Other homes of the underclass during Covid-19: meat processing plants, prisons, reserves, and homeless

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Welcome to Brandon:


The leaders of Manitoba's opposition parties are backing a union's call to shut down the Maple Leaf Foods plant in Brandon, Man., after four cases of COVID-19 involving workers at the plant.

"We want them to shut the plant down," Jeff Traeger, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 832, told CBC News on Thursday morning. 

The union said in a memo to workers early Thursday that three more cases had been identified among non-production unionized employees at the pork processing facility.

That came after one other worker in the plant tested positive for COVID-19, which prompted more than 70 employees who may have been exposed to go into self-isolation.

The first worker who tested positive, who also wasn't on the production line, hasn't been at work since July 28, the union said Wednesday.

The UFCW was alerted about the three new cases around 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Traeger said. Now the union, which represents nearly 2,000 workers at the plant, wants Maple Leaf to stop production until at least Aug. 10, until more information is known about any of the 60 outstanding tests among workers.

I really hope this doesn't do to Brandon what the outbreak did to Brooks.


Canada has negotiated with Quebec an agreement to create a path to permanent residency for health care workers who put their lives at risk in hospitals and long-term care homes, but this agreement will not extend to other asylum workers who put their lives at risk in essential services such as food services and security. Once again half measures is all that the Trudeau government does. 

The federal government is granting permanent residency to some asylum seekers who cared for patients in hospitals and long-term care homes at the height of the pandemic last spring, in a one-time program that became more restrictive as Ottawa negotiated with Quebec. ...

The compromise with Quebec, where most of the affected asylum seekers live and which has an agreement with Ottawa to oversee immigration, is to grant permanent residency if they worked in a hospital or other health-care institution and meet other eligibility requirements.

The decision would affect about 1,000 claimants across Canada. ...

hose working in hospitals and understaffed care homes risked exposure to COVID-19 — sometimes with fatal consequences — and have come to be known as "guardian angels" in Quebec. ...

To be eligible for permanent residency, asylum seekers must:

  • Have applied for asylum before March 13 and have a work permit.
  • Have worked in patient care at a health-care institution for at least 120 hours between March 13 and August 14.
  • Have six months of experience in patient care at a health-care institution by Aug. 31, 2021.
  • Meet other criteria related to permanent residency, notably health and safety requirements. ...

The federal government had initially envisioned broader eligibility requirements, which would have included other workers in hospitals and care facilities, such as security guards and maintenance staff.

But after weeks of negotiations with Quebec, Ottawa decided to tighten the program. As is the case with all who settle in the province, the asylum seekers will still need a certificat de sélection du Quebec (CSQ) from the province.

The program is open to both those whose cases are still open and those who have been denied permanent residency. An eligible asylum seeker's spouse and children will also be granted status under the program if they live in Canada. ...

"I think what it offers right now is a glimmer of hope," said Toronto-based immigration lawyer Adrienne Smith. Her clients, some of whom work in Ontario's long-term care homes, are facing delays of up to two years for a hearing with the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

"They're putting their lives on the line right now, not even knowing they're going to be allowed to stay in the country," she said.

Montreal-based community group La Maison d'Haiti, which was consulted over the summer about the federal program, estimates there are thousands of asylum seekers in the province. The group's executive director, Marjorie Villefranche, is frustrated with the end result. She says the group pushed for all those who were working in what Quebec defined as essential services during the pandemic to be included. "They think that they came here and claimed for asylum the wrong way. It's like a punishment," she said of the provincial government.

Many Haitian asylum seekers reach Canada by crossing at an unofficial entry point at Roxham Road near Hemmingford, Que. ...

Paul Clarke, executive director of Action Réfugiés Montréal, said while it's always good news when asylum seekers are granted status, this measure does not go far enough. "There were asylum seekers who were working in warehouses all through the pandemic making sure that there was food at your local Loblaws or Provigo," he said. "It's a time to be generous with people who need protection."



Although Legault and Trudeau allowed those asylum seekers who worked in long term care homes and hospitals to have a route to permanent resdiency they did not even give that to security guards at these places. 

Doll Jean Frejus Nguessan Bi says he couldn’t sleep at all last night.

The asylum seeker from Ivory Coast works as a security guard in hospitals and long-term care homes in the Montreal area, where he watched many of his colleagues stop coming in as deaths linked to COVID-19 began to mount this spring.

But while Nguessan Bi kept working, he said he found out Friday that he would be excluded from a new government program to fast-track the permanent residency applications of some asylum seekers working on the front lines during the pandemic.

“Why (not) us? We who gave our hearts and our love… Why are we abandoned?” he said in an interview at a protest camp across the street from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Montreal riding office Saturday. “What did we do to deserve this?” ...

Ottawa announced Friday that asylum seekers working in specific jobs in the health-care sector would be eligible for permanent residency without first having to wait for their asylum claims to be accepted, as is typically the process. ...

But asylum seekers and their supporters say Ottawa’s plan excludes thousands of workers without permanent status in Canada who have laboured on the front lines during the pandemic, often at great personal risk to themselves and their families. ...

That includes security guards and janitorial staff, factory workers, and farm labourers, among others.

“I have friends who worked with me in security that abandoned (their posts) because they were afraid of getting infected. But I stayed,” said Nguessan Bi.

He said he wants Trudeau and Quebec Premier Francois Legault to do something to help asylum seekers who are not eligible for the new program.

Several dozen people rallied in front of Trudeau’s office on Saturday to demand permanent residency for all asylum seekers. ...

“It’s an act of recognition. They deserve status,” Joseph Clormeus, a member of Debout pour la dignite, a Montreal advocacy group that organized the rally, told the crowd.

Anite Presume, a Haitian asylum seeker who came to Quebec in August 2017 from the United States, was among the protesters.

She works in a medication factory, and said she kept working during the pandemic despite the risks.

“To take the bus, we were all stressed, but we still went to work because it was essential. They needed medication for the hospitals,” she said in an interview.

She said she has not received a response yet to her application for asylum in Canada, and lives under a cloud of uncertainty and stress about her future.

“It’s a feeling of rejection,” Presume said, about not being included in Ottawa’s regularization program. “They rejected us as if we did nothing.”

The program was the result of negotiations between the federal government and Quebec, who have had a strained relationship on the question of immigration, and in particular the asylum claimants, in recent years.

Public support has been building for asylum seekers’ demand for permanent residency after it was revealed that refugee claimants were among those toiling in Quebec’s long-term care facilities, which were hard-hit by COVID-19.



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Here we go again:

The president of the union representing employees at the Lilydale poultry processing plant in southeast Calgary says the plant should be closed while the company deals with an outbreak of COVID-19.

"These plants should close for re-examination, from top to bottom a complete cleaning and allowing employees to go home and self-isolate," said Thomas Hesse, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 401. "That's what this plant needs to do.

"We just simply don't know what nooks and crannies this disease is in. It’s an old plant. It’s a crowded plant. It’s in the city of Calgary. It's a real danger and it ought to be closed until we can get a handle on it."

Alberta Health Services confirms that, as of Tuesday, there are 24 active cases at the Lilydale plant and three recovered cases linked to the outbreak. 

"I want to emphasize that management and staff involved in all of the outbreaks are working closely with public health to prevent the spread," said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, in a press conference Monday. 

This is the second time there has been an outbreak at the facility located on Hurst Road S.E.

And this is the second time this happened at this particular plant?


The UN is warning of the risks indigenous people around the world face during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Thanks to their traditional knowledge and their relationship with the natural world, they have long known that the degradation of the environment has the potential to unleash disease. As we fight against the spread of the pandemic, it is more important than ever to safeguard indigenous peoples and their knowledge. Their territories are home to 80% of the world’s biodiversity and they can teach us much about how to rebalance our relationship with nature and reduce the risk of future pandemics. ...

Indigenous communities already face a host of challenges, and the unfortunate present reality is that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are worsening these challenges further still.

Indigenous communities already experience poor access to healthcare, significantly higher rates of diseases, lack of access to essential services, sanitation, and other key preventive measures, such as clean water, soap, disinfectant, etc. Likewise, most  nearby local medical facilities are often under-equipped and under-staffed. Even when indigenous peoples can access healthcare services,  they can face stigma and discrimination. A key factor is to ensure services and facilities are provided in indigenous languages, as appropriate to the specific situation of Indigenous peoples. ...

Indigenous peoples’ traditional lifestyles are a source of their resiliency and can also pose a threat at this time in preventing the spread of the virus.  For example, most indigenous communities regularly organize large traditional gatherings to mark special events e.g. harvests, coming of age ceremonies, etc. Some indigenous communities also live in multi-generational housing, which puts Indigenous peoples and their families, especially the Elders, at risk.

Furthermore, indigenous peoples  already face food insecurity as a result of the loss of their traditional lands and territories or even climate change effects. They also  confront even graver challenges accessing food. With the loss of their traditional livelihoods, which are often land-based, many indigenous peoples, who work in traditional occupations and subsistence economies or in the informal sector, will be adversely affected by the pandemic. The situation of indigenous women, who are often the main providers of food and nutrition to their families, is even graver.


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The Pandemic Accelerates the Rise⁠—and Criminalization⁠—of Tent Cities


How COVID-19 Accelerated Criminalization

With the advent of COVID-19 and policies of social isolation, North America’s homeless population is experiencing the criminalization of poverty in accelerated time. The many homeless people who ride New York’s subways at night are being pushed out, with the help of NYPD officers, to allow for nightly sanitizing of trains, despite hundreds of cases of COVID-19 in city shelters.

A threatened eviction of homeless people in Philadelphia from the tunnels beneath the city’s Convention Center was sped up, even as alternatives on offer are far more dangerous than before. “The city decided to evict individuals who stay in one of the safest parts of the city,” said Philadelphia homelessness and drug user rights activist Sterling Johnson, “stating that they are helping.”

They are not. That particular eviction took place on March 23—the day after the Centers for Disease Control released guidance advising that encampments should not be cleared unless housing is available, due to the risk of exacerbating the spread of COVID-19. “They do not have apartment units for them with private bathrooms and space to maintain a specific distance like has been asked of all of us,” confirmed Johnson.

The CDC is not the only body that has spoken out against dismantling of encampments. Overseas, well before COVID-19, UN Special Rapporteur Leilani Farha toured migrant camps, urban squats and Roma settlements across France and “called for an end to evictions that violated international law ensuring the right to adequate housing,” as Reuters reported. Not just housing, but adequate housing is a right that has been violated by almost all governments at all levels all along.

The day I visited Sanctuary, as someone with a medical condition that placed me at high risk, I was already worried about the possibility of COVID-19. I was equally nervous about the possibility of offending one of the people I was going to interview by refusing to shake hands. I didn’t want them to think I thought they were diseased. That’s a common assumption, after all.

In 2014, the city of Marseille, France, issued an ID card to the city’s homeless people, meant to be worn visibly. It was distinctly similar to Nazi-era badges, bearing a yellow triangles, ID information and a list of the bearer’s health issues. The scheme was abandoned after public outcry, but the impulse behind it survives worldwide.

Stigma against unhoused people and community opposition to services for them overlap with stigma and fear around HV/AIDS and AIDS and tuberculosis, as well as racism, the stigmatization of drug use, and other prejudices. In Gallup, New Mexico, hard-hit by COVID-19, some homeless patients have been provided with certification cards attesting that they’ve been cleared for the disease, which are to be used to ensure access to shelter services......

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Indigenous vice-chief calls on correctional service commissioner to resign

Congress of Aboriginal Peoples Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin is calling for accountability after a panel of experts assigned to look into the use of Structured Intervention Units (SIUs), in Canadian prisons released a scathing report on 19 Aug. detailing how their work was obstructed, undermined and blocked by the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC).

“The panel has now disbanded and will not be able to complete its work to ensure safety for prisoners in Canada,” said Beaudin, who worked as a justice of the peace for the Province of Saskatchewan for five years, and later as an advocate for incarcerated Indigenous youth .

SIUs are meant as a way to avoid solitary confinement and are implemented when an inmate is found to be a danger to themselves or others. The panel was supposed to gauge their effectiveness. Beaudin said they are essentially one and the same.

