting empty. This will have a direct impact on businesses and households in this and future years.” ...

He also called for greater testing capacity and reduced wait times for results as a key need, especially as economies begin to reopen.

David Chartrand, vice-president of the Metis National Council, says his people are falling through jurisdictional cracks, which he believes has contributed to a sharp rise in COVID-19 outbreaks in Metis communities in Western Canada. He pointed to the spike in cases in and around the remote Dene village of La Loche, 600 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. A Metis village next to La Loche has over 100 cases but is not getting the same federal and provincial support as the First Nations reserve next door, Chartrand said.

“On the Metis side, it’s just skyrocketing because there was no plan, no supports, no programs, no supply chain because both governments are saying, ‘No, no it’s not my jurisdiction, it’s yours,’ so both are still blaming each other and it’s creeping into the next villages now,” Chartrand said. ...

This same jurisdictional wedge is also being blamed as the reason the Metis National Council had to buy its own personal protective equipment for its villages directly from China. Chartrand says neither the province nor Ottawa has provided his people with necessary PPE or other medical supplies, so they went out into the open market and procured their own.

https://www.nsnews.com/first-nation-metis-inuit-leaders-concerned-about-...

jerrym

Because of the many problems created by the poverty, poor living and health conditions found on most reserves, "some communities have issued lockdowns, erected checkpoints, and implemented curfews to curb the spread of the pandemic. In one First Nations community "Seventy-five per cent of our residents have compromised immune conditions. One case of COVID-19 will have such an impact that will be very difficult to overcome.""

The Opaskwayak Cree Nation near The Pas, Man., passed a motion to evict tenants who continue to disobey physical distancing rules by having large gatherings, house parties, or selling illicit drugs.

Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair said members caught having more than 10 people on their property — whether in a home, garage, or shed — will receive an eviction notice once the First Nation's state of emergency is lifted.

"The idea is to be proactive, rather than reactive," said Sinclair. "We've had band members that are concerned about their health and wellbeing, recognizing the fact that we have a high rate of diabetes in the community. We wanted to ensure [we] heard the membership, and have taken action on it."

The community also implemented a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and hired over a dozen members to act as security. Sinclair said depending on the situation, verbal warnings, written warnings or a $100 fine could be issued. ...

The majority of cases are in Quebec. It's why Serge Simon, the grand chief of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake, plans on hiring around 30 community members to staff checkpoints into the Mohawk community northwest of Montreal. ...

"We're trying to keep outside agencies from imposing their jurisdiction on us, so if we don't do it for ourselves, it leaves a vacuum and opportunity for the province to take over," said Simon. "We want to tell the customers that come here to stop, turn around, and go home. When this thing is over, we don't want our businesses to suffer. We want to make sure when they're turned around, they're done so politely and under strict guidelines."

Akwesasne, a Mohawk community that straddles the Quebec, Ontario, and New York State borders, also enacted an emergency curfew law this week, keeping members inside between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. It comes with a $1,000 fine for those who contravene. ...

Other communities in Ontario have faced challenges with enforcing pandemic measures. Whitefish River First Nation on Manitoulin Island restricted access to the community as a part of a four-phase pandemic plan that could lead to a total lockdown but is struggling with getting cottagers and snowbirds who aren't from the community to co-operate. ...

Whitefish River is policed by the UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service, which services five other First Nations on and near Manitoulin Island.

"Because of distance, it's difficult for our police force to adequately provide service especially during these times," said Art Jacko, band manager. ...

"We really don't want to do that. We want to maintain positive relations, but at the same time our priority is the health of our community," he said. "Seventy-five per cent of our residents have compromised immune conditions. One case of COVID-19 will have such an impact that will be very difficult to overcome."

https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/curfew-checkpoint-first-nations-coron...

jerrym

An example of how devastating Covid-19 could be to Canada's First Nations comes from the United States Navajo Nation, where the infection rate is among the highest in the world. 

 A group of more than a dozen tribe members filled dozens of dust-covered cars with diapers, flour, rice and water, the bare staples that are sustaining the Navajo Nation as many fall ill and die.

If the novel coronavirus has been cruel to America, it has been particularly cruel here, on a desert Native American reservation that maybe has never felt more alone than during this pandemic. There's a lack of running water, medical infrastructure, Internet access, information and adequate housing. And as of Wednesday, as the Navajo tried desperately to take care of themselves, the promised help from the U.S. government had, as usual, not yet arrived. ...

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, 44, watching over the volunteer operation in a parking lot that day, said the tribe had not received "one cent" of the $8 billion that was allocated to Native American communities as part of the Cares Act passed in Washington on March 18. Nearly 2,700 people had fallen ill, and more than 80 had died, with the 350,000-resident reservation becoming one of the worst-of-the-worst American hot spots. Almost everyone knew someone who was sick, or someone who had died. ...

Later that day, the money came — $600 million delivered to the Navajo, 10 days after it was promised and more than a month after President Trump signed the relief package into law on March 30. Here, on the reservation where the Navajo tribe was forcefully relocated by government decree in 1868, the infection rate is among the highest in the world, with deaths reaching the level of some states with more than 15 times the population. Navajo leadership says the delay in funding has cost lives, the latest in hundreds of years of injustices delivered to their people, first by the colonial Europeans and now by the U.S. government.

The injustice has come by way of slaughter, war, abandonment and, notably, disease.

“If we’d gotten it a month ago, we would have made sure we had the rapid testing we’ve been hearing about,” said Myron Lizer, the Navajo vice president who is the main liaison with the federal government during the pandemic. “We’d have ventilators. We would’ve had extra staff come in a lot earlier. I have to believe that we could have saved more lives if we had the money earlier.”

As of Sunday, 3,122 Navajo were positive for covid-19, out of about 17,000 tests. One hundred people had died.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/coronavirus-navajo-nation-crisis...

jerrym

The Yellowhead Institute has released a report that points out the federal government's Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is not providing accurate data on how widespread Covid-19 is in indigenous communities, underestimating the infection and death rates by of indigenous people by only counting those living on reserves.  The Yellowhead Institute found three times as many deaths as those reported by ISC.

ON MAY 9th, Indigenous Services Canada announced $250,000 in funding towards improving data collection for First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples impacted by Covid-19. 

Along with the funding came an admission that the data available to inform Indigenous responses to Covid-19 is insufficient. We’re now nearly two months into broad social distancing and life-altering responses to a global pandemic, which seems like typical timing for the reactionary response of Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). ...

In fact, no one seems sure how many Indigenous people have Covid-19, how many outbreaks there are in communities, or how many people have died from this disease. 

ISC continues to release numbers that don’t provide the whole picture. As of May 10th, ISC is aware of 175 cases of Covid-19 in on reserve communities across the country and two deaths. That does not reflect what we’re seeing in our own communities and families. Moreover, by only reporting what is happening on-reserve, the realities of Indigenous peoples are erased. ...

At the time of writing, the Yellowhead team has found as many as 465 cases in 42 communities and likely seven deaths.

Why the Data Discrepancy?
This is a significant difference in the reported data. According to our research, there are more than triple the cases reported by ISC. How can there be such a discrepancy?

First, there is no agency or organization in Canada reliably recording and releasing Covid-19 data that indicates whether or not a person is Indigenous. The public health agencies that report on the number of Covid-19 cases, deaths, recovery, and tests vary in their structure and relationship to local Indigenous people and their communities. And since very few First Nations actually have local control over the delivery of public health, the majority rely on provincial public health services, regardless of whether or not they live on-reserve.

This patchwork of service is a direct result of colonialism. The establishment of provinces and division of powers between provincial and federal government has gradually displaced and disrupted Indigenous governance over time. ...

