OCAP | Statements
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty is a direct action anti-poverty organization that fights for more shelter beds, social housing, and a raise in social assistance rates.
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STATEMENT ON CITY’S SHELTER INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN AND SHELTER-HOTELS

On Thursday, October 21st, the Economic and Community Development Committee of Toronto voted to close 13 shelter-hotels in April, 2022[1]. The City claims that Shelter Support and Housing Committee will be working with shelter-hotels to transition residents into permanent housing. We say- what housing?! Social housing in Toronto is completely full, with the general wait list taking 12 years or more for people to get accommodations[2]. The average market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto is $1431[3], while Ontario Works shelter allowance is $390[4]. Homelessness in Toronto will not end in April. Currently shelter-hotels are providing protection from the elements for 2,647 people[5]. There are only 110 beds available in the shelter system right now[6]. We will not let people be pushed from shelters onto the streets, we will fight with and alongside shelter-hotel residents by any means necessary!

Toronto’s shelter system is bursting at the seams. The City of Toronto has failed to live up to its own mandate of maintaining shelter occupancy rates at below 90% capacity since the adoption of this mandate in 1999[7]. As of today, 24-hour respite centers are operating at 100% capacity, single people shelters are at 96.2% capacity, and emergency family shelters are at 100% capacity[8]. With shelters this full, people without homes may not have access to shelter beds that are appropriate for them, resulting in people being turned away and left out in the cold[9]. Many shelter spaces are inaccessible and/or inadequate for peoples seeking space[10], many do not offer wheelchair or mobility devise accessibility, accessible washrooms or accessible laundry facilities. On any given night an average of 38 people seeking shelter space are turned away[11]. This is an emergency; the shelter system is in crisis.

Shelter-hotels provide rooms for residents, mediating risks of COVID-19 transmissions overcrowded shelters and respite centers. While shelter-hotels have been an improvement over the rest of the shelter system, significant program and policy changes are needed to increase safety and accessibility.

The existence of these shelter-hotels has been used to justify the clearing of encampments[12]. Across the system, approximately 80 rooms are consistently held open to support encampment evictions. While 80 rooms sit empty, other homeless people, including those who are sleeping rough elsewhere than the targeted encampments, are denied access to the shelter-hotel system, even when directly requesting to move indoors. Shelter-hotels have a policy that disqualifies people from being admitted shelter-hotels if they have accessed shelter services in the last 30 days[13]. Encampment residents may briefly access shelter services for a variety of reasons[14]. Last week 17 names were added to the Toronto Homeless Memorial[15]. People who are homeless are dying and these restrictive policies will contribute to the mounting deaths we see.

Many shelter-hotels take people far away from the supports they require, significantly impacting safety and wellbeing of peoples that use drugs and leading to increased lethality[16]. The tireless advocacy efforts of harm-reduction workers has seen the implementation of Shelter Housing Overdose Prevention Program (SHOPP); however, this program is not offered in every shelter-hotel, and residents are not permitted to transfer shelters on their own accord[17].

Shelter-hotels are inadequately accessible. For example, the Bond Hotel does have a wheelchair ramp but that ramp is designated as an exit. People using mobility devises are denied access to the building through use of the one available ramp. The Bond Hotel has set up a designated smoking area for residents however that smoking area is not accessible for people using mobility devises and the smoking area structure physically blocks access to the ramp. Staff must physically move the smoking structure to allow access to the ramp for people using mobility devises. This is unacceptable and a serious safety risk in the event of an emergency. Shelter-hotels must make an accessible fire and emergency plan. People with mobility devises are given rooms on the top floors of the building, there is no way for them to exit the building in the event of a fire or another emergency that disables use of the elevators.

Shelter-hotels have insufficient and/or inappropriate staff. There are simply not enough case workers for the amount of people that reside in hotels. Hotels have up to 270 residents and as few as 3 case workers, resulting in many residents being left to try to navigate the system on their own. Additionally, shelter-hotel locations have 1 personal support worker staff for the entire facility. This PSW staff does not provide bathing and hygiene services, despite bathrooms being physically inaccessible. Shelter-hotel residents state that there is a policy barring outside social service workers and agencies from entering the shelter-hotel locations. This policy denies people access to their basic care needs. Every person deserves access to appropriate services, if the shelter-hotels cannot provide it residents should be supported in accessing external services.