"I’m dealing with people in prison that have been cut completely off from their families. Literally cut right off. They're not even allowed to talk to them. Their mothers can’t even visit them when they’re in prison. They’re not allowed," Beaudin said.

University of Toronto Criminologist Anthony Doob, who chaired the inquiry, said their work was thwarted by a lack of cooperation from the Correctional Service of Canada.

“Very simply, this panel has not been allowed to do its work,” Doob, wrote in an Aug. 19 memo attached to the report. Doob said the CSC did not provide workable data to go by.

Beaudin pointed to the death of Curtis McKenzie, a 27-year-old member of Lac La Ronge Indian Band, who took his own life in March while in the custody of the Correctional Service of Canada at Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert.

“He suffered from (having been) in solitary confinement… We fought so hard trying to get some oversight and trying to make sure that Canada was following international law about torture, and obviously they’re not,” Beaudin told Canada’s National Observer in an interview on Thursday.

“It seems like once you are in the system you’re done. You’re hidden in the system. There’s no transparency, there’s no accountability for officials. They can do whatever they want.”

Beaudin said McKenzie was one of many....

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Meatpacking Executives Drafted Trump’s Order to Keep Plants Open Amid Pandemic

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is facing criticism for fining a JBS beef plant in Greeley, Colorado, under $16,000 after six workers — all immigrants — died at the plant from COVID-19. Nearly 300 workers became infected. One family of a deceased worker described the small fine as a “huge slap in the face.” Last year JBS reported over $50 billion in revenue.

Meanwhile, ProPublica has obtained emails showing the text of President Trump’s controversial executive order keeping meatpacking plants open during the pandemic was based largely on language written by the meat industry.


The following article talks about the homeless in Toronto not counting. The same could be said for the rest of Canada or for that matter anywhere in the world. 

In Toronto, in a pandemic, homeless people don't "count." ...

For over 20 years frontline workers and advocates have been tracking homeless deaths and holding a monthly homeless memorial outdoors, rain or shine, at the Church of the Holy Trinity. Names are added to a makeshift outdoor memorial board, people's lives are honoured and the tragedy of their death called out. There is music, the sharing of grief and a community meal.

In January, 2020 the 1,000th name was added to the memorial.  ...

Homeless people in the pandemic have been left behind. In March, the city stopped posting overnight shelter statistics (an indicator of crowding and lack of vacancy) until the Toronto ombudsman office intervened and an agreement they would post weekly was achieved. The city's reluctance to enforce physical distancing in shelters meant that a legal coalition had to take the city to court to enforce two-metre physical distancing of beds, cots and mats.

The city's mask bylaw for indoor common spaces did not apply to shelters and a mask policy for shelter residents was only announced September 4.

Even in death homeless people are left behind. The last death statistic on the city website is for January 2020, and is only from the death in shelter data set. ...

From my limited knowledge I can tell you that during the pandemic two women were found dead, one in a tent, one in a sleeping bag outside. At the September memorial two of the four names added had been murdered. The number of overdose deaths in hotel/shelters is staggering. An agency worker has reported to me that she knows of 10 deaths at her shelter. At least four people have died of COVID.

Surely, this is urgent information that begs attention. ...

While Toronto Public Health and the city’s shelter division shut down tracking homeless deaths, other equally busy city departments continued with data collection and reporting in 2020. I was able to easily find these numbers:

HomicidesAs of September 13: 52

In addition: auto theft, break and entry, robbery, sexual assault categories are all included as of September 2020.

Shooting and firearm dischargesAs of September 12: 357 Fatal collisions. As of June 2: 781 Toronto Fire responses. As of September 14: Overall fires up 17 per cent since the pandemic.  DineSafe Toronto. As of July: In one week, five. Photo-radar. As of September 8: more than 22,000 tickets issued.

The pandemic is teaching us many lessons about inequity. As Greg Cook notes: "One thing that this global pandemic has made even more crystal clear is that some lives aren't cared for by our city government. Some deaths not even acknowledged.



jerrym wrote:

The following article talks about the homeless in Toronto not counting. The same could be said for the rest of Canada or for that matter anywhere in the world. 

In Toronto, in a pandemic, homeless people don't "count." ...

For over 20 years frontline workers and advocates have been tracking homeless deaths and holding a monthly homeless memorial outdoors, rain or shine, at the Church of the Holy Trinity. Names are added to a makeshift outdoor memorial board, people's lives are honoured and the tragedy of their death called out. There is music, the sharing of grief and a community meal.

In January, 2020 the 1,000th name was added to the memorial.  ...

Homeless people in the pandemic have been left behind. In March, the city stopped posting overnight shelter statistics (an indicator of crowding and lack of vacancy) until the Toronto ombudsman office intervened and an agreement they would post weekly was achieved. The city's reluctance to enforce physical distancing in shelters meant that a legal coalition had to take the city to court to enforce two-metre physical distancing of beds, cots and mats.

The city's mask bylaw for indoor common spaces did not apply to shelters and a mask policy for shelter residents was only announced September 4.

Even in death homeless people are left behind. The last death statistic on the city website is for January 2020, and is only from the death in shelter data set. ...

From my limited knowledge I can tell you that during the pandemic two women were found dead, one in a tent, one in a sleeping bag outside. At the September memorial two of the four names added had been murdered. The number of overdose deaths in hotel/shelters is staggering. An agency worker has reported to me that she knows of 10 deaths at her shelter. At least four people have died of COVID.

Surely, this is urgent information that begs attention. ...

While Toronto Public Health and the city’s shelter division shut down tracking homeless deaths, other equally busy city departments continued with data collection and reporting in 2020. I was able to easily find these numbers:

HomicidesAs of September 13: 52

In addition: auto theft, break and entry, robbery, sexual assault categories are all included as of September 2020.

Shooting and firearm dischargesAs of September 12: 357 Fatal collisions. As of June 2: 781 Toronto Fire responses. As of September 14: Overall fires up 17 per cent since the pandemic.  DineSafe Toronto. As of July: In one week, five. Photo-radar. As of September 8: more than 22,000 tickets issued.

The pandemic is teaching us many lessons about inequity. As Greg Cook notes: "One thing that this global pandemic has made even more crystal clear is that some lives aren't cared for by our city government. Some deaths not even acknowledged.


Absolutely jerry. I'm quite worried that limits on indoor capacity on things like drop-in centres or public libraries in the winter will expose people to the risk of freezing to death on the streets, and that public health officials and the rest of us will be too busy patting ourselves on the back about the good job we are doing to fight the pandemic to notice.

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In Winnipeg, new funding was announced just today about helping increase safe spaces for the homeless population. I believe that Main Street Project, Salvation Army and a few others will be getting grants to this effect.

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U.S. Billionaires Added $845B to Net Worth Since March as Pandemic Exposed Racial Inequities

In the United States, the Department of Labor is reporting another 860,000 workers filed for new unemployment benefits last week. Since the pandemic began, around 60 million jobless claims have been filed — a new record.

Meanwhile, the total net worth of the nation’s billionaires has soared by nearly $850 billion since mid-March — a 29% increase. That’s according to a new study by the Institute for Policy Studies.

This comes as a new poll conducted by NPR and researchers at Harvard finds economic fallout from the pandemic has hit communities of color the hardest. The study found 72% of Latinx households, 60% of Black households and 55% of Native American households have reported “serious financial problems” this year, with trouble paying for food, housing and debt.


There is a showdown coming in Montreal. The city is providing only shelter spaces which many of the homeless are refusing. Plante says she doesn't want to use force but I fear she will do so eventually.

 I think the problem was born from the closure of rooming houses and that the solution is providing public rooming houses with some form of cafeteria.

They have already used the Royal Vic for temporary housing. As a former hospital the rooms have bathrooms so it could easily be transformed into a rooming house. It's so big it could house all sorts of social services.

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Iowa Slaughterhouse Fined $957 After COVID-19 Outbreak Infected Hundreds of Workers

In Iowa, the Trump administration has fined the operators of a beef slaughterhouse plant just $957, after they failed to protect workers from contracting coronavirus on the job. Three hundred thirty-eight of the plant’s 850 workers got sick during a major outbreak at the Iowa Premium Beef plant in April. This week, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration ordered a $1,914 fine against the company for record-keeping violations, then agreed to cut that fine in half after negotiations with executives. The Associated Press reports four other meat plants in Iowa with major outbreaks received no fines at all, despite hundreds of COVID-19 cases and nine deaths at the plants.


Below is a summary of the many vunerable groups and the problems they face during the Covid crisis. 

Emerging challenges impacting people living in vulnerable circumstances

Human rights groups, experts and communities have come together in an unprecedented way during this crisis to provide recommendations to governments on how to ensure rights are protected and that strong human rights oversight is in place as governments respond to this pandemic.

In developing response plans, governments must consider these issues, and the recommendations put forward by human rights experts and rights holders.

Below are examples of some of the challenges facing individuals in vulnerable circumstances as we work together to flatten the curve.

People with Disabilities

People with disabilities face barriers in many forms, and in many places on a daily basis. With the challenging times we are in today, they are particularly impacted and the barriers they face may be greater.

Not all communications surrounding COVID-19 have been done in an accessible format, and not all services, including health and delivery, are accessible. Refilling a medication, getting groceries or fresh air, may not be possible.

With people’s daily lives being turned upside down, anxiety and stress will affect us all. For people with mental health issues, isolation can worsen existing conditions, and many do not have the means or support to help them through these challenging times. The mental health and well-being of all Canadians must be considered as the current situation evolves.

Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous populations are now facing greater challenges. For example, overcrowding in housing makes social distancing, self-isolation or quarantining an issue. In northern, remote, isolated and urban Indigenous communities, there may be 10 people living in a space designed for two or three. Housing in disrepair also serves to support transmission of respiratory illness.

A lack of access to adequate health care, which is already an issue in many Indigenous communities, make residents more vulnerable and potentially at greater risk of exposure to the virus.


As we all face changes in our daily lives, we must not forget that children have also had their lives changed.

In emergencies around the world daycares and schools are often the first to close and last to re-open. This leaves many children without a safe place, a sense of normalcy, often a nutritious meal, or other critical supports, all of which are necessary for a child’s well-being and development. Schools, daycares and care providers provide far more than an education.

People in Housing Need or Facing Food Insecurity

As people are laid off, or unable to work, poverty will increase. Closing public spaces means that many no longer have access to computers, the internet or other supports. Applying for employment insurance, wage subsidies, or other measures to help with the cost of living, may not be possible as a result.

Housing - Canadians who face sudden layoffs are concerned about the security of their housing. A first concern for those affected by job loss is: how will I pay rent, will my job and income return before my mortgage deferral period runs out?

With poverty increasing, homelessness will rise. For those who are already homeless, staying home is impossible. Following public health and government advice, guidelines and rules is impossible.

As shelters become more crowded, social distancing and self-isolation is impossible for this already vulnerable population. Those who need to seek refuge or shelter may be less likely to do so because of the increased public safety measures and fears of being exposed to the virus.

People Facing Food Insecurity - As some food banks are forced to close, daycares and schools close, and paycheques stop, people of all ages and backgrounds, may face food insecurities. For those who were already food insecure, the situation may now be worse, a meal, let alone a nutritious meal, may not be accessible.

Women and Children Fleeing Violence

Women and children who experience domestic violence and abuse at home are particularly vulnerable. With many shelters closing, or family and community supports now out of reach, they have fewer options to seek refuge, and being isolated could be very dangerous.

Single parents

As new restrictions are put in place on a daily-basis, single parents may find it increasingly more difficult to navigate these challenging times. Already some grocery stores are asking that babies and children do not enter the store, and parents who have to stop work in order to care for children at home, may not have additional monetary, family or community support to get them the supplies they need.

LGBTQ2I Community

Members of the LGBTQ2I community who already face additional discrimination, violence or exclusion, in their daily lives, may now face worsening conditions. Many may no longer have access to important community connections they have come to rely on, and may feel additionally isolated living alone or in a house where they are not fully accepted. Many may not be able to access the health supports they need.

Canadians needing Medical Treatment

As restricted movement and social distancing measures continue to expand, and as more Canadians fall ill to the virus, access to health care will become more limited.