A More Accurate National Snapshot
Along these federalist lines, it is also worth considering what is happening regionally (note that ISC is only providing updates for First Nations on-reserve in five provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec). 

covid-cases-graph

A Comparison of COVID-19 Cases Reported by ISC vs Community

https://yellowheadinstitute.org/2020/05/12/colonialism-of-the-curve-indi...

jerrym

Several human rights organizations and a prisoner have filed a lawsuit against the federal attorney general for putting the health and safety of prison inmates at risk during Covid-19.

Physical distancing measures in correctional institutions during COVID-19 have been “grossly inadequate” putting the health and safety of prisoners at risk, alleges a lawsuit against the federal government.

The suit, filed by Sean Johnston, who is serving a life sentence for murder, and several human rights organizations, claims failure to protect the heath of prisoners during the pandemic violates their charter rights.

Johnston and the groups, which include the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Prison Law Association, filed the application in federal court Tuesday against the country's attorney general.

“Physical distancing measures in prison have been grossly inadequate,” Johnston said in a statement. “Some of us remain double-bunked and cannot achieve physical distancing within our own cells, let alone throughout the institution.”

Without a vaccine or an approved treatment for COVID-19, physical distancing remains the greatest protection against contracting the novel coronavirus, the suit said.

They also allege Correctional Service Canada cannot keep prisoners safe because it cannot ensure the proper physical distancing measures without reducing the prison population.

“Unlike other correctional authorities around the world and across Canada, however, (Correctional Service Canada) has taken few if any steps to release prisoners from its institutions,” the suit said.

“Federal prisoners are disproportionately at risk both of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of the penitentiary environment, and of suffering severe adverse outcomes including death, due to the prevalence among the federal inmate population of pre-existing vulnerabilities.”

The suit also alleges some prisons are using lockdowns, with prisoners confined to their own cells for indefinite periods, as a means to curb the spread of the disease. It is a practice that is tantamount to segregation, the suit alleges.

Two prisoners have died of COVID-19 and 333 others have tested positive for the disease, while 202 inmates since recovering, according to Correctional Service Canada. The vast majority of those cases have come from outbreaks at two institutions in Quebec and one in British Columbia. ...

“Unlike other correctional authorities around the world and across Canada...(Correctional Service Canada) has taken few if any steps to release prisoners from its institutions,” the suit alleges.

https://www.cp24.com/news/convicted-murderer-sues-feds-over-prison-condi...

NDPP

Standoff Over Homeless Encampments

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/homeless-toronto-encampments-1.55...

"...Jason Philips says an eviction notice went up a few days ago on the tent where he lives, underneath the Gardner Expressway. He says the city offered him a spot in a shelter, which he refused because he feels safer outside during the COVID-19 pandemic. After a woman stood in front of a bulldozer that was set to take his tent down, Philips says the city offered him a hotel room - which he accepted."

 

'It is Shameful...'

https://twitter.com/TODropinNetwork/status/1261393095884750854

"It is shameful that this is where our advocacy lies right now. Not shameful from our end, but shameful because this is how little the city has done for people sleeping rough during the pandemic. The battle is so dire that the line in the sand is goddamned tents and encampments."

 

Some in Hogtown face more serious dilemmas than what to order in or what's on Netflix...

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Prison rights groups hold ‘Where is Bill Blair’ marches in Ottawa and Toronto

A group that advocates for people incarcerated in Canada’s penitentiaries held “Where is Bill Blair” marches in Ottawa and Scarborough (Toronto) in the hopes of forcing the minister to take action to protect the inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blair, as minister of Public Safety, is responsible for the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) and the Parole Board.

“We looked for Minister Blair in Ottawa and Scarborough to answer questions about how he is handling the COVID-19 pandemic behind bars and to demand he take meaningful action to prevent COVID-19 transmission in federal penitentiaries,” said a statement from The Abolition Coalition which, according to the group, is made up of dozens of prison abolition groups across the country including the Toronto Prisoner’s Rights Group and the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project.

“We did not find him. Did you?”

Indigenous prisoners, which make up more than 30 per cent of Canada’s prison population, are particularly at risk, say advocates who are pushing for more protective measures including release.

According to the group, “343 federal prisoners and more than 123 Correctional Service Canada employees contracting the coronavirus,” said the statement. “Two federal prisoners have died from COVID-19 that we know of. He needs to be held to account and have to answer for his lack of compassion.”.....

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Coronavirus cases skyrocket in South Dakota after governor dismisses quarantine measures

South Dakota’s coronavirus cases have begun to soar after its governor steadfastly refused to mandate a quarantine.

The number of confirmed cases in the state has risen from 129 to 988 since April 1 — when Gov. Kristi Noem criticized the “draconian measures” of social distancing to stop the spread of the virus in her state.

Noem had criticized the quarantine idea as “herd mentality, not leadership” during a news conference, adding, “South Dakota is not New York.”

The state is now home to one of the largest single clusters of coronavirus outbreaks, with 300 workers at a ­pork processing plant infected with the deadly bug, according to the Washington Post.

NDPP

'We'd Just Rather Pay These Games'

https://twitter.com/DesmondCole/status/1261703379438493700

"this is a photo from yesterday's police action to evict people living under the gardiner. the man in the foreground appears to be a cop, and his job is to film people. you can see a cop on a horse in the back. it's not that we can't afford housing, we'd just rather pay these goons."

jerrym

Many of the workers at meat processing plants are immigrants, who face increasing isolation and discrimination in their communities because of the hundreds of cases of Covid-19 the workers have endured through no fault of their own. Even Premier Kenney has spoken out about the discrimination, but he is the same guy who ordered the workers to go back to the plants despite 949 positive Covid-19 tests at just one Cargill plant, and the fear of 85% of the workers, according to their union, that this could lead to further infections and death.

Many of the workers at an Alberta meat processing plant hit with COVID-19 are Filipino and new to Canada, and now face an increasing sense of isolation over the outbreak.

The Cargill meat processing plant in High River, Alta., has seen 949 cases of COVID-19, including one death of an employee, identified as Biu Thi Hiep. The virus forced a two-week shutdown of the facility, which ended on Monday.

Some community members say Cargill employees, most of them from the other side of the world, are being shunned by some in the community over the outbreak. ...

“People look at them the wrong way in a store or get worried because somebody looks like they might work at Cargill,” Julia Gwyn-Morris, executive director of the daycare Daydreams & Sunbeams Early Learning Centres in High River, told CTV News. ...

In a video posted to Facebook on Wednesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney warned of discriminatory behaviour against "some Albertans coming from immigrant backgrounds," a majority of which work at meat packing facilities.

"Unfortunately, we’ve heard stories about people not being welcomed into businesses, in one case even being told to leave a bank, about discriminatory statements online and just attitudes that are really just un-Albertan." ...

Following the two-week shutdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak at its facility, Cargill reopened its doors to workers on Monday with provincially approved safety measures in place.

Still, Cargill employees and union representatives have raised concerns about people returning to work so soon after the outbreak with a lack of safety precautions and equipment to prevent future spread.

“I can’t say I feel safe as long as the virus is still there,” one Cargill employee told CTV News. “I don’t know how I feel.”

https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/cargill-workers-many-of-them-new-to-cana...

NDPP

"Majority of NYC homeless shelters have covid. Homeless people are forced to choose between shelters and public transit. NYC mayor opposes bill to use empty hotel rooms...Status quo is inhumane."

https://twitter.com/ZephyrTeachout/status/1262405540581343232

Here too.

NDPP

"This Thread! Very pleased to see settlement just announced. City to enforce 2 metre distancing in shelters. Thanks to the work of Canadian Civil Liberties Association..."

https://twitter.com/nlstoronto/status/1262764325401440256

NDPP

The Toll COVID-19 is Taking on Canada's Homeless

https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/the-toll-covid-19-is-taking-on...

"Not only have these measures made it difficult for people who are homeless to connect with the community around them but measures have also made it hard to secure a space in existing shelters..."