Shelter-hotel residents are subjected to dehumanizing and unnecessary restrictive policies. Shelter-hotel residents report that workers complete room-checks up to five times a day[18], including in the middle of the night. Regardless of the needs of the resident, room checks are completed 3 to 4 times a day, with the last room check being at 11 PM. For residents deemed high risk, room checks are completed every two hours. Residents state that these room checks are invasive and lead to sleep deprivation. Room checks, especially evening and night room checks, can be significantly triggering for people who have lived through traumatic experiences, worsening trauma symptom severity. It is a patronizing practice that is not appropriate for all residents.

Toronto is in a housing crisis. SSHA claims that they will be working with shelter-hotel residents to transition them into housing, but currently they have only placed 8% of shelter-hotel residents into permanent housing[19]. SSHA says they will open 2000 supportive housing spaces to house both shelter-hotel residents and the chronically homeless, this is double promising an already inadequate number of spaces[20]. We will not stand by while the city evicts shelter-hotel residents onto the street!

OCAP will fight for hotel-shelters to remain open; we will fight for safe and secure shelter spaces; we will fight for right of dignity for all peoples; we will fight for deeply and truly affordable social housing. We will fight with and alongside community members, and we will fight to win.

 

[1] Toronto City Council, “Economic and Community Development Committee – October 21, 2021”, 2021 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59r-T50AYvM&t=25s>

[2] City of Toronto, “Rent-Geared-to-Income Subsidy”, 2021

[3] City of Toronto, “Current City of Toronto Average Market Rent and Utility Allowances”, 2021

[4] City of Toronto, “Monthly Ontario Works Amounts”, 2021.

[5] City of Toronto, “Daily Shelter & Overnight Service Usage”, 2021

[6] City of Toronto, “Daily Shelter & Overnight Service Usage”, 2021

[7] SSHA, “Staff Report on the Capacity of the Emergency Shelter System”, Community and Neighborhood Services Committee, Toronto City Council, March 24, 1999

[8] City of Toronto, “Daily Shelter & Overnight Service Usage”, 2021

[9]  Withers, A.J., Sheila Lacroix, Sarah Rehou, Roxy Danielson, Zoe Dodd, Claude Whitman, Jennifer Jewell, Cathy Crow, Tommy Taylor, Maggie Hulbert, Nicholas Camargo & Greg Cook. “Emergency Winter and Shelter Support and Infrastructure Plan” Shelter & Housing Justice Network. Toronto, 2021, pp. 19.

[10] Shelter Housing Justice Network, “Emergency Winter and Shelter Support and Infrastructure Plan”, pp. 25, 2021

[11] Fact Check Toronto, “Shelter Capacity”, 2021

[12] Withers, A.J., Sheila Lacroix, Sarah Rehou, Roxy Danielson, Zoe Dodd, Claude Whitman, Jennifer Jewell, Cathy Crow, Tommy Taylor, Maggie Hulbert, Nicholas Camargo & Greg Cook. “Emergency Winter and Shelter Support and Infrastructure Plan” Shelter & Housing Justice Network. Toronto, 2021, pp. 26.

[13] Withers, A.J., Sheila Lacroix, Sarah Rehou, Roxy Danielson, Zoe Dodd, Claude Whitman, Jennifer Jewell, Cathy Crow, Tommy Taylor, Maggie Hulbert, Nicholas Camargo & Greg Cook. “Emergency Winter and Shelter Support and Infrastructure Plan” Shelter & Housing Justice Network. Toronto, 2021, pp. 39.

[14] Withers, A.J., Sheila Lacroix, Sarah Rehou, Roxy Danielson, Zoe Dodd, Claude Whitman, Jennifer Jewell, Cathy Crow, Tommy Taylor, Maggie Hulbert, Nicholas Camargo & Greg Cook. “Emergency Winter and Shelter Support and Infrastructure Plan” Shelter & Housing Justice Network. Toronto, 2021, pp. 39.

[15] Holy Trinity Toronto, ”Toronto Homeless Memorial”, 2021.

[16] Withers, A.J., Sheila Lacroix, Sarah Rehou, Roxy Danielson, Zoe Dodd, Claude Whitman, Jennifer Jewell, Cathy Crow, Tommy Taylor, Maggie Hulbert, Nicholas Camargo & Greg Cook. “Emergency Winter and Shelter Support and Infrastructure Plan” Shelter & Housing Justice Network. Toronto, 2021, pp. 23.