Already some health care providers have moved to online assessment, making medication and therapy less accessible to vulnerable populations. And as more people fall ill to the virus, health care services people have come to rely on may be deemed non-essential, as health care providers may be forced to change their regular practices to help deal with the virus.

The Elderly

Older people living alone or in an institution, are not only particularly vulnerable to illness, but are isolated now more than ever. Visits from family or friends are no longer allowed, and many do not have access to a phone or computer, or do not understand how to use technology to communicate.

People in Correctional Institutions

People in correctional institutions may now be living under worsening conditions, and with limited rehabilitation supports, positive reintegration into the community may be difficult.

Social distancing and self-isolation may strain family and community supports, and limited access to phones may create further barriers to maintaining healthy connections with family and community.

With anything that disrupts the correctional system, the Indigenous and Black inmates, given their over- representation, will be disproportionately affected. This will also be the case for the high proportion of people in correctional institutions with mental health issues.


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WISH Drop-In Centre

We’re proud & excited to announce that we'll soon be operating Canada’s first-ever 24/7 shelter for street-based sex workers! The temporary emergency shelter will provide beds for 23 self-identifying sex working women (cis, trans) & two-spirit folks. Space is coming along nicely!

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What an excellent initiative.


Thanks, it's uplifting to see something that helps people at a time when so much seems to be be going wrong. 


There is a new Covid-19 break out at a meat processing plant in Surrey BC as well as in two long term care homes in Surrey and Langley. Once again the underclass gets hit the hardest by the virus. 

Outbreaks have been declared at a Surrey meat processing plant, and care homes in Surrey and Langley.

In a statement issued Sunday, Fraser Health said 13 employees at J&L Beef Ltd. in Surrey had tested positive for the virus. The health authority said they were first notified Oct. 8 of a possible outbreak after an employee received a positive COVID-19 test.

A team is now working with the plant to test employees and conduct contact tracing. A number of employees and close contacts have been ordered to self-isolate.

Additional outbreaks have also been declared at The Village assisted living facility in Langley and Rosemary Heights Seniors Village in Surrey.

Fraser Health teams are working with both facilities to identify any possible exposures and contact trace.

The outbreaks follow a number of school exposure alerts that were issued in Surrey and Langley a day earlier.



jerrym wrote:
There is a new Covid-19 break out at a meat processing plant in Surrey BC as well as in two long term care homes in Surrey and Langley. Once again the underclass gets hit the hardest by the virus. 

Outbreaks have been declared at a Surrey meat processing plant, and care homes in Surrey and Langley.

In a statement issued Sunday, Fraser Health said 13 employees at J&L Beef Ltd. in Surrey had tested positive for the virus. The health authority said they were first notified Oct. 8 of a possible outbreak after an employee received a positive COVID-19 test.

A team is now working with the plant to test employees and conduct contact tracing. A number of employees and close contacts have been ordered to self-isolate.

Additional outbreaks have also been declared at The Village assisted living facility in Langley and Rosemary Heights Seniors Village in Surrey.

Fraser Health teams are working with both facilities to identify any possible exposures and contact trace.

The outbreaks follow a number of school exposure alerts that were issued in Surrey and Langley a day earlier.


The thing I've noticed about these outbreaks is that they are mentioned in the news, it's taken as "another outbreak," and nothing else is said and then the media seems to move on. No mention of working conditions, no hard questions about why these places continue to have outbreaks even though we have know for months that this is the case, and no calls to hold the people in charge responsible. Meanwhile, a church in Prince Albert was fined after an outbreak linked to that community. Suddenly the media is very interested in that particular case and trying to track down every single case connected to that outbreak. "It's these people's fault that the outbreak happened" is the undertone of the mesaging, and I'm deeply disturbed by the mob mentality calling for these people to be punished.

The Manitoba government actually tracks outbreaks in a very easily accessible format. Take a look at each region for yourself. Despite the constant hand-wringing about covid being everywhere and we are all in danger, here is what you will notice if you check for today:

Several care homes in almost every region of the province have been under lockdown at one point. Currently that is the case for every elder care home in Winnipeg

Headingly jail is under lockdown

The YWCA in Thompson is under lockdown

Little Grand Rapids First Nation is under lockdown

There has been one school placed not on lockdown, but on heightened alert. That happened on September 17.  If case numbers in Winnipeg continue to fall as they have in the last few days, I expect that advisory to be lifted soon.

This wholesale trend of demonizing essentially any human behaviour that doesn't involve staying inside at all times is not necessary. Let's go after covid where it is actually happening and causing damage.

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

The Prince Albert church gathering has resulted in a $14,000 fine because it resulted in dozens of cases, many of people that went back to their First Nations communities (namely Peter Ballantyne and Red Earth).



Dozens of cases connected to this particular outbreak while the outbreak in Brooks alone was responsible for many hundreds. Nobody put a gun to anybody's head and forced them to attend this church gathering, they went of their own free will. It's unfortunate they got sick and I wish them all the best, but this wholesale business of trying to micromange people's movements is overblown. Or take this incident from Winnipeg:


In an effort to bring people further into the restaurant and create more space on the patio, Ritchie hired a DJ. He said the inspector told him four people were dancing, hence the fine.

"We have a bathroom at the back of that room people were dancing," said Ritchie. "If someone is waiting in line and moving to the beat, are we supposed to walk up and tell them to cut that out? Where does it end, and where does it start?"

This is not about safety at all. I've seen enough to know that the government doesn't give a shit about the safety of people at work. It's about the government capitalizing on a media-induced environment of panic, fear, and hysteria and using that as a means of raising money through legalized extortion while virtue-signaling about middle-class based illusions of "safety" that has nothing to do with protecting people's health.


Indigenous public health needs to be decolonized. 


  • Social equity, including adequate housing, water, food and income, is necessary to enable people and communities to employ public health measures during the current pandemic.

  • Public health approaches must be implemented with awareness of how colonization has affected health care experiences and public health practices for Indigenous Peoples.

  • Despite elevated rates of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) among other Indigenous communities globally, and despite our colonial history within health care and ongoing social inequities, the rate of COVID-19 for Indigenous communities in Canada is lower than that for the general population.

  • Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have been successful in protecting Indigenous communities in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, and these principles should be at the forefront when planning public health approaches with Indigenous Peoples.

Although public health measures such as social distancing and the adoption of hygiene practices have necessarily been the mainstay of Canada’s approach to containing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), these measures require people to have housing, water, food and income security, which are often inadequate in Indigenous communities. Such deficiencies in basic determinants of health have led to global calls for health-equity approaches to COVID-19 that urgently address the social determinants of health in Indigenous communities. However, a robust Indigenous public health response in Canada must also reconcile with the country’s colonial history and uphold the self-determination of Indigenous Peoples. ...

The adverse health experiences of Indigenous Peoples in Canada are not only linked to social determinants, but also to systemic racism in society and the health system, which results in barriers to accessing care and care that does not meet expected quality standards.3 Such determinants resulted in high rates of infections among Indigenous Peoples in Canada during previous epidemics. They underpin the observed disproportionate rates of COVID-19 seen among people of the Navajo Nation in the United States4and Brazilian Indigenous Peoples.5 However, they are inseparable from an important proximal determinant: colonization.

In Canada, historical colonial practices included the creation of the reserve system, the outlawing of Indigenous cultural practices, the removal of children from their families to attend residential schools, the Sixties Scoop and many other legislated policies with goals to assimilate or eradicate Indigenous Peoples.6 Medicine and public health have been an accompanying tool of colonization, particularly in Indigenous communities, as exemplified in North American and Australian scholarship.710 Medical interventions and public health practices emerged to deal with the infections that settlers brought with them. Quarantine established the “clean” perimeters of community, what was normative and what must be excluded. Many of these practices stifled local Indigenous healing practices. Indigenous strengths and medical knowledge were ignored, and Indigenous people were often depicted as primitive, childish and dirty — the antithesis of healthy. Such racist attitudes and paternalism rationalized public health approaches that diminished Indigenous rights and sovereignty. ...

Although public health historically became a tool of colonization, several key concepts in contemporary public health practice resonate with approaches to health and well-being that exist in diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. Anishinaabe health concepts, for example, include a focus on community and on the relationship between a community and the land, a recognition of dimensions of health beyond the physical and the mental, and an understanding of health as a state of well-being rather than the absence of disease. This corresponds somewhat with contemporary Western understandings of public and global health, offering promise of potential alignment between Indigenous public health practice and key principles of Western public health such as contact tracing or preventive testing strategies.

A successful adaptation or integration of Western approaches for Indigenous public health must be anchored in the principles of self-determination for Indigenous Peoples as articulated in the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People to determine their own paths to healing and to health for their communities.



The just released From risk to resilience: An equity approach report by the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on the State of Public Health in Canada 2020 discusses many of the problems outlined in the above posts and proposes some solutions. I have posted a few of what I consider the most relevant comments of this long, detailed but highly relevant report with a url connection to the full report below. 

Intersectionality and COVID-19

There are overlapping and compounding risks related to sex, gender, racialization, income, housing, employment, and other socioeconomic factors. For example, racialization intersects with employment: in Canada, approximately 41% of meat processing workers are members of racialized groups, compared to 21% of the workforce in general. Elevated risk can also be shaped by the intersection of gender and racialization. For example, the vast majority of staff in nursing and residential care facilities, as well as home care, are women, including the majority of nurses' aides, orderlies and client service associates. From 1996 to 2016, the share of immigrants in these occupations grew more quickly than in all other occupations, from 22% to 36%. Of all Canadian workers in these positions in 2016, 31% were immigrant women and the proportions were higher in larger metropolitan areas such as Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary where over 70% of these positions were filled by immigrants, the majority of these immigrant women. Further, 12% of all workers in these occupations were Black and 11% were Filipino despite Black and Filipino workers only making up 3% of workers in all other occupations.

The impact of stigma, discrimination, violence

In a crowdsourced study on perceptions of safety during the pandemic, Statistics Canada reported that 30% of participants of Chinese descent felt that race-based incidents had increased since the start of the pandemic, compared to 18% among visible minority participants and 6% of non-visible minorities. ...Among those who were concerned about being the target of unwanted behaviours, immigrants were far more likely (42%) to report that they were concerned about stigma based on their racial identity, when compared to the Canadian born population (9%).

Workers in lower-wage jobs

Of the jobs lost in March and April, employees in lower-wage jobs (meaning lower than two-thirds of the 2019 annual median wage of $24.04/hour) suffered the greatest losses (38%) compared to those in other jobs (13%) . At that time, low-wage workers were more likely to be working less than half of their usual hours for COVID-19-related reasons, compared with all other paid employees.

With gradual reopening across Canada through the summer, low-wage jobs have increased. However, in August, the employment rate for low-wage workers remained far lower than pre-pandemic levels (87.4%), compared with all other employees (99.1%, not seasonally adjusted).  ...


Emerging evidence suggests that these types of job losses will disproportionately affect women with small children and families since women are largely represented in the service and retail sectors and in the absence of childcare, they will be unable to return to the workforce. One Canadian study reported that women’s participation in the labour force dropped to its lowest level in 3 decades and 1.5 million women lost their jobs in the first 2 months of the pandemic. ...

Workers who are racialized, immigrant and/or Indigenous

 While the unemployment rate in August, 2020 was 11.1% (not seasonally adjusted), unemployment was much higher among some groups, including populations who identified as Arab (17.9%), Black (17.6%), Southeast Asian (16.6%), and South Asian (14.9%). Southeast Asian (32.0%), Black (24.9%) or Arab (21.4%) employees were more likely to be in low-wage jobs, compared to those who identify as Chinese (17.4%) or those who did not identify as a visible minority or Indigenous (15.9%)....

Youth and post-secondary students

Job loss and decreased job opportunities as a result of the pandemic had an effect on post-secondary students who often rely on summer employment or work during the year as a major source of income. The employment rate for students between 20 and 24 years of age fell from 52.5% in February to 28.9% in April 2020. ...

Housing for all

By demonstrating the role of housing in health and well-being, the pandemic underlined the importance of initiatives that take a broader lens on housing in the context of other health and social needs. ...