NDPP

"Indigenous peoples are 5% of the population. If they got at least 5% of the pandemic measures, that would be $4b,' said Pam Palmater, reacting to today's $75 m top-up for off-reserve Indigenous peoples (and vid)

https://twitter.com/CTV_PowerPlay/status/1263587167198011404

jerrym

Premier Jason Kenney has started a Trumpian minimizing approach to Covid-19, as noted by President of Alberta Federation of Labour Gil McGowan and others,  to justify the opening up of the Alberta economy by referring to Covid-19. In the legislature he also noted that “The average age of death from COVID in Alberta is 83, and I’ll remind the house that the average life expectancy in the province is 82, ... We cannot continue indefinitely to impair the social and economic as well as the mental health and physiological health of the broader population for potentially a year for an influenza that does not generally threaten life apart from the most elderly, the immunocompromised and those with co-morbidities.” (https://calgaryherald.com/opinion/braid-kenney-begins-to-normalize-covid...) The subtext of the message is the elderly don't count, so we shouldn't worry about this vunerable population as we consider opening up the economy. 

Kenney's comments are also misleading in that a large portion of Covid-19 infections and some deaths have occurred at meat processing plants in Alberta, so in this case he is justifying opening up the economy while overlooking the major risk of infection and possibly death in one of the industries most impacted by Covid-19, in addition to the elderly and all the other most vunerable groups, such as First Nations and prisoners. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is being accused of using a new, dangerous tone when talking about COVID-19.

During an emergency debate in the legislature on Wednesday, Kenney referred to the virus as “an influenza” on multiple occasions.

“We cannot continue indefinitely to impair the social and economic — as well as the mental health and physiological health of the broader population — for potentially a year for an influenza that does not generally threaten life apart from the elderly and the immunocompromised,” the premier said in the legislature.

At another point in his speech, he talked about the relative threat of COVID-19 to the population. ...

Kenney’s choice of words were noticed by some of his critics and by academics. Timothy Caulfield is a professor at the University of Alberta. His studies include public representations of science. He says hearing the premier call COVID-19 “an influenza” troubled him. “It’s disappointing. First of all because it is not influenza,” said Caulfield, who added the illness has become politicized and those who minimize its risk tend to describe COVID as “just the flu. I hope this is not a start of that kind of polarization. It would be unfortunate, at this crucial time, when we feel like we’re starting to get a handle on it, to derail that as opposed to follow science-based policy,” Caulfield said. ...

Labour leader Gil McGowan described the premier’s words as “Trumpian rhetoric dismissing the disease.” McGowan said as Albertans move into the economic relaunch and hundreds of thousands of people begin returning to work, he worries about people becoming too complacent and says the premier’s words don’t help. He’s basically giving them the false impression that they will be safe as they return to work even if public health measures aren’t observed. That simply isn’t true.”

https://globalnews.ca/news/7000260/alberta-premier-jason-kenney-covid-19...

jerrym

According to the Correctional Service of Canada's own data 360 of 1242 prisoners who have been tested for Covid-19 have tested positive, an infection rate of 29%. (https://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/001/006/001006-1014-en.shtml

It is well past time to let non-violent prisoners out of prison for their own safety.

There is no room in jail for social distancing during COVID-19. File photo of Canadian prison. 

One of these illusions relates to prisons and our notion of punishment, where the need for transformative change is urgent, but the likelihood a mere fantasy. Canada has been sorely reticent in addressing the threat of Covid-19 in our jails, let alone use it as a platform for long-term change. ...

Weeks ago, other countries began the release of prisoners in an attempt to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in jails. But Canada has only recently taken timid steps, while the virus mercilessly spreadsamong prisoners and correctional officers across the country, even closing down a Brampton jail as of April 20, with the inmates all being transferred to the already beleaguered Toronto South Detention Centre, a prison that has been widely criticized for its inhumane conditions and treatment of inmates, with one judge describing the situation as the state engaging in a “deliberate form of misconduct.”

Canada’s approximately 39,000 prisoners are already living in difficult conditions, for the most part: over-crowding, insufficient access to medical, rehabilitative, and mental health resources, little to no access to family, and constant lock-downs are daily realities for many inmates. Now add under-staffing, the fact that half the population suffers from mental illnesses, many have been abused or lived through trauma, and that Indigenous peoples and the poor are over-represented in our prisons, and you have a noxious cocktail that simply cannot satisfy the objectives of sentencing: rehabilitation, reintegration, and reparation. ...

Just one single case of Covid-19 in a prison is akin to throwing a torch at the problem. The illness will, already has, spread like wildfire, endangering inmates and staff alike.

There are short-term steps that can be taken now to alleviate the threat of Covid-19 to inmates. Depopulating prisons, a call that has been largely ignored by our provincial and federal governments, will help in more immediately, but is not the transformative, long-term shift that we need in our criminal justice system.

Depopulate prisons now, but then use the opportunity to think about how we can build a more effective, humane, rehabilitative system of “punishment,” one which is more healing to offenders AND to victims. ...

The good news is that, with or without Covid-19, there has always been an alternative to jails. Restorative justice has been proven to improve rehabilitation, reduce recidivism, instill accountability, and provide greater healing to victims. 

Restorative justice brings together the offender, the victim, and their supporters with highly trained professional facilitators for meetings. Participants share stories, ask difficult questions, and agree to an appropriate resolution. Restorative justice has been used for centuries among Indigenous peoples. It has proven effective not only in simple cases of assault and theft, but also in serious cases, such as drunk drivinghome invasion, and sexual assault.

At its core, restorative justice is about healing and helping those involved in the criminal justice system. 

But its other invaluable benefit is that it breaks our addiction to jails, giving us the ability to reduce, drastically, the number of people rotting in our ineffective and overcrowded prisons. ...

The pandemic is forcing us to rethink our traditional assumptions, and our business, health, and education models. The time is right to do the same with punishment and prisons.

https://www.nationalobserver.com/2020/04/28/opinion/covid-19-should-stee...

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HOMELESS ENCAMPMENTS: OPEN LETTER TO MAYOR TORY

Dear Mayor Tory and Toronto City Council,

The pandemic has been utterly devastating to homeless communities in Toronto. Congregate living arrangements in packed shelters continue to leave thousands of homeless people exposed and the City has failed to open up sufficient housing units and hotel rooms. A lawsuit was necessary for the City to agree to implement basic physical distancing standards in all its respites and shelters – which still has yet to take place. People staying in the homeless shelter system contract COVID-19 at a rate of 19 times that of Toronto’s housed population.*

The situation has forced hundreds, likely well over a thousand people, to seek protection in tents outdoors. Despite this, you’ve reversed a prior moratorium and are now actively clearing homeless encampments.

We call on you to follow the advice of international health experts by immediately ending the dismantling of homeless encampments and open up vacant housing units or hotel rooms for homeless people. Moving forward, we further call on you not to worsen the already pre-COVID shelter crisis by implementing deadly austerity measures; rather, to have the foresight to recognize low income housing as an urgent health need and create more units.

The shelters are full. Homeless people and front-line workers experience the inability to access beds on a daily basis.

The City is using “health and safety” as an excuse to destroy the encampments but the United Nations and the Center for Disease Control both say it is unsafe to do this. The CDC says:

  • If individual housing options are not available, allow people who are living unsheltered or in encampments to remain where they are.
    • Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.

It outlines supports the City should be putting in place instead – like ensuring people have washroom access. The US National Law Centre on Homelessness and Poverty says:

preserving individuals’ ability to sleep in private tents instead of mass facilities through repealing—or at least pausing enforcement of—ordinances banning camping or sleeping in public would ensure people can more safely shelter in place, maintain social distancing, and reduce sleep deprivation. Encampments should be provided with preventative solutions—like mobile toilets, sanitation stations, and trash bins—to further reduce harm.

