April 26, 2021
The Department of Health and Society stands in solidarity with members of the UTSC community who are unjustly impacted by the Government of Ontario’s response to rising COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
On April 16, 2021 the Government of Ontario introduced an amendment to an emergency order in response to increasing numbers COVID-19 cases; notably, this order included granting expanded powers to police across Ontario. After public backlash, parts of the order were repealed, but police still have license to stop, question, card, and arrest people, a practice which exacerbates the already disproportionate effects of police violence on Scarborough’s communities of colour, disabled people, 2SLGBTQ people, and the precariously housed and homeless.
At the same time, the Ontario Government announced that it would close outdoor recreation facilities, giving police powers to harass and fine people who use these public facilities. This, too, disproportionately impacts the many low-income and working-class Scarborough residents who live in apartment buildings and other homes without the luxury of a private outdoor space. People and families experiencing homelessness similarly feel disproportionate impacts.
Instead of responding to the COVID-19 crisis with evidence-based solutions supported by public health experts and health care providers, Ontario’s government is attempting to use policing as a solution. The government adopts this strategy despite evidence that contact with policing has dangerous consequences for racialized and other marginalised communities. The Department of Health and Society upholds the position that increasing policing in a pandemic that disproportionately burdens these communities is unjust and wrong.
The Ontario Government has repeatedly ignored the advice of its own experts and scientists, who have highlighted the need to protect essential workers, many of whom are members of marginalized communities, hardest hit by COVID-19. Recent moves to close hot spot workplaces do not go far enough. We join other experts in calling on the provincial government to offer paid sick days to hourly-wage workers. Vaccine access is also an urgent issue, with many of Scarborough’s most vulnerable residents unable to get a vaccine due to misallocation of vaccine doses and a lack of vaccination sites. By not adopting measures like paid sick leave, work-place protections for essential workers, and a more equitable vaccine roll-out plan that prioritises those most at risk, the Ontario Government has endangered the lives of Scarborough residents.
The Department of Health and Society recognizes that the Ontario Government’s most recent pandemic response further increases the burden of COVID-19 for racialized, Indigenous, disabled, low-income, and 2SLGBTQ people in Scarborough and beyond. We are committed to advocating for the health of the Scarborough community and for a safe and equitable pandemic response for all Ontarians. We support all those who are affected by the Government’s Emergency Orders and those who are fighting for a more equitable pandemic response.
The Department of Health and Society strongly objects to the provincial Government’s prioritizing of policing over healthy public policy throughout this pandemic. Paid sick leave and work-place protections for essential workers are actionable. Evidence-based actions are needed immediately to aggressively curb the compounding effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For information about the University’s COVID-19 response and resources for students, please visit: https://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/partnerships/covid-19-pandemic-supports-1. For the Scarborough Health Network’s COVID information page, please visit: https://www.shn.ca/covid-19/