Date: Thu, Jan 28, 2021
Subject: Suppress the Virus!
To: Premier Ford; Minister Elliott; Minister Fullerton; Minister Lecce
Dear Premier and Ministers;
Almost a year into this pandemic, community spread remains rampant, seniors continue to be infected at alarming rates, needed investments have not been made to provide safe and high-quality education to our students, and racialized communities are bearing the brunt of the virus’ harms. As our provincial leadership, you can and MUST do better.
Prioritizing the economy over people’s lives is not only unethical, but it also makes no sense for long-term recovery. We need 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. Recovery efforts must build the conditions for all to live and thrive. They must centre the needs of those most impacted by the pandemic. I endorse the following agenda put forth by the Suppress the Virus Coalition. I urge you to step up for Ontarians and adopt this approach without further, life-threatening, delay.
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 policing; and safe, accessible winter housing for 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.
Alison Symington (she/her)
Hon BA, LLB, LLM