Instead, the City says it has a policy of guaranteeing people “indoor placement” for people who are evicted from the encampments. There are two serious problems with this claim. The first is that this has not been the case in several instances. The second is that these are often shelter or respite placements; they put people right back into the conditions they left.....

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Canadians have farmed out tragedy to the migrant workers who provide our food

On May 30, Bonifacio Eugenio Romero, a 31-year-old Mexican migrant farm worker in Windsor-Essex County, became the first known temporary foreign farm labourer to die from COVID-19 in Canada. One week later, a second Mexican migrant in Windsor-Essex, 24-year-old Rogelio Munoz Santos, met the same fate.

Elsewhere in Ontario, hundreds of farm workers have tested positive for the virus and dozens have been hospitalized, with the biggest outbreak occurring at the Scotlynn Group farm in Norfolk County, where about three-quarters of the migrant work force has contracted the novel coronavirus.

Lamentably, for these men and women, risking their lives in the course of their work is nothing new. Instead, in the half-century in which they have laboured in Canada, seasonal farm workers from the Global South have found themselves in a permanent state of risk – of illness, injury and death – while governments and employers have demurred on enacting meaningful reforms. These latest tragic deaths and the swell of infections during the pandemic are part of a rotten, decades-old regime of racial and economic apartheid and amount to nothing less than the systemic sacrifice of human lives at the altar of profit.....

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

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Vancouver Island hard hit as B.C. records highest-ever monthly fatal overdoses

British Columbia's health officer fought back tears as she addressed the province’s deadliest month ever for illicit drug overdoses at a COVID-19 briefing Thursday.

In May, 170 people died from overdoses, as the supply of street drugs continues to be increasingly toxic, the coroner’s office reported.

B.C. has recorded a total of 554 fatalities from illicit drugs in 2020 so far, and more than 100 deaths in each of the past three months.

“I cannot express how difficult this news has been to hear,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said, distressed, and adding that the province’s resources are stretched to the limit trying to address B.C.’s dual health emergencies.

“My thoughts and condolences go out to family and friends who have lost their loved ones, and I share your grief.”....

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

A homeless encampments sprang up here in the days after the City if Vancouver shut down the Oppenheimer Park homeless encampments over fears that COVID-19 could spread quickly through the community.

Arrests have begun at CRAB Park in Vancouver - about a half-dozen people arrested so far - dozens more to go:

jerrym

With more than 1,000 migrant farm workers infected with Covid-19 from the terrible working and living conditions that they face in Ontario, these workers represent one of the most discriminated groups in Canada. 

The advocacy organization, Justice for Migrant Workers, is calling for an immediate shutdown of Ontario's entire agricultural industry until every workplace is fully sterilized to stop the spread of COVID-19 among its workers.

"This is racism," said Justice for Migrant Workers organizer Chris Ramsaroop. "This fiasco has to end." 

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 1,000 agri-farm workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 across the province, according to Ramsaroop. Data compiled by CBC News show that more than 670 have tested positive across farms in Windsor-Essex, Ont.

Windsor-Essex saw its largest spikes of new COVID-19 cases on Sunday and Monday. Of the new cases, 196 involved workers in the agri-farm sector. Two temporary foreign workers from Mexico have died in the region after testing positive for COVID-19. A third migrant worker on a farm near Simcoe, Ont., also died after contracting the disease. 

Ramsaroop's group demands immediate action from all levels of government to ensure that the appropriate health and safety standards are put in place. 

"There's no way in hell we can continue this and to see the numbers skyrocket like this. This is outrageous," he said. 

In a media statement, Justice for Migrant Workers included the following demands of the provincial and federal governments:

  • Workers get full access to all benefits, health care and application of all labour standards to which Canadian workers are entitled.
  • Non-discriminatory testing across the community and food chain.
  • Workers testing positive must get the benefits of full quarantine even if they are asymptomatic. 
  • Permanent residence status is given to all workers with temporary or undocumented status.

Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls said he doesn't agree with the comments made by Justice for Migrant Workers.

"You shut down that entire industry then you're shutting down food supply, you're killing economic business," Nicholls said. "We deal with facts, not just emotions and [Justice for Migrant Workers's] comments are purely emotional." 

He said he spoke with some greenhouse growers who said they will allow asymptomatic workers to all work together in a separate area so that they cannot spread the virus to someone who has tested negative.

As of Sunday evening, Ramsaroop said they were informed that asymptomatic migrant workers, who are in the middle of quarantine, are being asked to go back to work, yet the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has said those that have tested positive are self-isolating before returning. 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/migrant-farm-workers-demand-secto...

jerrym

The plight of migrant Ontario farm workers has shown in a Covid-19 how these temporary foreign workers have not been abused in having to face poor working, living and pay conditions in Canada. However, there is another group of migrant workers besides this legally imported group, the undocumented workers, that are hardly ever talked about and even more abused. Canada just pretends that, unlike the United States, the problem doesn't exist in Canada because it pretends there are no undocumented workers.

Agriculture is big business in Windsor-Essex, with more than 175 farms, greenhouses and wineries contracting some 8,000 official migrant workers to help raise and harvest the crops every year. So as coronavirus cases began to spike among workers, Ontario Premier Doug Ford unveiled a three-point "action plan" last week, dispatching mobile testing units to farms, promising benefits and supports for ill workers who are put in quarantine, and altering rules to allow farmers to keep asymptomatic labourers on the job. ...

But none of his measures target undocumented workers, who are unlikely to present themselves for testing, and don't qualify for free provincial health care, let alone any sort of government employment assistance.  It's a gap that could make it more difficult to bring the farm outbreak under control, given the large number of so-called paperless labourers in the area, and help keep Leamington and neighbouring Kingsville the last two places in the province stuck at Stage 1 of the pandemic lockdown.

Santiago Escobar is a national representative with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and a co-ordinator of the Agricultural Workers Alliance. He spent two years working out of a satellite office on Leamington's main street, and says the local population of undocumented workers was much larger than the province or Ottawa liked to let on — as many as 2,000 workers, by his and other advocates' estimates. A big number that Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald has also been citing. ...

Muñoz Santos was admitted to Erie Shores Hospital in Leamington on June 1 with breathing difficulties, and transferred to an ICU in Windsor the next day. He died in hospital on June 5. It took more than three weeks for his body to be returned to his family in Mexico. He was finally laid to rest on June 27. ...

"I think is it's common knowledge that most of the workers that are hired through a temp work agency are undocumented," says Escobar. "And due to their precarious status, unscrupulous employers and temporary work agencies are taking advantage of these workers." ...

But undocumented workers are proving the hardest to reach. "The biggest impediment there is that they don't have [provincial health insurance] coverage, and so their assumption is that this type of testing is not available to them," Moncur said, noting that his hospital will treat anyone who needs care, regardless of their immigration status. ...

Erie Shores' Moncur says there is a sense of a missed opportunity in Windsor-Essex, that these farm outbreaks — and deaths — were all too foreseeable.

From the very beginning, local health officials understood that agricultural workers  were a "high-risk population," he says, due to their living and working conditions.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/leamington-migrant-workers-1.5633032

jerrym

The failure of the Trudeau Liberal and provincial governments to deal with the problems faced by undocumented has resulted in protests triggered by the risks to these workers lives from Covid-19, but going well beyond this deadly problem to the many issues these workers and students face. 

Migrant workers and other non-permanent residents — many of whom have been working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic — took to the streets in cities across Canada on Saturday, calling on Ottawa to grant them greater rights and protections.

Temporary foreign farm labourers, care workers, international students and undocumented workers who have been working throughout the pandemic as “essential workers” say they are being left behind by the Canadian government. ...

“Our people are literally starving. People are dying, not even to grow food, but to grow flowers and grapes for wine. Domestic workers are trapped in homes by employers who won’t let them out because migrants are seen as carriers of disease,” said Syed Hussan, executive director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis.” 