Safe and supportive long-term care

The experiences in Canada’s long-term care (LTC) homes have revealed the importance of ongoing changes in this sector. Research into experiences at long-term care homes have identified recommendations to improve safety for residents and employees. These include minimum staffing levels, minimum education standards and continuing education for staff, full-time quality jobs (with workplace protections and benefits such as sick leave) that support workers as well as offer better continuity of care for residents, and improving infection control and prevention training, standards and strategies. Longer-term recommendations to improve LTC for residents and staff have also been identified and include: reviewing and enforcing LTC regulations, integrating healthcare into LTC homes, and supporting leadership and inter-professional teams, and attending to the built environment of LTC homes. ...

Indigenous populations and COVID-19: Examples of leadership, resilience and success

First Nations, Inuit and Métis face social and economic challenges that intersect to increase their risk of contracting COVID-19 and experiencing serious illness. The lasting impacts of intergenerational trauma continue to influence the health of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Social and economic inequities persist, increasing risk related to COVID-19. This includes challenges such as lack of access to medical care, geographic isolation, inadequate and overcrowded housing, as well as low-income and food insecurity. Some communities are unable to comply with public health measures due to overcrowding and lack of a safe water supply, and a number of communities concurrently faced the risk of fire or flood evacuations as well as the pandemic. ...




In August, the Fraser Valley Institution for Women federal prison in Abbotsford, B.C., closed the Annex, its minimum security unit. This closure forced the transfer of all prisoners into higher security units, showing just how much the carceral system fails to create choices for women experiencing criminalization. ...

Thirty years ago, Correctional Service Canada (CSC) published Creating Choices: The Report of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women. The report recommended closing P4W in Kingston, Ont. — at that time the only federal prison for women in Canada — and the creation of regional prisons to bring federally sentenced women closer to home communities. The Task Force presented a “new vision” of empowerment, respect and dignity, and recognized the role that societal barriers play in women’s experiences of criminalization. ...

CSC’s Creating Choicespromised “cottages” with plenty of outdoor time and space, training, support for mothers, education, health care and trauma counselling.  After P4W closed 20 years ago, six new prisons for women opened. Despite the promises, prisoners such as T.A. Glaremin write that the reforms were pointless, and former prisoner and prison abolition activist Ann Hansen explains that the changes disappeared “like bunnies in the magician’s hat — an illusion.” ...

In these new prisons, women are incarcerated at an increasing rate; Indigenous and Black women are imprisoned in shocking numbers. Canada locks up nearly 40 per cent more women now than a decade ago, in lockstep with cuts to social services nationwide and over-policing of racialized communities. Between 2002 and 2012, the number of Indigenous women in federal custody doubled. ...

The Fraser Valley Institution (FVI) was designed to house 50 people across three levels of security. The Annex has 20 beds, outside the perimeter fence. Participants in the Mother-Child program live there with their children. ...

Incarcerated women such as Stephanie Deschene have shared experiences of “pleading out” to be placed there, “in hopes of not being separated from my child once he was born.” ...

The ‘new normal’
Before COVID-19, people in prison expressed how difficult it was to maintain connections with their children, families and communities, and to access health care, education and meaningful training. All of this negatively affects transition back to community. ...

In response to COVID-19, CSC modified or suspended many aspects of its operations- including visits and volunteer support. Legal scholar Debra Parkes and Senator Kim Patenoted issues with accountability and oversight years before the pandemic. The new restrictions allow for less accountability and more isolation than we have seen in decades.  Volunteer groups already experienced access barriers. They have yet to regain entry since March 2020. ...

People inside say they still don’t have masks or gloves, are given little access to water or soap and are experiencing crippling isolation. At least 3,000 prisoners have been placed in isolation within their cells since March. In June, the Correctional Investigator of Canada issued a report criticizing the practice of isolating prisoners during the pandemic. Prisoners have gone on hunger strikes at multiple prisons in response to harsh conditions. ...

With a new outbreak in Manitoba jails threatening the safety of those inside, the need for alternatives is apparent.

Despite ever-declining rates in crime, and ever-increasing needs for social services in communities hit by COVID-19 and economic collapse, incarceration is an enormous and rising public expense. We must pause and ask if this is the right choice to “create choices” for the most marginalized people in our society.



There has been a recent spike in Covid-19 cases among First Nations.

The Siksika First Nation in Alberta has closed shools and a homeless shelter following a Covid outbreak. 

Active cases of COVID-19 jumped to 500 from 362 in the last week, according to data from Indigenous Services Canada.

In the last week, 356 new cases have been reported on-reserve with the majority occurring in the Prairies. Cases in Manitoba doubled, while Quebec also saw a spike in cases.

Akwesasne, south of Cornwall, Ont., announced that it is dealing with an outbreak after five cases were reported in the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne's northern jurisdiction and four cases in the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe's southern jurisdiction. ...

As of Nov. 2, there have been a total of 1,610 cases on-reserve in Canada since the pandemic started. Ten additional hospitalizations were reported since last week bringing the total to 83. The death toll remains at 15. The number of First Nations people who have recovered from the disease has reached 1,095. 

In an Oct. 30 update, ISC said the increasing number of cases has been linked to community transmission and to large private and public gatherings in settings where physical distancing and wearing of masks were not observed.

There have been a total of 28 confirmed positive cases in the Nunavik region of Quebec.  All have recovered as of Oct. 30.



Siksika First Nation is closing all of its schools and its homeless shelter, after COVID-19 cases within the community jumped from zero to more than a dozen in just a few days. 

The First Nation reported five new cases on Sunday and six new cases on Monday, bringing the total cases managed by Siksika Health to 13. Of those, 11 cases are on reserve. 

Last week, there were no active cases. 

More than 7,200 tests have been completed since the beginning of the pandemic on the reserve, which has seen a total of 48 cases.



The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is expressing deep concern about the violation of civil rights and the inequalities associated with Canada's prison system. 

COVID-19 is shedding light on fundamental inequalities in Canadian society. Those with safe spaces to shelter can hunker down at home to self-isolate and physically distance themselves. Others – including the thousands of individuals confined in Canada’s prisons and jails – have no choice but to continue to live, eat and sleep within an arm’s reach of dozens of other people. People who are charged for crimes, those who cannot meet their bail release requirements, individuals who are waiting for their trial or a parole hearing to determine whether they can be supervised in the community – are all are at a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19. 

The incarcerated population is particularly vulnerable during this pandemic due to the large number of people with underlying health conditions. Already two federal prisons are in the midst of large outbreaks. Over 300 prisoners have tested positive. Two individuals have died. Without immediate action to increase infection control and decrease the incarcerated population, more outbreaks are inevitable. This endangers not only the lives of those behind bars, but also the health and lives of those who work there, their families, and the broader community. 

Sean Johnston is currently in custody at Warkworth Penitentiary. He has heart problems, asthma, sleep apnea, and experiences blood clots. He uses a nebulizer for his asthma, and a CPAP machine for sleep apnea. Sean has been told by health care staff at Warkworth that he should not use these devices because they may cause droplets to linger in the air for longer periods or be dispersed over greater distances and therefore, may increase the spread of COVID-19. 

Sean does not want to put other prisoners at risk of infection but needs these devices to effectively manage his conditions. Sean has applied for parole, has been assessed as posing a low risk if released, and has a release plan including a private residence. His parole hearing is currently scheduled for the end of May. While he awaits his hearing, he remains gravely concerned about the possibility of contracting COVID-19, particularly given his underlying health conditions. 

Prisons are densely populated making social distancing protocol impossible and living conditions hazardous. Proactive steps are immediately needed to reduce the population of prisoners in institutions to the greatest extent possible consistent with public safety, especially for those who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to age or underlying health conditions – people like Sean. 

Comprehensive COVID-19 testing, adequate personal protective equipment, effective personal hygiene supplies and access to healthcare for prisoners and staff are necessary in order to control the rapid spread within these communities.



Around the world the vast majority of nations have paid little attention to the safety and lives of their prisoners during Covid-19 leading to "infection of at least 102,537 people deprived of their liberty in 88 countries, and at least 1,569 prisoners dying in 36 countries", according to a report from International Penal Reform.  Canada has done a worse job in this area than most other developed countries. 

Canada is one of the countries that has not only failed to take robust action and ensure the protection of those in custody, but also implemented measures that further harmed prisoners. If the federal and provincial governments are committed to closing equity gaps and to advancing public health objectives, it must learn from its failures and do better as we head towards new waves of the pandemic.

Second, the implementation of preventative measures has proven difficult in jurisdictions that did not engage in sufficient depopulation. Social distancing has generally not been possible. In federal prisons, communal eating, food serving and group activities have not been suspended in all institutions. Incarcerated people were not given masks and not all officers have worn personal protective equipment when engaging with prisoners.

The Office of the Correctional Investigator reported that while CSC has worked towards hiring more healthcare personnel, there was still such a shortage that, for example, one institution dealing with an outbreak had only two nurses available (one more than pre-pandemic) and one part-time physician for nearly 200 people. While there is limited information emerging from provincial institutions, reports indicate that at least some provincial prison systems failed to follow public health guidelines in their institutions.

Third, isolation was a common response to the pandemic, despite international organizations’ warning that segregation and lockdowns are not sufficient to prevent spread and may have devastating mental health consequences on prisoners. Provinces like Quebec and Ontario have engaged in holding people in their cells for 24 hours daily.

The government has already failed many times in addressing the issue of segregation outside of the international spotlight when a pandemic was not looming.

In the federal institutions where there were active outbreaks, even individuals who were not presumed infected were held for up to 24 hours in their cells. When permitted to go outside their cell for 20 minutes each day, they had to choose whether they would call their family, their lawyer or take a shower. In institutions with no presumptive COVID-19 cases, individuals were allowed outside between two to four hours daily. Thus, at times, this regime has been in breach of international norms and human rights, according to which prolonged isolation (more than 14 days of being locked up for 22 hours or longer in a cell) and indefinite isolation (without a clear end) constitute torture. This should come as no surprise. The government has already failed many times in addressing the issue of segregation outside of the international spotlight when a pandemic was not looming. Most recently, the 2019 changes the federal government has made to its solitary confinement regime is seen by many as “window dressing.”

These failures led to serious consequences. In Canada, there were outbreaks in five federal prisons. In May 2020, the rate of infection in federal prisons was over 13 times higher than in the community. Two deaths were reported. Federally incarcerated women have been the most affected by the infection. The rate of infection in women’s penitentiaries was 77 times higher than among women in the community. Provincially, there have been outbreaks in Ontario and Quebec prisons, with a significant number of people being infected and one death reported.

rom a public health perspective, this failure has devastating downstream consequences. First, allowing hot spots of infection to grow impedes the successful flattening of the curve and prolongs the life of the pandemic in the community. Second, incarcerated people are more likely to have severe complications from COVID-19 due to a higher than average prevalence of pre-existing conditions, which in turn will be taxing on the healthcare systems. Third, the measures taken, in particular lockdowns and lack of communication with families, negatively affects the mental health of incarcerated individuals, increasing the chances of substance overdose and the frequency of self-harm incidents. This could bring about increased unrest in prisons, stretch healthcare resources, and will generally have harmful effects on prisoner health. Finally, COVID-19 may have severe and long-lasting consequences on health, especially for those at higher risk. Therefore, there are heightened concerns regarding the higher rates of infection in people who will ultimately return to marginalized communities in a more fragile state of health than when they entered prison.

The measures taken, in particular lockdowns and lack of communication with families, negatively affects the mental health of incarcerated individuals, increasing the chances of substance overdose and the frequency of self-harm incidents.

For those conducting prison work, the impact of COVID-19 on prison populations and the refusal of some governments to take meaningful measures to protect them come as no surprise. These are the by-products of the pre-COVID-19 shortcomings of the correctional systems and of the broader criminal and social justice practices that have perpetuated equity gaps in the society, including overreliance on incarceration, inadequate healthcare, and the general disregard for prisoner well being and prisoner rights.

Social and health inequities have long been feeding the prison systems. In turn, prisons are now cracking under the pressure of the pandemic, and the spill-outs impact all of society. The current crisis has shown how connected prison and social justice issues are to public health. Returning to normal should not be an option; instead, sweeping reforms that ensure Canada’s (and other countries’) ability to equitably protect everyone in the case of a public health crisis are needed.

