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Ontario’s stay-at-home order penalizes poverty

The Stop Community Food Centre is deeply concerned about key aspects of the provincial government’s latest COVID lockdown measures.

As an organization that works with people experiencing poverty, food insecurity, and homelessness, we’ve long seen these communities be unfairly targeted with punitive measures during the pandemic, and unsupported when they seek necessities like food, shelter, and safe working conditions.

Public health experts state that more of 60% of Toronto’s COVID outbreaks are in frontline workplace settings — particularly in manufacturing and industrial factories. However, the government has chosen to allow non-essential workplaces to remain open, and most critically, to not mandate paid sick leave for employees. Without access to paid sick days, poorer working people in the neighbourhoods that have been hardest-hit by COVID will continue to be exposed unnecessarily.

In 2018, The Stop lost one of our own community members after he was forced to choose between seeing a doctor and missing a day’s pay. It is unconscionable that people are still being forced to make these impossible choices during a pandemic.

We are particularly concerned about the government’s decision to grant individual police officers the discretion to determine whether a person’s reasons for being outside are “essential.” Toronto’s homeless population is already heavily over-policed (police interact with the homeless in Toronto up to 360,000 times per year, issuing 16,000 tickets, most of which are never paid), as are Black and Indigenous Torontonians. Black residents are involved in 29 percent of Toronto police use of force incidents, but make up less than 9 percent of the city’s population.

We ask that the government address the root causes of COVID spread by implementing policies such as mandated paid sick leave, a new moratorium on residential evictions, and robust income supports that allow people to stay home. We also ask that it not rely on individual police officers to determine what’s in our communities’ best interest.

We ask that the government put public health and safety first, and consider who’ll be most affected by this short-sighted policy.

Join the Decent Work and Health Network’s call for paid sick days:
Sign the petition

Read TDIN and OCAP’s resources for police interactions:
Know your rights!