Many migrant workers have fallen ill and cannot access medical treatment, while others have not received wage top-ups offered to other essential workers.

Meanwhile, migrant or undocumented workers and asylum seekers who have lost employment due to the pandemic are ineligible for emergency income supports such as the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, making them even more vulnerable.

It all stems from their non-permanent status in Canada. Canada’s labour laws, social services, health care and education systems offer different levels of access to non-permanent residents _ a reality that advocates have long decried as intrinsically unjust. The pandemic has now exacerbated those inequities and has placed migrant workers at significant personal risk, Hussan said. ...

Demonstrations organized by the Migrant Rights Network were held Saturday in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Halifax in front of offices of members of Parliament, including the office of federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

Around 100 protesters plastered Mendicino’s Toronto office windows with posters of Juan Lopez Chapparo, Bonifacio Eugenio Romero, and Rogelio Munez Santos _ three migrant workers who died from the COVID-19 virus in June while working on Ontario farms.

Their demands to Mendicino and to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were simple: provide full immigration status to all migrants who are working in Canada.

Alina Przybyl, a member of Migrant Students United, says the struggles migrants face in Canada are wide and vary from person to person, but that all migrants in Canada face a two-tier immigration system that favours the wealthy and privileged.

Participants in the Montreal demonstration, which was attended by a few hundred people Saturday morning, held signs that read, “Status for all” and “We are all essential,” among others....

 Hussan says the government should commit to regularizing the status of all non-permanent residents, not just a select few.

https://globalnews.ca/news/7138902/coronavirus-canada-migrant-workers-risk/

jerrym

The death of  a French bus driver beaten to death after asking passengers to wear a mask as required by law on public transportation and the death of a Detroit bus driver after complaining about a passenger coughing on him while not wearing a mask shows why 'essential workers' repeatedly see themselves as expendable workers by some in the public as well by the elite. 

Philippe Monguillot was violently assaulted on 5 July in Bayonne when he demanded that four passengers, who boarded without tickets, wear face masks, which is mandatory on French public transport as part of the coronavirus recovery response. 

The driver, in his late 50s, was insulted, pushed off his No. 810 bus and savagely beaten and kicked in the head, leaving him brain dead. 

On Friday his family and care providers decided it was best to take him off life support.

The four male assailants were arrested. Two of them, aged 22 and 23, have been charged with attempted murder, the other two with non-assistance to a person in danger. A fifth person has been charged with attempting to hide a suspect.

https://www.rfi.fr/en/france/20200712-family-of-french-bus-driver-beaten...

 

Bus driver Jason Hargrove spoke to the people of Detroit on video March 21, trying to get them to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously.

He was upset that a woman had taken no measures to cover her coughing when she was on his bus.

"For us to get through this and get over this, y'all need to take this seriously," he said with an expletive thrown in. ... There's folks dying out here."

Four days later Hargrove, 50, got sick. He died Wednesday night.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/03/us/detroit-bus-driver-dies-coronavirus-tr...

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

Horrible how both public transportation drivers met their death. How demanding is it to just wear a freaking mask or to not purposely cough or sneeze on someone? People may be frustrated, angry or just plainly inconvenienced but the lack of consideration in these cases is just depressing. It's like all the people who refused or continue to refuse using condoms even though it prevents the spread of disease.

NDPP

Tear Gas Deployed as  Anti-Govt Protesters Clash With Police on Bastille Day (and vid)

https://on.rt.com/alqc

"The protesters accused President Emmanuel Macron's government of failing to provide sufficient aid to the nation's healthcare system amid the COVID-19 pandemic and denounced wage agreements signed just a day before as a fraud..."

Aristotleded24

jerrym wrote:
The death of  a French bus driver beaten to death after asking passengers to wear a mask as required by law on public transportation and the death of a Detroit bus driver after complaining about a passenger coughing on him while not wearing a mask shows why 'essential workers' repeatedly see themselves as expendable workers by some in the public as well by the elite. 

Philippe Monguillot was violently assaulted on 5 July in Bayonne when he demanded that four passengers, who boarded without tickets, wear face masks, which is mandatory on French public transport as part of the coronavirus recovery response. 

The driver, in his late 50s, was insulted, pushed off his No. 810 bus and savagely beaten and kicked in the head, leaving him brain dead. 

On Friday his family and care providers decided it was best to take him off life support.

The four male assailants were arrested. Two of them, aged 22 and 23, have been charged with attempted murder, the other two with non-assistance to a person in danger. A fifth person has been charged with attempting to hide a suspect.

https://www.rfi.fr/en/france/20200712-family-of-french-bus-driver-beaten...

 

Bus driver Jason Hargrove spoke to the people of Detroit on video March 21, trying to get them to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously.

He was upset that a woman had taken no measures to cover her coughing when she was on his bus.

"For us to get through this and get over this, y'all need to take this seriously," he said with an expletive thrown in. ... There's folks dying out here."

Four days later Hargrove, 50, got sick. He died Wednesday night.

">https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/03/us/detroit-bus-driver-dies-coronavirus-tr...

While the government continues to give lip service and cheap applause but does nothing meaningful to help these workers.

laine lowe wrote:
People may be frustrated, angry or just plainly inconvenienced but the lack of consideration in these cases is just depressing.

As most probably picked up by the general tone and open use of profanity that has characterized my posts these past months, I am quite angry and frustrated about everything, but I agree that it's horrible to take it out on people like bus drivers or store clerks or security guards just doing their jobs. It is best directed at the decision makers. I plan in the near future to express these views to my elected MLA. I encourage everyone else on these boards (and in general) to do likewise.

jerrym

Both the federal Liberal government and the Ontario PC government have failed to protect the lowest sector on Canada's economic ladder during the Covid-19 crisis, migrant farm workers. The following article shows the Trudeau Liberals failed to inspect housing for the workers adequately, in some cases accepting three year old inspections as proof good living conditions, or if there have been no inspections photos supposedly showing healthy living conditions  for the workers during the Covid-19 crisis. They also failed to carry out any inspections during the first six weeks of migrant farmer worker season, allowing the virus to spread throughout the migrant population and creating the current largest health care problem in the country, with more than 1,000 migrant farm workers infected in the Windsor-Essex region alone. 

Furthermore, despite 32 Covid-19 related complaints, not a single penalty has been applied to the agricultural sector, creating the belief that failing to comply with federal regulations will not even produce a wrist slap, let alone a penalty that changes negligent behaviour by employers. 

The federal government allowed some employers of migrant farm workers to submit three-year-old housing inspection reports in order to secure labour during the pandemic, instead of requiring up-to-date evidence of compliance with the temporary foreign worker program.

As well, for a six-week period at the outset of COVID-19, the government stopped conducting housing inspections under the TFW program altogether. When the audits resumed, they were done remotely.

While Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) has received 32 COVID-19-related complaints regarding the program in the agri-food sector since March, not a single farm has so far been found in violation of several key pandemic-related rules. For example, employer-provided accommodations must allow workers to keep a distance of two metres, and employees must be paid for their mandatory quarantine upon arrival in Canada.

The federal government is ultimately in charge of the TFW program. It has the power to conduct pro-active inspections of accommodations, which can include bunkhouses, trailers and sheds. The provinces and local public-health units also have a role to play in oversight, creating a jurisdictional quagmire that has proved detrimental to the well-being of some temporary foreign workers.

In Ontario alone, more than 1,000 migrant farm workers have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a Globe and Mail survey of local public-health units. Health officials have stressed that, for the most part, the workers arrived in Canada healthy and contracted the virus locally. Three men from Mexico have died. ...

The federal government allowed some employers of migrant farm workers to submit three-year-old housing inspection reports in order to secure labour during the pandemic, instead of requiring up-to-date evidence of compliance with the temporary foreign worker program.

As well, for a six-week period at the outset of COVID-19, the government stopped conducting housing inspections under the TFW program altogether. When the audits resumed, they were done remotely.

While Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) has received 32 COVID-19-related complaints regarding the program in the agri-food sector since March, not a single farm has so far been found in violation of several key pandemic-related rules. For example, employer-provided accommodations must allow workers to keep a distance of two metres, and employees must be paid for their mandatory quarantine upon arrival in Canada. ...

And even if an employer can’t produce a report from the previous three years, the company can still be approved to receive temporary foreign workers “if photos of the accommodation are provided and the employer agrees to submit an updated [report] to ESDC within the duration of the work permit.”

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-how-ottawas-enforcement-r...

Aristotleded24

jerrym wrote:
Both the federal Liberal government and the Ontario PC government have failed to protect the lowest sector on Canada's economic ladder during the Covid-19 crisis, migrant farm workers. The following article shows the Trudeau Liberals failed to inspect housing for the workers adequately, in some cases accepting three year old inspections as proof good living conditions, or if there have been no inspections photos supposedly showing healthy living conditions  for the workers during the Covid-19 crisis. They also failed to carry out any inspections during the first six weeks of migrant farmer worker season, allowing the virus to spread throughout the migrant population and creating the current largest health care problem in the country, with more than 1,000 migrant farm workers infected in the Windsor-Essex region alone. 

Furthermore, despite 32 Covid-19 related complaints, not a single penalty has been applied to the agricultural sector, creating the belief that failing to comply with federal regulations will not even produce a wrist slap, let alone a penalty that changes negligent behaviour by employers.

I absolutely agree jerry. The real reason for the spikes have been revealed, however politicians are still trying to scare people that anything they want to do that people normally do is potentially lethal. And yet, health inspectors are going after minor infractions while the bigger workplaces are nearly never touched.

jerrym

Prisoners are another group at the bottom of Canada's social pyramid that have suffered greatly from Covid-19 with provincial prisoners having five times the infection rate of the general population and federal prisoners even worse off with an infection rate nine times that of the general population. Prisoners still have little access to PPE or even soap and water. A total of 3,000 prisoners have been placed in isolation, which is highly detrimental to mental health, supposedly to help prevent Covid-19 spread. A prison guard even called the isolation 'torture'.

A preliminary analysis by CBC News suggests that, despite prevention measures such as releasing thousands of low-risk offenders, infection rates are still five times higher in provincial jails and up to nine times higher in federal facilities than in the general population.

Overall, 600 inmates and 229 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and three people have died in federal or provincial correctional institutions for which data was available, CBC's analysis found. ...

While the federal and Quebec governments regularly publish detailed figures on testing and confirmed COVID-19 cases in jails and prisons, the rest of the provinces and territories do not. In May and June, CBC News asked every correctional department in the country for its statistics on testing, confirmed cases and number of inmates. They all replied except Nunavut. Several provinces had zero cases to report.

Thirty-nine out of 137 provincial and federal institutions for which data was available, or one in four, reported at least one inmate or employee who tested positive for COVID-19. ...

"Even before COVID-19, we knew that prison environments were at high risk for outbreaks," said Alexandra Blair, a researcher at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health who's been tracking cases of the virus in federal jails for an upcoming study.

Blair said that much like residents of long-term care homes, inmates are more at risk in part because they live in close quarters with many common areas and interact daily with several employees for their basic needs, such as meals, access to the yard and showers.

"We have a lot of people crowded in small spaces, sometimes in buildings that are older that don't have great ventilation," she said. "These are also places where everybody eats next to each other. They are perfect environments when you're thinking about something that can be passed on through a cough or droplets." ...

CBC's figures also show how pervasively the virus can spread behind bars in a given institution: The majority of confirmed cases — more than 80 per cent — are concentrated in two provincial and three federal facilities in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia, including Montreal's Bordeaux jail.

Along with Bordeaux, one of Canada's hardest-hit provincial jails is the Ontario Correctional Institute in Brampton, where 91 inmates and 25 employees tested positive for the virus.

The most-impacted federal penitentiaries are the Federal Training Centre in Laval, Que., and B.C.'s Mission medium-security institution — where the data suggests as many as a third of inmates were infected. ...

"Things like masks and gloves, that all started at least three weeks too late," said Claude Laberge, who was staying in Block C. He said at least 10 people were infected in that area.

Laberge, who now lives with his partner's elderly relatives, said he got tested immediately after his release in early May and learned then that he'd contracted the virus behind bars.

"We would see guards, no gloves, sharing food or giving medication [to inmates] with no masks … and we would scream at them to distance or be careful," he said. "It was causing a lot of sparks and tension inside." ...

For those still incarcerated, they said they don't have masks or gloves and are given little access to water or soap to wash their hands. Few physical distancing measures have been put in place, they said. ...

According to CBC's research, at least 3,000 inmates across the country have been placed in isolation since the beginning of the pandemic in March  to prevent or contain a COVID outbreak — including in facilities without any cases. ...

In June, the Correctional Investigator of Canada issued a report criticizing the practice of  isolating inmates, stating, "My office is looking for an overall lifting of restrictions on conditions of confinement…. Rights need to be respected and restored," it said.

"It's a form of torture," said a guard in B.C.'s Mission jail, where 120 inmates and 12 employees were infected — and another inmate died. CBC agreed to conceal his identity because he fears losing his job for speaking with the media.

 

Blair, the U of T researcher, said prisons and jails have a "toolbox of interventions" they can use to slow or stop the spread of infections, including ramped-up hygiene, universal testing and protective equipment for inmates and guards. But if those tools aren't used effectively and facilities rely only on long-term isolation, she said, "that is not … humane or just."

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prisons-jails-inmates-covid-19-1.5652470

jerrym

In a tragic irony facing Canada's migrant farm workers, many of them are facing food shortages during Covid-19 while they help feed Canadians. 

When Deon Castello delivers a box of fresh produce to migrant agricultural workers working on two different Bradford, Ontario, farms, she makes sure she is out of sight of the farms' security cameras.  ...

Some Ontario farms are not allowing the delivery of fresh food to their migrant agricultural workers, according to Castello and two other organizers involved in the delivery of fresh produce to workers in need. This is despite the fact that these same employers are also not permitting workers to leave the farm to do their own grocery shopping, even well after workers have completed their mandatory two-week quarantine period. Instead, employers are shopping for them, but volunteers allege they are providing nutritionally insufficient and culturally inappropriate food. 

Volunteers and organizers did not wish to disclose which specific farms were disallowing fresh food to be delivered to workers to protect the workers themselves from reprisals. 

On Monday, The Guardian reported that two migrant farm workers in British Columbia had been fired and sent home after their employer discovered they had invited two migrant worker rights activists to their bunkhouse. In letting them go, the employer had the workers sign a letter stating they had broken the rules of the farm by interacting with people who did not work there. ...

FoodShare Toronto, in partnership with Justicia, has delivered around $10,000 worth of food boxes to migrant and undocumented workers both in the Greater Toronto Area and surrounding agricultural regions through FoodShare's COVID-19 emergency response good food box program, according to Jade Guthrie, a community food program coordinator at FoodShare and a volunteer organizer with Justicia.   ...

The curbside drops also help her respect social distancing rules, but Mayell emphasized that employers' restrictions around not letting migrant workers interact with anyone from outside the farm or leave the farm themselves is in violation of workers' rights. ...

"Some of the reports I've had in terms of the food that's being provided has brought tears to my eyes, in terms of both volume and content," Mayell said. She detailed some workers' accounts of being left with only two loaves of bread, two cartons of eggs, and a bag of oranges that was supposed to feed six workers for a week.  "The consistent problem has been an absolute inadequate amount of food, and then the food that is provided is neither nutritious nor culturally familiar to workers who are making huge sacrifices this year to come here and [are] finding the conditions they're arriving in actually disconcerting," Mayell said. ...