Some of the much-needed long-term reforms that are intrinsically connected to imprisonment and well-being of criminalized people include universal basic income, better healthcare, better child support and other community supports for marginalized people, as well as sentencing reforms (such as the abolition of mandatory minimum sentences) that will effectively reduce the overreliance on incarceration and increase diversion and community sentences.



The combination of Covid-19 and the Canadian winter are greatly increasing the risks of Canada's homeless.  November 22nd was National Housing Day - an ironic term. 

Across the country, people are being told to stay home and stay apart as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19. But when you don’t have a place to live, following those guidelines and staying safe from the virus is a huge challenge.

With homeless shelters reducing capacity to allow for physical distancing and few options for housing, more people are camping out on the streets, in city parks, or, as in one B.C. woman’s case, a beat-up van. Tucked behind a shopping mall sits a 1988 Dodge Ram -- 50-year-old Kathy Denton’s current home.

Early in the pandemic, she became homeless for the first time, forced from her apartment after her relationship fell apart. “My stress level was through the roof,” Denton told CTV News. “I cannot explain how bad it was at that time for me.” She’s also unemployed and thus can't afford a place of her own. “How can you afford to rent a place if are not bringing in at least $2,000 a month?” she pointed out. ...

Nov. 22 is National Housing Day, which began in 1998 when the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee declared that homelessness was a national disaster in Canada. In 2020, housing is more important than ever amid a pandemic that makes gathering indoors in large numbers with strangers a potentially dangerous situation.

As COVID-19 cases continue to spike in B.C., space in short-term housing and shelters is increasingly difficult to find. Jeremy Hunka helps run one of Vancouver’s oldest shelters, the Union Gospel Mission, and tells CTV News that “we don’t have enough places for people to go.”

There’s more demand for beds now than during the pandemic’s first wave, he explained. In B.C., a ban on evictions that was put in place early in the pandemic was lifted on Sept. 1, potentially contributing to the number of those experiencing homelessness in the province.  ...

According to the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, up to 235,000 Canadians spend time in homeless shelters each year.

Across the country, infections are up among the homeless. On Nov. 6, public health officials in Manitoba announced there was an outbreak at Oscar’s Place, a homeless shelter in The Pas, Man.

At a shelter in Calgary, there have been three separate outbreaks. “There are 60 clients who have tested positive, and four staff,” Sandra Clarkson, executive director of the Calgary Drop-In Centre, told CTV News. Their most recent outbreak started earlier this month, only weeks after they had lifted their outbreak status to allow more to access the shelter. So far, 25 of the residents who tested positive have since recovered.

In Ontario, the battle for support for the homeless is only heating up. Activists staged a demonstration outside of the condo Toronto Mayor John Tory lives in on Sunday, constructing green “foam domes” as snow fell around them to highlight the need for more housing help.

Breaking: Incensed Torontonians set up outside Mayor John Tory’s luxury condominium to build makeshift shelters for community members he refuses to house. pic.twitter.com/490ocZzLK8

— Shady Arms Dealer (@AlykhanPabani) November 22, 2020

Some shelters are trying to keep their residents safe by putting up glass dividers between beds, something that’s been done in Toronto’s Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place. The facility, part of the city’s winter plan for expanding shelter services, has been criticized by activists for the lack of privacy and the prison-like design.

In addition to the virus, worsening weather is a major concern for this housing crisis. Snow and dropping temperatures can turn living on the streets into a death sentence, even in a year without a deadly pandemic.

This leaves many of those experiencing homelessness with an impossible choice: try and find a space in a crowded shelter and risk contracting COVID-19, or stay in an outdoor encampment and risk the freezing weather. Many cities also have bylaws against encampments, and will issue eviction notices to tent residents as well.

Denton knows winter will be a challenge. “I would rather not be living in my van, please,” she said. Another hurdle is the hefty parking tickets she gets, just from having to park her van somewhere every night, one more example of the obstacles put in the way of those experiencing homelessness. 



Canadian prisoners warn that the Covid-19 crisis is getting worse in both federal and provincial facilities. 

 Inmates across Canada are speaking out as COVID-19 infections spread within federal and provincial correctional facilities, with prisoner advocates saying the situation is only getting worse.

Corey Watson, an inmate at the Joyce Institution in Kingston, Ont., who tested positive for the novel coronavirus last month, told CTVNews.ca in a video interview that he and others are “basically just waiting for everyone to get it ... You feel powerless.”

As of Jan. 3, there were 268 active cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Canada’s federal prisons, according to Correctional Service Canada. Of those active cases, 110 were in Saskatchewan Penitentiary near Prince Albert, 62 cases in Stony Mountain Institution near Winnipeg and 66 in Joyceville -- which declared an outbreak on Dec. 17. ...

Watson and his fellow inmates at Joyceville said the virus has spread through the prison like a wildfire, and place the blame on Correctional Service Canada, which is responsible for federal institutions, prison administrators and correctional officers. He wants them to do better because he feels inmates’ lives are “in their hands.”

Another Joyceville inmate, John Whalen, told CTVNews.ca in a separate video interview that he feels relentless dread, only leaving his cell to shower.

“It’s pretty terrifying at the end of the day if I’m going to make it out... and I know if I do catch COVID, they’re not going to do anything to help me,” he said, adding that inmates like him, who have notices for early medical release, aren’t being fast-tracked out.

Tara Baker, Whalen’s wife and the mother of his 17-month-old baby, said the constant uncertainty surrounding his safety is “not something I’d wish upon anyone.”

Inmates in Joyceville, like Whalen and Watson, allege that they have no regular access to masks, hand sanitizer or gloves; infected people live in the same cell ranges as healthy inmates; and that guards inconsistently wear masks. They also allege scheduled releases and parole hearings for some have been pushed back indefinitely. According to inmates, correctional officers even punish those who make their own face coverings from bed sheets and tear down inmates’ makeshift physical distancing barriers.

Last month, inmates in Joyceville released a public letter through the Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project, alleging these and other widespread issues. “We’re consistently being told we’re safer in prison, yet now it’s clear that this isn’t actually the case and there appears to be no plan,” the letter said. “We’re in a prison with COVID. It can’t get much worse for us.”

Rajean Hoilett, an organizer of the Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project who regularly speaks with inmates and their families, relayed what he was told by an inmate who recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Hoilett alleges a nurse told this inmate: “You made bad choices and that’s why you ended up in jail -- that’s why you have COVID.” Hoilett said it likely wasn’t a one-off incident, saying, “this is the kind of medical treatment that folks are being subjected to. It is hard to be able to hear these stories.”

CTVNews.ca sent a list of inmates’ allegations to Correctional Service Canada (CSC), which is responsible for Joyceville, asking whether inmates’ concerns would be investigated. CSC Senior Communications Advisor Isabelle Robitaille responded to the question by saying the “CSC has not received an official complaint regarding COVID-19 prevention and management measures or improper actions of an employee at Joyceville Institution.” ...

Hoilett and other prisoners’ rights advocates say complaints from Joyceville inmates were similar to ones in the provincially-run Toronto South Detention Centre, the site of a COVID-19 outbreak that was also reported last month. There are 16 reported positive COVID-19 cases there, down from an initial 54 cases, according to figures from the Ministry of the Solicitor General of Ontario.

Inmates and advocacy groups such as The Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project and Think 2wice, a project focused on crime prevention and rehabilitation, allege guards and administrators in Toronto South aren’t following Ontario’s purported guidelines.

“On every different [cell] range, inmates have the same complaints. The disregard for life, the inhuman treatment, to me, is outrageous,” Zya Brown, Think 2wice’s founder and director, told CTVNews.ca in a video interview. “We have the power. We’re the taxpayers. We need to hold them accountable.”

Her group, which speaks directly with inmates in Toronto South and their families, alleges that:

  •  inmates aren’t being separated from those infected with the virus and aren’t being given masks or COVID-19 tests en masse;
  •  excessive reliance on lockdowns, a procedure similar to solitary confinement in which inmates can’t leave their cells for most of the day,
  •  a lack of access to regular showers, with some inmates only bathing once every two weeks; and,
  •  officers not consistently wearing masks, nor swapping out their personal protective equipment in between individual cell checks.

Brown said the COVID-19 outbreak there and excessive lockdowns prompted approximately 30 men to go on hunger strike last month until conditions change. This is at least the eighth strike during the pandemic that the Toronto South inmates have held. She said their situation is “personal for me,” as she currently has a loved one in Toronto South. ...

But none of this had to happen, advocates say. Throughout the pandemic, Correctional Service Canada has faced strong criticism for being caught flat-footed when it comes to enforcing COVID-19 precautions consistently.

Since the pandemic started, “things have gotten worse” and are on track to continue, Justin Piché, a criminology professor at the University of Ottawa, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.

“During the start of the pandemic, so mid-March to mid-July, there were 600 prisoners that had tested positive for COVID-19 across Canada and 229 staff members. In the past two months, we have seen well over a 1,000 reported cases,” said Piché, an organizer for Criminalization and Punishment Education Project who's been tracking the biggest outbreaks of federal and provincial institutions throughout the pandemic.

Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project organizer Hoilett called the outbreaks in federal and provincial institutions “inevitable.” He said “a lot of us were really hoping that we’d be proven wrong.”

Hoilett said Toronto South and other remand institutions -- which house people awaiting trial, but can’t secure bail – missed a huge opportunity by not easing up enough on bail requirements.

Six out of 10 inmates in all provincial and territorial correctional institutions are in this category, according to recent Statistics Canada data, with 35 per cent of that group’s criminal charges never resulting in a guilty verdict, the BC Civil Liberties Association found.




The RCMP has been forced to investigate the death of a worker at a Cargill meat packing plant from Covid-19  because of the complaint of a 16 year old daughter. I will be surprised if this does not turn out to be another whitewash in the grand tradition of the RCMP, but I still have a microgram of hope. Unsurprisingly the death was that of a non-white immigrant. The article notes this is the first case of an RCMP investigation into a Covid-19 death. Well over 900 workers in the planted became infected with Covid-19.

At the url below you can see another photo of working conditions in the Cargill plant but I could not copy it to this thread so I used a Globe and Mail photo 


A file photo from around 2013 shows the inside of Cargill's High River, Alta. meat packing plant and the closed-quarter conditions that contributed to the outbreak epidemic of COVID-19 among its employees. Toronto Globe and Mail (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-how-cargill-became-the-...)


Ariana Quesada, 16, walked into the RCMP detachment in High River, Alta., on Friday and filed a formal complaint asking police to investigate potential criminal negligence in the death of her father.

Benito Quesada, a 51-year-old immigrant from Mexico supporting a wife and four children, was hospitalized with COVID-19 in mid-April, one of hundreds of workers at the town's Cargill meat plant infected with the coronavirus. He had been in a coma and on a ventilator when he died on May 7. His family had been barred from visiting — except to say goodbye. The Quesadas are demanding accountability from Cargill, alleging the company didn't do enough to protect Benito from the coronavirus.

"We have filed a complaint ... to finally bring justice to my dad ... to finally hold Cargill accountable for what they did," Ariana Quesada said, fighting back tears. I spent Christmas with one less person to hug," she said. "And all the executives and general managers, everyone at Cargill got to spend Christmas with their loved ones. And I did not get that."

The RCMP confirmed it has now opened an investigation. The probe is the first known instance in Canada of police investigating a workplace-related COVID-19 death.


"We have created a file, so to speak. An investigation has commenced," Staff Sgt. Greg Wiebe, the detachment commander, told CBC News late Friday, noting the matter is in its preliminary stages as the RCMP review the complaint and assign appropriate resources. It's not going to be your routine investigation, certainly. There's probably a lot of moving parts to it," Wiebe said.

At least 950 staff at the Cargill plant — nearly half its workforce — tested positive for COVID-19 by early May in what remains the largest workplace outbreak in Canada.  ...


As part of the national food supply chain, slaughterhouses and meat-processing facilities were deemed essential by governments, and Cargill stayed open as the pandemic worsened. It continued operating until April 20, when it was shut down for two weeks because of the surging outbreak among its staff.

