Image: Tumisu/Pixabay

In every crisis, the worst and the best of people comes out. If you want to help, while continuing to practise social distancing and working to “flatten the curve,” here are some tools to join the helpers. Please share others tools if you have them.

  1. Join the “caremongering” movement: Groups have sprung up on Facebook to spread the message of caremongering all across Canada. If you need help or want to help please search “caremongering” on Facebook and find the group near you. At last count there were 97 groups, most of which are in Canada, from Nunavut, to Prince Edward Island, to Vancouver Island. The idea is for local groups to share and organize community resources in response to COVID-19. So if you need help or can offer help and useful information, join, read through what has been posted, request help, offer up what you can do and support each other.  
  2. Demand support for the vulnerable: According to Duncan Cameron, COVID-19 has revealed how divided Canada is and how vulnerable some Canadians remain. Here are some actions promoted by our community:
    • Extend EI to low income and gig workers
    • Cathy Crowe raised the alarm about the need for governments to develop a plan for the homeless. There have been steps taken, by Ontario and Toronto, but at the moment the government is demanding that overworked shelter workers also do the COVID-19 screening. Please stay tuned to Crowe’s Facebook feed  for more, and demand protection for others around Canada.
    • Fight against evictions. Activists in Ontario organized against evictions during the crisis and the province has halted all evictions. Activists in Quebec and other provinces are demanding similar measures.
  3. Stand for prisoners: Across Canada trials are being put on hold and more and more courts are curtailing their activities. So then what happens to people in prison for minor offences awaiting trial? Are they to languish in prison? Write to David Lametti, minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, and demand that a plan be developed to ensure that prisoners do not languish in jails. The Canadian Border Services Authority has announced a halt to all deportations, except cases which involve serious criminal conduct. Unfortunately, on February 21, 2020, Ruepang Cao, 36, was reportedly deported back to China despite his concerns about COVID-19 which was still spreading through the country. There is still the question of what is happening to immigration detainees. 
  4. Demand companies support their workers: Tim Hortons and Whole Foods both announced policies which offloaded their costs amid the COVID-19 outbreak onto workers. Community outrage obviously played a part in the fact that Tim Hortons now has a COVID-19 fund and Whole Foods has announced a temporary wage hike in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Unions are demanding more protections for frontline workers at this time. Check in with people who are still working to find out about how we can demand better protections for them. If you hear about a company which is gouging its employees to cover costs, stand up for the workers. Your opinion makes a difference.
  5. Reach out to nursing homes and other institutions to support virtually: Check in with nursing homes and other institutions in your community to see if there is anything you can do to make people feel less isolated. Of course, if the nursing homes and other institutions’ staff are overwhelmed right now, try when the crisis calms down. 

Remember the Shock Doctrine. Naomi Klein has been reminding us of her writing and research on how shocks, like the COVID-19 outbreak, are used as a pretext to privatize public services and in service of the interests of crony capitalists. Watch this great video from The Intercept in which Klein summarizes her work and predictions. David Climenhaga has been tirelessly covering how Jason Kenney is using this crisis as yet another excuse to do exactly what Klein describes. As the dust settles, across Canada we will see similar efforts to use COVID-19 as yet another excuse to undermine the public interest. Use the momentum we are building by caring to stand up and make Canada stronger instead of letting fear make it weaker.

Image: Tumisu/Pixabay

Editor’s note, March 20, 2020: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that overworked shelter workers were also being asked to do COVID-19 testing. Those workers are being asked to do screening, not testing.


Maya Bhullar

Maya Bhullar has over 15 years of professional experience in such diverse areas as migration, labour, urban planning and community mobilization. She has a particular interest in grassroots engagement,...