Before pandemic times, migrant farm workers were able to buy their own groceries and prepare their own food, though they generally relied on their employer to drive them into town once a week to do so. 

Even then, migrant farm workers, the labour force responsible for Canada's own food local food production had a difficult time feeding themselves. For instance, Gabriel Allahdua, a migrant agricultural worker in Ontario from 2012-2015, said that after his minimum wage had been split between remittances to his home country of St. Lucia, support for his family, and any travel costs or other work-related expenses his employers deducted from his wage, he was left with little money for food. Rice was cheapest, he said, so it was his staple. A banana or plantain -- fruit he ate often in St. Lucia -- became an occasional splurge.

"They feel like they're being punished," she said, adding that many of the workers she is friends with have drawn parallels between their own situation and prison. At the beginning of the pandemic, Castello, also a PhD researcher studying the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), began buying fresh food for the workers she already had relationships with through her research, paying for it out of pocket. ...

Castello, Mayell, and Guthrie agreed that the food delivery system is a temporary solution to a deeper problem. 

"All food insecurity is rooted in poverty," Guthrie said. "With migrant workers, we've constructed them in such a position of vulnerability," she added, citing precarious immigration status, low pay, unregulated labour, and the fact that most migrant workers are racialized. 

https://rabble.ca/news/2020/07/migrant-agricultural-workers-experiencing...

jerrym

Below is an url with a connection to the global crisis facing migrant workers with a webinair that " brought together farmworker advocates who have been organizing and working alongside farmworkers in Canada, Italy, United Kingdom, the United States and across boundaries. In these countries, while farm work has been deemed 'essential,' the lives of farmworkers have been treated as disposable; states and private companies have done very little to ensure the health and safety of these workers. In fact, there are reports that some farmworkers have been asked to waive their rights in case they contract the virus. The webinar explored local and international strategies that could be adopted to challenge the political, legal and economic structures that result in farmworkers’ subordination."

https://rabble.ca/podcasts/shows/needs-no-introduction/2020/07/migrant%C...

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

The vulnerability of migrant workers itself is pandemic. There has been a new spike in COVID-19 in Spain and lots of the hardest hit are migrant agricultural workers.

Aristotleded24

jerrym wrote:
A total of 3,000 prisoners have been placed in isolation, which is highly detrimental to mental health

Not to mention also detrimental to the propsect of rehabilitation.

jerrym

It's happened again, this time in San Francisco. 

Three young men who boarded a Muni bus near San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood are suspected of assaulting the driver with a bat after repeatedly being asked to put on face masks.

https://sfist.com/2020/07/24/muni-driver-attacked-with-bat-after-telling...

The death of  a French bus driver beaten to death after asking passengers to wear a mask as required by law on public transportation and the death of a Detroit bus driver after complaining about a passenger coughing on him while not wearing a mask shows why 'essential workers' repeatedly see themselves as expendable workers by some in the public as well by the elite. 

 

jerrym

Ford is at it again. After apologizing on July 3rd "for 'misinformation' after he accused migrant workers of hiding from COVID-19 tests" (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-doug-ford-says-he-was-wro...), he now wants to find out if he can force migrant workers to take a Covid-19 test.

Jenna Hennebry, associate professor with the International Migration Research Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University and co-founder of the Migrant Worker Health Expert Working Group, points out that singling out a group to impose mandatory testing on "can breed xenophobia. It can create conditions where people don't understand that the risk isn't necessarily from those people — that, in fact, those people are at risk." 

The Migrant Workers Alliance For Change demanded that Trudeau needs to take action on the crisis faced by migrant workers by giving them permanent immigration status to solve the crisis. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his team has been asked to consult a constitutional lawyer to find out if the province can mandate COVID-19 testing for migrant farm workers. "If someone comes into our country ... that's a privilege when you cross the border into someone's country," Ford told a new conference Friday. "I tried to work — work until you can't work any longer — with the folks. I would like to look into mandatory testing."

The announcement comes as Windsor-Essex's medical officer of health said the region now has the highest rate of coronavirus cases in the province.

On Friday, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported 53 new cases of coronavirus, with 43 coming from the agri-farm sector. The number of migrant farm workers who have tested positive for coronavirus surpassed 1,000 Friday. ...

Jenna Hennebry, associate professor with the International Migration Research Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University and co-founder of the Migrant Worker Health Expert Working Group, said she believes testing is essential and more of it is needed. Henry said imposing mandatory testing on one group could single them out and send a bad message. "It can breed xenophobia. It can create conditions where people don't understand that the risk isn't necessarily from those people — that, in fact, those people are at risk," said Hennebry. ...

"If the approach is to try to find the most effective public health approach, then it's about testing as many people as possible — not just a subgroup of people that are facing heightened vulnerabilities."

Hennebry suggested COVID-19 testing should be mandatory for "everybody that's entering the country" and not just migrant workers who are "not any more likely to have it than anyone else showing up at a border." She said the conditions in which the migrants work and live heightens their potential for exposure to the virus and for spreading it. Hennebry added that testing multiple times throughout the season would be helpful, especially if it was facilitated by somebody other than employers. 

In a statement, Migrant Workers Alliance For Change said Ford is "back to blaming migrants," referring to the premier's statement earlier this month when he suggested migrant workers were hiding from COVID-19 testing. He later apologized.  ...

"Unless testing is mandatory for all residents, including farm employers, this measure if implemented clearly targets low-waged, racialized people and is racist and discriminatory," read a statement from the group. It added that the responsibility for COVID-19 outbreaks on farms "lies with working and living conditions, not with workers. Premier Ford knows how to fix this situation: He can mandate physical distancing at work and at home for all migrant farm workers and ensure equal rights for migrant workers. But he won't do it, and thousands continue to be infected, and three migrants are dead."

Migrant Workers Alliance For Change said it is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to "step in and give full and permanent immigration status to migrant workers so that they can protect themselves."

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/ford-mandatory-testing-constituti...

jerrym

There is growing evidence of how systemic inequalites are increasing the risks faced by indigenous people in Canada during the Covid crisis despite the perception that overall Canada has done a good job in handling the problem amongst many people. 

Across Canada, public health officials are expressing cautious optimism that efforts to contain Covid-19 are proving effective . But Canadians should recognize Indigenous communities are still at risk.

Canada’s record in protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples is abysmal. And it is precisely because of the systemic inequities and discrimination these communities face that Indigenous people may suffer disproportionately from Covid-19.

Federal and provincial governments have urged handwashing and social distancing as Canada’s best defense against the virus. But, as Human Rights Watch has documented, many First Nations communities lack access to clean water and inadequate funding for on-reserve housing has led to severe overcrowding, making social distancing difficult. In urban settings, Indigenous people are also overrepresented in populations at heightened risk of Covid-19: populations experiencing homelessnessprison populations, and people living in poverty.

Indigenous people in Canada also have high rates of underlying health conditions such as diabetes or tuberculosis – diseases associated with poverty or exclusion. According to the World Health Organization, “People ill with both TB and Covid-19 may have poorer treatment outcomes, especially if TB treatment is interrupted.” Patients with diabetes may also be at higher risk from severe illness from Covid-19.

Many Indigenous people also face discrimination in accessing health care services. In remote Northern communities, many nursing stations are ill-equipped and understaffed. Travel to medical centers is expensive and challenging due to current travel restrictions. Some Indigenous communities also do not have access to the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need – and this does not even begin to cover the mental health impact these communities will face moving forward.

Later this year, Human Rights Watch will release a report documenting how climate change is impacting access to food in remote Indigenous communities. Food insecurity may be further exacerbated by the pressures of Covid-19, especially in communities that rely on long-distance deliveries to replenish food stocks.

While the Canadian government has taken steps to address some concerns, deeper reforms are in order.

Authorities should work to dismantle barriers to health care for Indigenous people and ensure supplies such as PPEs are being deployed equitably.