Cargill spokesperson Daniel Sullivan declined to comment without seeing the complaint to police. But in an email on Saturday, he said that safety is a top priority for the company and that since the beginning of the pandemic



Back in May the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents more than 60,000 frontline healthcare workers in Ontario, called for a public inquiry and criminal investigations into long-term care deaths among residents and workers. It is sad to see that so little to see that so little has been done for these expendable, oops 'essential' workers, in healthcare, meat packing plants where the first criminal investigation was just started due to a complaint from a dead Cargill worker (see last post), as well as among all other marginal people, including those in prison.

SEIU Healthcare, the union that represents over 60,000 frontline healthcare workers in Ontario, is calling for public inquiries and criminal investigations into COVID-19 related deaths in long-term care to keep people alive and determine accountability.

First, we're calling on Premier Ford's government to immediately commission a public inquiry, pursuant to section 3 of the Public Inquiries Act, to investigate the deaths of residents and frontline workers at Ontario's long-term care homes. 

Second, we're calling on the Toronto and Peel Regional Police to initiate investigations for criminal negligence at a number of long-term care and homecare providers involving the death of staff.

Third, we're similarly calling on the Office of the Chief Coroner to use their authorities to inquire into these deaths.

On Friday, May 1st, our union lost a long-time personal support worker (PSW) who passed away after testing positive for COVID-19. She was the third avoidable death of a PSW in as many weeks. ...

A commission is urgently required because until we have a vaccine, or at a minimum, treatment available for the entire population, we must prepare now for consecutive spikes or waves of COVID-19.

Both frontline workers and the elderly in our long-term care system are saying the same thing: keep us alive.

That's why we're calling for urgent investigations that will keep people alive and hold negligent operators responsible for the death of our healthcare heroes.

SEIU Healthcare represents more than 60,000 healthcare and community service workers across Ontario. The union's members work in hospitals, homecare, nursing and retirement homes, and community services throughout the province. www.seiuhealthcare.ca




While there has been a slight levelling of total and active First Nations communities in the last week that may or may not level out over time, overall since October there has been an exponential growth among indigenous people since October as the following graph shows. 

Cumulative total number of reported and recovered cases in First Nations communities by case status and date



Covid is hitting the Canadian prison system hard with severe consequences for the prisoners and staff confined in such tight spaces. One example is Maplehurst jail in Milton, Ontario, which is run by the Ford government. The correctional officers local union president has asked that all new admissions and court appearances be halted because the situation is so bad. 

The Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, Ont. is under lockdown as it works to curb a fast-spreading outbreak of COVID-19 that's infected 89 inmates and staff.

As of Friday evening, there are 68 active cases of the novel coronavirus among inmates and another 21 cases among staff, according to Ontario's Ministry of the Solicitor General. 

That's an increase of 20 cases in just one day, up from 69 cases on Thursday. ...

Peter Figliola, president of the OPSEU Local 234, the union representing correctional officers at the Milton jail, told CBC News he'd like to see all new admissions and court appearances stopped completely until the outbreak is under control.  ...

"I am sure all staff within the facility have some fear and a great deal of concern. They are walking into an identified outbreak and doing so with the best intentions in keeping the community safe," Figliola said. ...

Meanwhile, Figliola says correctional officers continue their work "and do so knowing the identified danger that awaits them on the other side of the wall. We've always said from day one that once the virus entered any provincial facility, it would be extremely hard to combat and control."



Another large Covid outbreak has occurred in a Quebec prison. It is time to move all but the most dangerous of inmates out of jail. Capital punishment is not legal in Canada. Also, with many moved out there would be more space and less risk for those remaining. 

COVID-19 testing operation was underway at a jail north of Montreal on Sunday following an outbreak that has infected more than 60 people.

A spokeswoman for the regional health board for the Laurentians said that, as of Saturday, 45 inmates and 17 workers had tested positive at the St-Jérôme detention centre.



Douglas Fir Premier

Suppress The Virus Now Coaltion Statement

The Suppress The Virus Now Coalition is a network of community groups, labour groups, and individuals in Ontario. We have come together out of a shared concern about the Ontario provincial and Canadian federal governments’ approach to the COVID-19 crisis since the pandemic hit in March 2020. Now, as the second wave drags on, we demand that those governments stop prioritizing corporate profits over the health and well-being of our communities. We refuse to endorse any approach that accepts the needless death of elderly people and those living and working in long-term care; of disabled, chronically ill, and immunocompromised loved ones; of Indigenous Peoples in Ontario and across the country; of the Black, migrant, and racialized communities who have borne the brunt of COVID-19 infections in the GTA; of underhoused, precariously housed, and houseless neighbours; of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated community members; and of the health-care and other essential workers who are on the front lines.


Policing, threats, and rhetoric that blames individuals for systemic failures and conditions outside of their control are neither effective nor ethical tactics to deal with this pandemic. Instead, we must turn to principles of solidarity and community care, and toward robust, expansive, and inclusive social supports so that we can all make it through this crisis. Social and economic inequalities have been exacerbated by the pandemic, but rather than returning to a “normal” where a select few lives are privileged over others, we must build the conditions for all to live and thrive. This rebuilding must centre the needs of those most impacted by the pandemic and by the ongoing violence of the Canadian state.

We call for a just, equitable #COVIDzero approach that includes (but is not limited to): 

  • At least seven employer-paid sick days for all workers on a permanent basis, plus an additional 14 paid sick days during public health emergencies.
  • Adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for all workers, including respirator masks (e.g. N95s, FFP2s) for all workers in indoor workplaces until COVID community transmission ends, now that we know the virus can remain airborne indoors for hours.
  • The right of all workers to refuse work due to unsafe workplace conditions, and to be eligible for income supports like the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) after such work refusals.
  • Expanded eligibility for pandemic-related state assistance such as the CRB, including for temporary migrant workers, undocumented people, gig economy workers, sex workers, and others.
  • An immediate ban on evictions; rent cancellation and forgiveness of arrears; a moratorium on encampment policingand safe, accessible winter housingfor unhoused people who want it.
  • An immediate end to the criminalization, racial profiling, and raids that harm migrant and non-migrant sex workers, including anti-trafficking initiatives and repressive bylaws affecting workers in massage parlours.
  • Safe and accessible options for isolation when home isolation is not an option, and transparent communication about options that are already in existence.
  • Immediate investment to improve ventilation, reduce class sizes, and offer COVID testing to students and education workers; and robust assistance for students, educators, caregivers, and families when school closures are necessary, like now.
  • Redistributing 50% of all police budgets toward resourcing social and health supports in Black, Indigenous, and people of colour communities.
  • An immediate end to deportations, and regularization and full immigration status now for all migrants, refugees, international students, workers (including temporary or seasonal migrants), and undocumented people in the country.
  • Immediate federal support and funding for clean water access, appropriate health care, and COVID supports for all Indigenous people on and off reserve, and the recognition of Indigenous sovereignty across the country, including heeding demands to immediately classify oil, mineral, and gas extraction as non-essential work, and to hit pause on extraction, exploration, and environmental assessment processes.
  • Immediate decarceration of people from provincial, federal, and immigration detention facilities, and simultaneous access to sanitation and protective equipment, harm reduction supplies, free communication resources, and appropriate and consensual post-incarceration support for all incarcerated people.
  • Permanently increasing Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) rates to match CERB ($2,000/month).
  • Making temporary, uneven pandemic pay boosts permanent by raising the minimum wage for all.
  • Taking profit out of long-term care, replacing for-profit corporations with an entirely non-profit and public system. Enforcing national standards that ensure that long-term care workers – who are disproportionately racialized women – have a living wage, health and wellness benefits, and a safe and secure job, in order to provide high-quality care to residents.
  • Making public transit safe by halting fare inspection, investing in mask distribution, and putting more buses on high-traffic routes to allow for physical distancing.
  • Increasing research and supports dedicated to COVID “long-haulers,” people still suffering from the effects of the virus months after infection.
  • Greater involvement of community groups in public health decision-making, respecting communities’ knowledge about their own life circumstances, and more consistently inviting their representatives into decision-making processes led by researchers and civic officials.

As the pandemic puts our society’s racial and class divides on ruthless display, it is urgent that we all show up with our neighbours to demand a just, equitable pathway to #COVIDzero that leaves no one behind.

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

That is an all inclusive and well-thought statement, Douglas. I hope it gets attention and meaningful traction.


The Covid crisis continues in indigenous communities, including the refusal of some hospitals near reserves to offer care to some indigenous people. 

As Canada marks a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indigenous communities are battling twin crises – the coronavirus and systemic social and racial inequalities.

As of Jan. 21, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) was aware of 14,488 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases on First Nations reserves.

More than 5,300 are active cases, with 618 hospitalizations, 8,991 recoveries and 129 deaths.

Breaking down the case numbers by region, British Columbia has 1,427 cases, Alberta 4,692 cases, Saskatchewan 3,625 cases, Manitoba 3,805 cases, Ontario 445 cases, Quebec, 482 cases and the Atlantic province First Nation reserves have 8 cases.

In response to the climbing case numbers, Federal Safety Minister Bill Blair announced on Twitter that the Canadian Armed Forces will be deployed to support vaccine distribution in 32 communities in Nishnawbe Aski Nations in Ontario. ...

The rate of reported cases of COVID-19 in First Nations living on reserve is 40 per cent higher than the rate in the general Canadian population. The COVID-19 case fatality rate among First Nations living on reserve is approximately one-third of the case fatality rate of the general Canadian population.

The systemic health, racial and social inequalities Indigenous communities were facing before COVID-19 has only been magnified during the pandemic – Indigenous people face higher prevalence of arthritis, diabetes, obesity and asthma, all of which factor as comorbidities with COVID-19, placing them at high risk. There are 58 communities under a boil water advisory across the country, and many living on reserve do not have access to consistent health care, adequate housing or dependable social services. 

“The biggest challenge is, you hear over and over again the lack of housing, with big families in homes, if somebody tests positive, it’s very hard to isolate. Another challenge is if the parents test positive and the children are negative, how do we separate the families?” Cook said.

James Makokis, a two-spirit Saddle Lake Cree Nation doctor working in Edmonton, highlighted how the “lack of connectivity” was also a major factor in Indigenous communities. “Lack of cell reception and lack of communication has been a detriment to many Indigenous communities,” Makokis said. “As doctors are forced to do more virtual care for patients, those communities that have been more isolated and have no cell reception have had challenges in being able to receive care. ... It’s unfortunate that in the time of a crisis these things happen quite quickly,” Makokis said. “Because in our regular lives we’re continually having crises of overcrowding, decreased water, poor sanitation, food insecurity, the overabundance of chronic disease and now infectious disease.”

Amnesty International has reported that the Canadian government’s services for Indigenous communities “often fall far short of what is needed,” and the organization has “long been concerned about violations of the human rights of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples in Canada.”

Both doctors agree that another systemic issue now brought to the forefront is racism against Indigenous communities and peoples. “One of the biggest things COVID-19 is bringing out, is the racism within the healthcare system… Indigenous people have had to deal with racism since the healthcare system started,” Cook said. “But it’s really been brought out during COVID-19.” ...

“The stories that are coming from those doctors when it comes to COVID-19, and the racism that people are seeing… some nations that are close to small town hospitals are being refused care,” she said.

In B.C., of more than 2,700 Indigenous people surveyed as part of the “In Plain Sight” investigative report released in November 2020 by former judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, 84 per cent reported experiencing some form of health-care discrimination.



By comparison to the situation facing indigenous populations, prisoners, temporary foreign workers, meat packing plant employees, and 'essential' expendable workers, it is revealing to see the provincial election in Newfoundland delayed in half of the ridings because poll workers refused to show up for this Saturday's election day because of the sudden spike in Covid infections this week with infections going from zero on many days, to 9, to 30 the next day to 100 the following day, much lower numbers than were occurring in Saskatchewan and BC during their elections. However, this kind of exponential growth could quickly explode to staggering numbers because of hundreds of thousands of voters showing up on an election day. Some would see this as white privilege, and there is an element of that in relative comparison to marginal groups, but I see it more as a situation of workers having the power to say no to hazardous situations, something that everyone should have, but unfortunately does not.  

