10 signatures reached
To: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Federal Members of Parliament, Premiers, MPPs and MLAs
Make Protection from COVID-19 a Right, Not A Privilege
We urge our lawmakers at all levels of government to enact legislation that will bring the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada and around the world to an end swiftly and decisively, and open a new chapter for Canada in which we become a model of social and environmental justice that can inform public policy around the world.
We therefore call on our leaders to:
• Provide a fair living wage to all Canadians, so that no one needs to choose between having a livelihood and following public health protocols.
• Pass legislation requiring all businesses operating in Canada to ensure that all employees are given equal pay by position, thus ending racial and gender-based wage gaps.
• Provide delivery of nutritious and high-quality food to Canada’s most vulnerable so that it is feasible for them to self-isolate.
• Arrange for hotels to provide housing for homeless Canadians.
• Prevent homelessness by instituting Canada-wide bans on evictions and rent increases.
• Set up free pop-up testing sites in vulnerable communities.
• In order to curtail the spread of more contagious variants of COVID-19, all provinces and territories should be placed under strict stay-at-home orders until further notice. Provincial and territorial governments should not be allowed to remove these restrictions until at least 95% of the Canadian population is fully vaccinated.
• Formulate an efficient and clearly defined Canada-wide vaccination plan that ensures the inoculation of no fewer than 500,000 people per day.
• Mandate that surplus doses of vaccine be distributed in countries for which the mass purchase of vaccine doses is not an option.
• Allocate funds both to allow vaccine manufacturers to increase their production capacities, and for the mass purchase of vaccine doses to be sent to countries that lack the funds to purchase their own, and encourage the governments of other wealthy countries to do the same.
• Prioritize vaccination for undocumented workers and migrants.
• Accelerate the approval process for the Medicago vaccine candidate and require Medicago to share its patent in order to enable widespread manufacturing and distribution.
• Pass legislation mandating all Canada-based vaccine manufacturers presently working on COVID-19 vaccines or planning to do so to waive their patents for as long as COVID-19 continues to spread, in order to allow local manufacturers around the world to produce their own COVID-19 vaccines.
• Contact with other people, and with the natural environment is critical to ensure healthy cognitive, social, and immune system development for children. Accordingly, vaccination for children should begin as soon as vaccination of higher-risk age groups is complete.
• Issue fines to those caught disseminating COVID-19 misinformation, e.g. anti-mask/anti-vaccination rhetoric.
Why is this important?
Right now in Canada, the ability to follow COVID-19 social distancing guidelines without serious negative impacts to one’s livelihood is a luxury that is unavailable to significant portions of the Canadian population. In particular, it is largely limited to those whose occupations and existing financial security enable them to work from home, and whose living arrangements do not put them at significant risk for virus transmission. Disproportionately, the Canadians who enjoy this fortuitous situation are the traditional beneficiaries of white privilege, who, not coincidentally, are those whose lived experiences bears the closest resemblance to that of Canada’s political elite. For instance, while restaurants are presently required by law to implement social distancing measures and hygiene protocols for the protection of their guests, they are not obligated to provide improved working conditions for their staff.
Meanwhile, the Canadians who have suffered the worst repercussions, both from COVID-19 itself and from the public health regulations instituted in response to the virus, are those who must choose between social distancing and having a source of income and/or live in crowded housing. Disproportionately, the people in these circumstances live in racialized communities in major urban centres. It should not surprise us that the privileged experience enjoyed by our public officials instills them with an intellectual laziness that prevents them from using scientific evidence about the social and environmental determinants of health as the basis for crafting their policies.
The government of the State of Vermont has implemented a set of policy measures that make adherence to social distancing guidelines feasible for all Vermont residents. Some of these measures include free pop-up testing sites in vulnerable communities, meal delivery, hazard pay, and state-supported housing for homeless Vermonters. Additionally, Vermont Governor Phil Scott has proposed the distribution of $1000 stipends to Vermonters required to self-isolate. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s leading infectious diseases expert, has endorsed this approach as “a model for the country.”
This approach might serve as a template for Canada as well, and, if implemented in conjunction with a massive ramp-up of vaccination efforts, might be sufficient to crush the pandemic in Canada within a matter of a few months. Such an effort could be funded through a combination of voluntary donations from the Canadian public in general – as well as large tax hikes directed at Canada’s richest 10%, whose lifestyles and business activities exacerbate racism and economic inequality, and promote the spread of zoonotic pathogens to human populations.
Finally, a massive overhaul is needed for Canada's COVID-19 vaccination plan, which has thus far been slow and disorderly. This is largely a result of how, between 2015 and 2019, the Trudeau Liberals have wasted the opportunity to improve Canada's vaccine manufacturing capabilities. This has forced us to rely on shipments from external manufacturers, and limited our ability to deliver vaccines to Canadians in a timely manner. This problem may be partly addressed by accelerating the process of approving all proven vaccine candidates. The standards and procedures on which Health Canada has historically relied for approval of vaccine candidates were designed during, and for, non-crisis circumstances, and are therefore unsuitable for situations in which rapid distribution of vaccines to the public is a priority. All experimental or bureaucratic irregularities not resulting in serious illness or fatality should therefore be considered acceptable for the purposes of determining approval of vaccine candidates for distribution to the Canadian population. In light of the federal government's recent decision to accept vaccine doses through the Covax program, Canada must become an active contributor to global vaccination efforts. Canada can make progress toward this goal through the restoration own vaccine production capacity to its former excellence, which was obliterated through the privatization of Connaught Labs by Prime Minister Mulroney’s Conservative government. The restoration and expansion of manufacturing facilities for this purpose may be accelerated by instituting the Emergencies Act.