Crucially, the government should involve Indigenous people in creating solutions to address their specific needs, in ways that respect their rights, and end paternalistic approaches that have harmed them. Canada needs to work with Indigenous governments to decrease the impact of this pandemic, and so that Indigenous communities can look forward to healthy futures in which they are resilient to emergencies.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/06/09/systemic-inequities-increase-covid-1...

jerrym

Facing increased risks from Covid-19 has also increased the mental strain that indigenous people have faced. according to a survey done by Stats Canada. 

Canadians have been cooped up at home since the novel coronavirus pandemic first started in March, and there’s ample evidence to show the circumstances have had a negative impact on mental health.
Now, a new survey by Statistics Canada focuses on the mental health of Indigenous people ⁠— and it’s clear the impact of COVID-19 has been severe.

Sixty per cent of Indigenous people say their mental health has worsened since the onset of physical distancing measures. Forty-six per cent of Indigenous women and 32 per cent of Indigenous men describe most of their days as “quite a bit stressful” or “extremely stressful.” ...

Forty-eight per cent of Indigenous women and 31 per cent of Indigenous men reported symptoms consistent with generalized anxiety disorder. For reference, 16 per cent of Indigenous people reported fair or poor mental health prior to the pandemic in the 2017 Aboriginal Peoples Survey.

The online questionnaire was completed by approximately 1,400 First Nations people, Metis and Inuit aged 15 years and older. ...

Mental health disparities between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in Canada have been “well documented,” reads the study.

“They have been linked to the intergenerational effects of residential schools, the forced relocation of communities and removal of children from families and communities and mental health service gaps.”

Unfortunately, experts like Christopher Mushquash, the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous mental health and addiction, aren’t surprised by these results. He says social determinants of health have long played a role in Indigenous mental health, and the COVID-19 outbreak is only highlighting those pre-existing problems. ...

These are social and economic factors like income, discrimination and access to quality food, health care and education, all of which can impact a person’s health and how long they will live, he said. “When you look at mental health difficulties, there’s a number of (factors) that are important for consideration,” Mushquash told Global News. “If you think about the history of colonial impositions on Indigenous communities ⁠— from assimilation policies that have disrupted families, communities (and) traditions and disrupted cultural practices ⁠— this has really led to an intergenerational transmission of difficulties.” ...

The trauma experienced by Indigenous people in the past ⁠— whether it was from colonization, the residential school system and the ’60s Scoop, among other things ⁠— was passed down to younger generations, and it contributes to the poor mental and physical health of people today. ...

The racism Indigenous people continue to face, combined with the disproportionate affects of the pandemic on racialized communities, compounds this reality, research shows. “The pandemic really makes clear just how big some of the gaps are, and indeed, where they are,” Mushquash said. ...

Given Indigenous culture and tradition, it makes sense that forced physical distancing would harm Indigenous mental health, said Roderick McCormick, an Indigenous health researcher at Thompson Rivers University. “There’s a disconnection, and (for a lot of people), that’s going to be the main stressor,” McCormick said. “We prefer to communicate in person.” Some Indigenous people use social media or the phone, but broadly speaking, “face to face is usually the preferred option,” McCormick said.

This is all compounded by the fact that it’s difficult to find mental health treatment that is “culturally-based,” McCormick said. For McCormick, that means the practitioner providing care is Indigenous ⁠— someone who understands the mental health care system, the Indigenous culture and traditions and the strength of intergenerational trauma. “They will also know what some of the more naturally occurring resources are, like support groups and people in the community who are good to talk to, like elders,” McCormick said.

Ultimately, the gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous mental health has always been there, but the pandemic is making it wider. “There are funding issues and lack of services (for Indigenous people) ⁠— those have been in existence (since before the pandemic),” McCormick said. “But now, Indigenous people are being triggered by the pandemic. Historically, there’s still that fear of epidemics.”  McCormick is referring to smallpox, which was brought onto Indigenous land by European settlers and devastated entire communities. 

Moving forward, McCormick wants to see more resources provided for mental health services for Indigenous people. “There are too many obstacles in terms of the policies and jurisdictional issues. It really doesn’t get the attention that it should ⁠— and that’s the same for mental health (more broadly),” he said. “It gets a fraction of the overall health spending … yet it has huge financial implications if you ignore it.” ...

“I’ve seen examples of a lot of Indigenous communities (and organizations) doing very innovative things to help ensure that there’s continuity in care for their patients,” Mushquash said. “One thing I think (we should try) to include, when we can, is an acknowledgment of the capacity of Indigenous people … have in our communities, our cultures and our traditions.”

https://globalnews.ca/news/7096615/coronavirus-indigenous-mental-health-...

NDPP

The Government's Weapon Against Reality Winner: COVID-19

https://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/64239-the-governments-we...

"COVID-19 is raging through the US prison systems at every level - federal - state, and local - at a rate far higher than in the general population. To make matters worse, many prisoners are forbidden from cleaning and disinfecting their cells. Whistleblower Marty Gottesfeld has written that as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic hit FCI Terre Haute, where he is being held, prison authorities stopped providing soap and shampoo and forbade prisoners from using detergent to clean their laundry. No explanation was given.

Similarly, NSA whistleblower Reality Winner reported to her family that she and other prisoners at the federal women's prison at Carswell, Texas, are not permitted to clean their cells. Five hundred women - nearly 50% of all prisoners at Carswell - have been infected. Winner is one of them..."

 

The whistleblower and journalist Julian Assange is being held in similarly bad, COVID-ridden conditions in London's Belmarsh prison. To anyone contemplating whistle-blowing on the public's behalf, the message is loud and clear - don't. There will be no solidarity and support for you from that public, who doesn't much care anyway, and you will be abandoned to the tender mercies of a malevolent state and probably forgotten. Incidentally, NSA whistleblower Reality Winner,  found herself in this predicament after being compromised by her publisher The Intercept.  Moreover, she is not the only one.

jerrym

Trudeau today  announced "that it will be investing $58.6 million to protect migrant farm workers from COVID-19 and to address outbreaks on farms." He also said the government will review the Temporary Foreign Worker program, admitting that:

 "Whether it's the farms that haven't been living up to the standards and expectations that we expect or provincial governments or federal governments that haven't been properly involved in ensuring that standards are met and that people are protected." ...

"Housing is really where it seems not enough attention has been paid with respect to its temporary foreign workers' health and safety and we're really doubling down," she said. 

"Historically, what we've done is relied on the employer, the farms in this case, to give us a housing report that says their housing is adequate based on local housing requirements, but we've not really been in the game of checking this out," she said. 

"We don't have any way to enforce that. We're looking at how we can enforce housing standards a little bit better and more robustly. I've heard firsthand from migrant worker groups that this would be game-changing."

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/federal-government-59-million-mig...

 

This and previous governments have done nothing for decades to protect the working conditions of the migrant workers. Only when Covid-19 resulted in more than 1,000 migrant workers becoming infected in the Windsor-Essex region and freezing the regional economy and the Mexcian government threatened to cut off the future supply of migrant workers was any consideration given to what was happening to these workers. Furthermore, the Trudeau government is now further subsidizing the agricultural industry in the region with the $58.6 million, a large part of which is big agribusiness firms,  rather than demanding they provide conditions even before the migrant worker season began. Notice the announcement contains no mention of an increase in wages for workers. 

On TV, Trudeau also recommended that students take up these low wage, high hazard jobs following the shutdown of his We charity pet project that was to pay students less than minimum wage and only in 100 hour increments, so that if you worked 99 hours you got nothing or 199 hours you got the same amount as working for 100 hours etc. Obviously, the unsafe conditions that led to more than 1,ooo migrant workers being infected would be the same as those faced by students, because even if the $59 million were to be used to improve working conditions, that is not going to occur in the short time students have left before school starts. In other words, students are another group in Trudeau's underclass. 

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