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

Seeing those provincial totals for First Nation Reserves is eye opeining. How is it that the 3 prairie provinces out pace other provinces by so much? Is it just proportionate to the total population size or are BC, Ontario and Quebec doing a better job at preventing spread to those communities?


First Nations in Ontario have criticized the Ford government for using the pandemic to not consult indigenous people that affect them through legislation and through funding. 

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare has accused the Ford government of using coronavirus pandemic restrictions as one more excuse for not consulting with First Nations.

“The government is still doing a lot of work behind the scenes without us during COVID. There are major bills being passed that affect our lives and our communities, and I just feel more so now than before COVID,” Hare said on Feb. 16 during a forum on lands, resources and economic development. “At least there was somewhat of a communication before then, but none now. Things happening too fast, so fast and we’re not part of it.”

Hare singled out Bill 156, Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, which was enacted in June 2020. The Act designates farmlands as “Animal Protection Zones” protecting farmlands, livestock and farm equipment from mischief related to activities that support the objectives of environmental and animal rights protest groups. It provides farm owners and operators with the ability to use “reasonable force” to conduct a citizen’s arrest on any trespassers. These Animal Protection Zones may overlap with First Nation territories where First Nation people have traditionally hunted for thousands of years. I will never resort, under Bill 156, if I should straddle onto somebody’s property and not knowing I am, and to be confronted by a farmer, and I have to prove who I am and show them all my identification. I will never go that low,” said Hare.

Another bill that has come under fire was the omnibus Bill 197, the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020, which came into effect in July 2020. First Nation leaders accused Ford of hiding the amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) in that omnibus bill. Amendments to the EAA left a wide range of decision-making to ministerial discretion. 

Also of concern is proposed changes to allocating registered traplines. “Proposed changes to the trapline succession and some of the changes, if they go through… some of our First Nations will never get a trapline. We’re outnumbered in the trapping industry right now. There’s something like 2,500 traplines in Ontario and less than 300 are occupied by First Nations. We have a lot of work to do on the trapping side of it,” said Regional Deputy Grand Council Chief‒Northern Superior Edward Wawia.

However, Regional Chief‒Lake Huron Scott McLeod went a step further calling out the Ontario government for “not having a political appetite to honour treaties” even before COVID-19 hit. “That’s very obvious when you look at the annuities case and their desire to get into an appeal of the decisions that were made on annuities based on the Robinson-Huron Treaty. So it really shows that the appetite to recognize Indigenous rights that were protected by treaties is not there,” he said.

Almost six years ago action was brought against both Canada and Ontario for their failure to increase the annual annuities paid to Robinson-Huron Treaty beneficiaries. The annuity has remained at the 1874 rate of $4. In 2018, the court ruled in favour of the beneficiaries for increased annuities. Ontario appealed the decision. The federal government did not.  A second court decision in June 2020 upheld the finding. Ontario appealed again. Now, in part due to COVID measures, appeals won’t be heard until April and June 2021. ...

But it’s not only the Ontario government’s approach to bills and advice that have chiefs concerned. Funding is also a concern. Marsden pointed out that on-reserve businesses did not qualify for COVID funding through the province. McLeod said First Nations were having difficulty retaining their qualified staff because off-reserve businesses and organizations offered better salaries and benefits.

Wawia said First Nations were losing out at industry management tables, because their representatives were not qualified. Capacity and training were needed, he said, to allow First Nations to be full participants at decision-making tables. “First Nation communities are not going anywhere and we’re not going to stay silent on this. We need to figure out ways of how we can be positive, productive partners in this … and not just recipients of any financial resources. ...

However, he wasn’t confident that the province would deliver in resource revenue and help to build capacity in First Nations.  “I don’t see them doing this willingly. It’s going to, in my opinion, it’s going to be the next phase of court challenges that we have with the Robinson-Huron Treaty, and also the other treaties we’ll be watching of course." ...



A fourth person has died due to Covid at an Alberta meat processing plant that has had more than 500 cases of Covid infections, once again illustrating how 'essential' workers means 'expendable' worker. Three deaths involve workers, but the government won't even reveal how the fourth person's death is linked to the outbreak.  One of the few things keeping the death toll from being higher is the fact that many of these workers are usually much younger than those in homes for seniors. The union local has demanded that 20 items be dealt with before the plant re-opens as was proposed by management for March 3rd-4th.

A third worker has died after a COVID-19 outbreak at a central Alberta pork-processing plant, raising the total number of deaths linked to the outbreak to four, the union representing the plant's employees has confirmed.

"Our investigation has revealed that a third worker from the Olymel Red Deer plant has died," said UFCW 401 President Thomas Hesse on Wednesday. The worker has not yet been publicly identified. ...

The Olymel outbreak, first declared on Nov. 17, 2020, has been linked to at least 500 cases, and led to the temporary closure of the plant on Feb. 15.

The first death, on Jan. 28, was of Darwin Doloque, a 35-year-old permanent resident who immigrated to Canada from the Philippines and was found dead in his home.

His death was followed on Feb. 24 by that of Henry De Leon, a 50-year-old who immigrated from the Dominican Republic and had worked at the plant for 15 years. He left behind a wife, two adult children and three grandchildren.

The third death linked to the outbreak was a woman in her 60s who has not been publicly identified. It has not been disclosed how she was linked to the outbreak.

The outbreak at the Olymel plant is now deadlier than the outbreak at the Cargill meat-processing plant near High River, Alta., the site of the largest COVID-19 outbreak in Canada.

The Cargill outbreak was linked to three fatalities and at least 1,500 cases. ...

Earlier this week, Hesse called for the Red Deer plant's potential March 3 reopening to be delayed, saying in an open letter that employees do not feel safe after a deadly outbreak of COVID-19. 

It listed more than 20 "action items" it said should be fulfilled before reopening is considered, in order to regain the confidence of employees and ensure their safety.

The letter came after plant manager Rob Ackerblade informed employees on Feb. 28 that if a March 1 inspection by Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Occupational Health and Safety was successful, gradual reopening dates for the Olymel plant could be March 3 for the slaughterhouse and March 4 for the cutting room.



As Covid cases in prisons more than doubled during Canada's second Covid wave, the prison ombudsman has called for finding alternatives to incarceration, a prisonr vaccination strategy, closing older prisons because they tend to increase risk due to their conditions, and rehabilitation outside of prison. Covid has also led to the shutting down of programs that help prisoners get probation, further extentenuating problems. With Covid variants growing rapidly in Canada, the risk to prisoners also grows. 

Canada's prison ombudsman is calling for alternatives to incarceration in a new report that shows the number of COVID-19 cases at federal facilities more than doubled in the pandemic's second wave.

Correctional investigator Ivan Zinger says new cases climbed to 880 at more than a dozen prisons between early November and Feb. 1, compared to 361 cases at six institutions in the first wave.

About 70 per cent of second-wave cases occurred at two Prairie facilities - the Saskatchewan Penitentiary and Manitoba's Stony Mountain Institution - leaving Indigenous inmates disproportionately affected, the report said. The prisons are the two largest in the country and contain some of the system's oldest infrastructure, with an evident connection between viral spread and large shared living areas, as well as poor ventilation.

Meanwhile, health restrictions behind bars have hampered correctional programs, which range from problem-solving to role-playing exercises. That in turn has delayed parole hearings and community release, since both can hinge on fulfilling program requirements, Zinger said. Three-metre distancing rules, for example, have reduced class sizes from as many as 15 inmates to between three and five, resulting in slower program delivery and growing backlogs.

Lack of access to computers exacerbates the challenge. “'If offenders had access to technology, it would be much easier for them to be provided with assignments and assistance when teachers are unable to attend the site, or when there are restrictions on distributing materials for class,”' the report said, quoting a correctional officer.

Zinger called on the Correctional Service of Canada to prioritize early release of older inmates and those with underlying medical conditions, and to move program delivery out of prisons and into the community. He also demanded the agency develop and make public a national vaccination strategy in the wake of more than 500 pandemic-related complaints from inmates.

More broadly, the ombudsman asked Public Safety Minister Bill Blair to consider closing aging, costly penitentiaries in favour of rehabilitation outside prison walls. ...

More than 3,800 cells sit empty across the country, equivalent to seven average-sized penitentiaries, Zinger noted.

The Correctional Service says it has vaccinated about 600 older and medically compromised offenders, and plans to begin inoculating the rest of its 12,500 inmates in the spring. ...

Advocates warned about the risks of a rising case count in November. The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies highlighted a lack of access to adequate health care, with executive director Emilie Coyle calling conditions at some institutions “atrocious.”

Four federal inmates have died from COVID-19 - two in the first wave and two in the second - according to the correctional investigator. ...

Nearly one-quarter of inmates in federal custody are serving life sentences and ineligible for parole, Blair said in the spring. But many federal prisoners have been ensnared in a catch-22 that has hindered their release, advocates say. “What ended up happening was they shut everything down and nobody had access to programs, and the conditions of parole or release are usually that they've completed their programs within the institution,” Coyle said last year.



Women are another group that have borne the brunt the Covid she-cession to a much greater extent:

In March 2020, Armine Yalnizyan began to point out that this recession was different from the recessions of the past because it was a "she-cession" not a "he-cession." What she noticed was this time the female-dominated sectors suffered most from the forced economic downturn. Women comprised the majority of people losing their jobs.

In past recessions, men lost their jobs at a greater rate than women. When recovery happened, women then joined the workforce in greater numbers.

This time, CIBC Economics, using Statistics Canada data, has shown that all the jobs lost in 2020 were among workers who earned below-average wages. The report also shows that high-wage earners gained almost 350,000 jobs in 2020.

Those numbers tell us that we must target the recovery from the pandemic to help those who have experienced the greatest effect, the poor and women.

Here are some ways to get involved in making the systemic changes which will build a recovery for all of us:

  • There is a lot of talk about women-centred workplaces. In order to address the danger of further increasing the gender gap, we need guaranteed sick days, family leave and work flexibility for all. We also need to ensure access to protective equipment and workplace protections for everyone. Please work with feministrecovery.ca and other similar organizations to demand workplace changes.
  • If we want to address domestic violence, we must understand the role of safe, affordable and permanent housing in providing a long-term solution for addressing vulnerability among women, girls, and gender-diverse people. Before the pandemic, women, girls and gender-diverse people were more likely to be among the "hidden homeless." Due to the spike in reported cases of domestic violence, there has been an increase in funding for emergency spaces and shelter space in Canada. These are important short-term solutions. However, when these solutions are exhausted, too often women are forced to return to dangerous living conditions. We need policy tools, such as a national housing benefit, developed and implemented with an eye to ensuring it meets the needs of women, girls, and gender-diverse peoples. Work with activists who are advocating for long-term, systemic ways to address gender violence and housing.
  • This pandemic has changed what safe schools mean for many of us. We need better ventilation and similar upgrades to schools to be a priority. We need to partner with advocates in every province to make sure that in the long term we are working on investing in our schools rather than gutting them for short-sighted savings. This article lists organizations in provinces which are working improve our schools. We also need to work onchild-care solutions which meet our needs if lockdowns and quarantine continue. We need affordable, quality child care, not just inadequate tax credits from the government.
  • One of our biggest failures as a country during this pandemic has been in our inability to protect seniors. rabble.ca was among the first publications to sound the alarm about the dangers of the for-profit senior-care system in Canada. Women are 90 per cent of paid staff in long-term care. They must be part of the discussion about changing this sector. 

These are just some of the long-term changes that a feminist recovery will require. We need to make sure that this important opportunity to meet our needs as a society is not reduced to a catchy meme.



One group that always suffers no matter the circumstances are immigrants, especially in a pandemic when fear of the other runs high. For those held in immigrant detention centres, that fear and the risks that they face are even greater:

On the morning of March 16, after just five days' notice, "Marlon," a detainee at the Immigration Holding Centre (IHC) in Laval, Quebec, was deported. Marlon had led hunger strikes to protest the conditions at the IHC. Indeed, Marlon -- the pseudonym used by a man that Amnesty International interviewed days before his removal -- had himself tested positive for COVID-19 in February.

In the past year, detainees at the IHC have resorted to hunger strikes on three previous occasions, with the most recent taking place in the past weeks. At least five cases of COVID-19 have been recorded among the detainees, and several others are reportedly being held in isolation. Visitation has been suspended since March 2020, and a February 2021 outbreak meant that detainees were only allowed out of their cells to shower or make phone calls.

Solidarity Across Borders, a migrant justice network based in Montreal, published the striking detainees' declaration. They denounce the conditions at the IHC, recount allegations of inadequate health care, and characterize immigration detention as an inhuman and unjust policy. They ask to be released from the IHC because of the ongoing risk of COVID-19 in the facility, to be treated with dignity, and to be protected.

The detainees' demands are simple, and they are rooted in fundamental human rights. People who are detained by Canada -- whether in jails, or for administrative reasons like immigration detention -- are not to be held in conditions that imperil their physical or mental health. And yet, at the Laval IHC, this is exactly what is happening.

Marlon told us that when he tested positive for COVID-19, he was moved to a small and dirty cell in isolation, and that the only medical attention he received was to have his temperature taken regularly. Even when he had a fever for several days, he says he did not receive any medication to reduce it.

The anxiety of not having basic information about his own health in the context of a deadly pandemic was extremely stressful. "To me, it is very inhumane," said Marlon.

Marlon and the other detainees' complaints aren't difficult to understand. Detention centres are populated by migrants entering from different parts of the world, and staff who enter and leave can also become vectors for the virus. Moreover, detainees report that guards at times remove their masks, or don't wear gloves, and it is easy to see why the detainees were motivated to engage in this bold act of resistance.

Another issue highlighted by the detainees is the expansive use of solitary confinement. The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, colloquially known as the "Nelson Mandela Rules," defines solitary confinement as 22 hours or more than a day without meaningful human contact, limits its use to exceptional circumstances as a last resort, and prohibits its use in excess of 15 consecutive days. Canada purported to abolish the practice in jails in 2019.

While much attention has been paid to the use of solitary confinement in Canadian jails, especially given a recent report about its ongoing use, safeguards against the practice do not exist for immigration detainees held at detention centres. One detainee, using the pseudonym "José," affirmed that he spent more than 22 hours in isolation, and the Laval detainees report being held in "separate rooms without receiving any psychological assistance." While the detainees are right to call for psychological support to mitigate the pernicious effects of isolation, not even this pandemic justifies such treatment in the first place. Most of us have learned to engage in safe, socially distanced interaction with others -- why is this not possible for those detained at the IHC?

Immigration detention doesn't have to look like this. Great reductions in the number of immigration detainees since the outset of the pandemic shows that alternatives are available if we have the will to use them. Canada should reduce, to an absolute minimum, the number of people being held in immigration detention, and in all instances must ensure that the health and well-being of detainees is upheld. If this cannot be ensured, and detainees do not pose a risk to society, they should be released.

Pandemic or not, Canada must live up to its international legal obligations to those it deprives of their liberty. When detention isn't consistent with human rights, it mustn't be used at all.



While teachers and other educational workers are usually not considered marginalized workers, they are marginalized like other essential (expendable, in other words) workers when it comes to Covid, and, like all essential workers, should be immediately vaccinated, now that most of the elderly who are most at risk have already received their shots. The following podcast url discusses the risks teachers face from Covid. 

Teachers and other education workers will not be safe until they are vaccinated. Five unions have come together to demand immediate action from the Ontario government. Comments by Harvey Bischof, President (Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation), Liz Stuart, President (Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association), Anne Vinet-Roy, présidente/President (Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens), and Laura Walton, President, CUPE's Ontario School Board Council of Unions.



An Ontario coroner's report is calling for better safeguards and better working conditions for migrant farm workers, one of the most abused groups of Canada's underclass, following a review of  the deaths ofthree of these farm workers and the infection of many others due to Covid-19. Perhaps, unsurprisingly it does not go far enough in calling for a phone line to report violations of rules and high priority candidates for vaccines. There needs to be end to bunkhouses with workers being placed in single occupancy room to reduce the spread of Covid. 

A deputy chief coroner's review of the COVID-19 deaths of three migrant farm workers in Ontario is calling for better safeguards and improved working conditions for foreign seasonal agricultural workers, a population that faces barriers to accessing health care and added dangers due to communal living quarters. 

The report includes 35 recommendations, calling on everything from improved access to health care to better communication between governments and agencies involved in bringing foreign workers to Canada each growing season. 

In 2020, the three Mexican nationals died in May and June. All three men were under age 60 and contracted COVID-19 after arriving to work on Ontario farms. 

Much of the report focuses on the need to streamline information sharing between the various agencies involved in bringing workers to Canada. The recommendations call for better ways to inform workers about their rights and services available to them, including where to access health care and information on labour laws. 

One recommendation calls for a single phone line to be set up that would allow workers to report violations or concerns about work conditions, with information available in languages other than English or French. 

Much of the report focuses on the need to streamline information sharing between the various agencies involved in bringing workers to Canada. The recommendations call for better ways to inform workers about their rights and services available to them, including where to access health care and information on labour laws. 

One recommendation calls for a single phone line to be set up that would allow workers to report violations or concerns about work conditions, with information available in languages other than English or French. ...

The report says foreign farm workers should be considered a high priority group when it comes to accessing COVID-19 vaccinations. It also calls for isolation centres to be set up in communities where they're working to deal with any outbreaks. Generally, foreign farm workers have visas that tie them to a single employer. The report recommends changes to allow workers more freedom to move between different work sites during the growing season. 

Most foreign farmer workers live in communal housing, generally bunkhouses, provided by their employers. As the COVID-19 outbreak unfolded last year, many of those bunkhouses were found to be dangerously cramped with little separation between sleeping spaces. ...

The report also calls for:

  • Better standards to make housing safer and calls for farms to be subject to unscheduled inspections to ensure the bunkhouses are safer. 
  • Better access to vaccinations for foreign workers, along with random and directed COVID-19 testing on farms.
  • Foreign workers who are undocumented to have access to health care without repercussions to the workers or their employers. 




Migrant farm workers in two counties in Ontario are being discriminated against and suffering from racism by being refused " “limited and monitored outdoor time” as long as they wear a mask and have no symptoms of COVID-19." according to federal rules for international travellers, just another sign that they are part of Canada's underclass. Even prisoners have more rights.  Since the counties have forbidden farm workers from being housed in bunkhouses on farms, the farmers have put them in hotels rather than spend the money for single occupant rooms. But only Haldimand and Norfolk counties are doing this.

This isn't working as the number of infections is outpacing the rate that occurred last year over the same period and the migrant worker season has barely begun. 

[Trinidadian Jeremiah] Sovigno is among thousands of workers who will arrive to work on farms in Haldimand and Norfolk counties this season. But many of his fellow migrant workers say they are enduring quarantine conditions that advocates are calling cruel and inhumane.

Migrant workers in these two counties are being treated differently than how Canada treats other international travellers. Under federal rules, travellers arriving from abroad are allowed “limited and monitored outdoor time” as long as they wear a mask and have no symptoms of COVID-19.

Since March, at least five migrant workers have died since arriving in Canada, including four who were in quarantine, according to the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, an advocacy group calling for an investigation to determine the causes of the deaths.

The alliance and other advocates say there is blatant discrimination and racism in how workers in Haldimand and Norfolk are being treated and that their basic human rights are being violated.

“Denying migrant workers access to fresh air during quarantine is inhumane. It’s simply abusive,” says Fay Faraday, a labour and human rights lawyer who has worked with migrant workers for 30 years. “All human beings need access to fresh air for their physical and mental well-being and to be locked in a hotel room with windows that don’t open for 14 days with no ability to go outside is cruel and unusual punishment.”

Global News has identified at least four hotels that have housed quarantining migrant farm workers in Brantford, among a number of southern Ontario towns where workers have self-isolated. Three of them have no balconies, nor do they have windows that open.

He says no one has explained why they are not allowed to go outside for fresh air. ...

At the start of the pandemic, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit set limits on the number of workers allowed to quarantine in bunkhouses on farms due to living quarters that make it difficult to maintain physical distancing. This has forced most workers at 208 farms in the district to quarantine in hotels for the two-week period.

But the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is the only one in the region that has implemented a rule denying fresh air breaks during quarantine. Other neighbouring counties also bring in a large number of migrant workers without imposing similar restrictions.

The chief medical officer who introduced the rule, Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, declined to give Global News an interview about his decision. ...

Between January and April, a total of 410 seasonal agricultural workers arrived to work on farms in Haldimand-Norfolk, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. That number will continue to rise, as April and May bring in the most arrivals, the department said in a statement. ...

The local health unit estimates 4,000 migrant farm workers in total are destined for farms in Norfolk and Haldimand counties this year. ...

For many workers, this might not be the last time they have to go through a two-week quarantine period with no access to fresh air. If the farm they work at experiences an outbreak, they will have to go through it all over again.

Kevin Daniels, a seasonal worker who’s been coming to Canada for nine years, says he has had trouble sleeping since spending 14 days inside a hotel room last November. He went into quarantine after the farm he worked on experienced a COVID-19 outbreak. He was among 87 of his colleagues who were forced to quarantine after 13 workers tested positive for the virus, according to Arnal.

“The internet system was poor so you cannot connect with family members,” he says. “It was the first time experiencing winter and then you had to be locked up in a room, couldn’t go outside, exercise, anything. You’re locked up in a room that hasn’t been cleaned in 14 days, the food is horrible, and now I have a serious sleeping condition from November until now.” ...

According to Ontario’s plan to prevent and manage outbreaks on farms released last November, migrant farm workers “did not bring the virus to Ontario but rather contracted it after they arrived.” It cited the housing accommodations provided to workers and an inability to social distance that drove the spread of the virus in the region last year, not workers coming in from abroad. ...

It is up to employers to provide workers with accommodations, food and other necessary supplies during workers’ quarantine. Both the Ontario and federal governments have provided financial support to farmers to help offset costs. The federal government offers employers $1,500 per worker to cover costs related to the mandatory 14-day isolation period. Employers can also apply for additional funding “for improvements to employee living quarters, temporary or emergency housing, personal protective equipment (PPE), and other health and safety measures.” ...

Despite having a year to respond and improve conditions for seasonal workers arriving, migrant rights advocates say the federal government has again put workers in harm’s way. “The fact that they haven’t figured out how to ensure that this is a humane process shows where their priorities are and the priorities are not ensuring the well-being of the essential workers,” says Faraday.

“The federal government, despite us raising this cry now for 15 months, has refused to enact specific guidelines around how quarantine is structured, including the right to fresh air,” says Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “They’ve consistently issued suggestions which are not enforceable, not by migrants and not by anybody else.” The organization is calling on the federal government to put in place enforceable guidelines around mobility, adequate and culturally appropriate meals, access to phones, health care and support “to ensure workers have access to basic rights and protections.”

In addition to isolating for two weeks, workers undergo multiple COVID-19 tests before and after arriving in Canada. Workers must test negative before getting on the plane. They are then tested upon arrival, 72 hours later, and then again eight days later. Workers must test negative in order to leave quarantine and go to a farm to work. They are also offered the COVID-19 vaccine upon arrival at the airport, but are still required to quarantine for two weeks.

Hussan says the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change has heard accounts of migrant workers being denied fresh air across the country, despite public health guidelines.

“This is a result of federal inaction and the public health unit. Haldimand-Norfolk is in no way an exception. The buck stops with Prime Minister Trudeau’s door,” says Hussan. “The fact that people are feeling that they are being treated worse than animals is because they don’t have the power to speak up and that power is being taken away from them because they are temporary. That’s why we have been calling on the federal government to ensure full and permanent immigration status for every migrant and undocumented person in the country.” ...

Last year, between March 2020 and Dec. 31, there were 3,232 COVID-19 outbreaks on farms or at food processing workplaces in Ontario. This year, there have already been 2,486 outbreaks in just four months, according to provincial data. “We are talking about huge numbers that continue to grow,” says Hussan. “And the season has barely begun.”

This year, there have been 30 farm outbreaks in Haldimand and Norfolk counties, according to the health unit.