[17] Withers, A.J., Sheila Lacroix, Sarah Rehou, Roxy Danielson, Zoe Dodd, Claude Whitman, Jennifer Jewell, Cathy Crow, Tommy Taylor, Maggie Hulbert, Nicholas Camargo & Greg Cook. “Emergency Winter and Shelter Support and Infrastructure Plan” Shelter & Housing Justice Network. Toronto, 2021, pp. 24.

[18] Fact Check Toronto, Shelter hotels, 2021.

[19] Beattie, “Only 8% of Encampment Residents Have Made It into Permanent Housing since April 2020, Toronto data shows”, CBC News, Sep 12, 2021.  Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-encampment-residents-housing-1.6167173

[20] Withers, A.J. “RE: EC25.6 2022 Shelter Infrastructure Plan, Community Engagement Review and Amendments to Contracts and Purchase Orders to Support Shelter Services”, Oct 20, 2021, Retrieved from https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2021/ec/comm/communicationfile-137704.pdf

In solidarity with Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders

We, a coalition of organizers from Tkaronto, have arrived in Wet’suwet’en Territory! In the past months Coastal Gas Link, with government and RCMP support, have continued to build a pipeline through Wet’suwet’en Territory, demolishing ancient sites and threatening the sacred waters of the Wedzin Kwa – all without the consent of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. We have responded to the invitation from Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders, and we are here to show our unequivocal support. As a coalition representing Neighbourhood Pods TO, Movement Defence Committee – Law Union of Ontario, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, World Beyond War, and CPT – Turtle Island Solidarity Network we add our voices to their demand that CGL halts all construction on Wet’suwet’en Territory.

The construction of the pipeline is part of the roadmap of colonialism carried out by both corporations and the Canadian government that seeks to violently displace Indigenous Peoples for settler industry and capital gains. In recent weeks, we have witnessed the RCMP harassing Land Defenders, dumping their drinking water, and torturing an ally. This colonial violence seeks to force Indigenous Land Defenders and their supporters into submission. Yet the Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders have continued to resist and stand their ground.

Across so-called Canada, violent displacement for the profit and comfort of the rich is not new, but rather common practise. This summer in Toronto, encampments were demolished as the Toronto Police beat, pepper sprayed, arrested, and displaced the residents and their supporters. Encampments have been safe spaces for those who are unsheltered to build community and organize. The demolishing of the encampments was a clear message from the city – Toronto is for the rich, and those that challenge this notion will face violence at the hands of the state.

Our solidarity also extends internationally to comrades who are resisting colonialism. In Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, Palestinians have been defending their land against Israel’s attempts to remove them. In Tamil Eelam, Tamils have been resisting Sinhla occupation and the take over of their lands. And in Colombia small scale farmers are fighting back as palm oil companies displace them.

Today as we arrive in Wet’suwet’en Territory, we join the Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders and demand an end to the CGL Pipeline and the state violence that accompanies it. As a coalition of organizers we are committed to decolonization in Tkaronto, across Turtle Island, and around the world.

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A Housing Platform for Poor and Working people

OCAP denounces all federal parties’ insufficient attempts at prioritizing ‘affordable’ housing in the upcoming election.

“Affordable” is a misnomer, it is weak-willed political jargon, intended to be vague. What we need is more not-for-profit housing: safe, quality social housing, a serious investment in the housing co-operative model, and the deprivatization of long-term care. We need housing designed for people, not profit.

Housing has been an issue for poor people for decades. As federal parties unveil a platform mainly supportive to help middle-income earners, it is obvious that poor and working people’s needs are not anywhere in mind. Most of the platform points from all major political parties focus on homeownership, once again leaving renters, under-housed, and unhoused persons out of the conversation.

Accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, there are hundreds of thousands of people at risk of being evicted and forced onto the streets. No federal party makes mention of any solution to this. Instead, all parties offer too little, too late, and fail across the board to center those in dire need. After years of neglect from all levels of government, we need emergency action, that prioritizes a safe place to live for every member of the country, including migrants and undocumented peoples.

This housing crisis has been manufactured by developers and governments who have, by design, allowed the slow supply of specific types of housing, and sustained a bubble of prices that only top income earners can perforate. Since 1993, the federal government has stopped investing in social housing across Canada. What we see today is the effects of a long-term and calculated effort to neglect and invisibilize our most vulnerable, consolidate profits into developer’s hands, and further the neoliberal agenda.

Condominium developers continue to run amok, while other models of housing are forgotten. Greedy landlords and real estate developers continue to profit at the expense of poor and working people simply needing a place to live. Shame on the federal government for allowing this crisis to happen in the first place and shame on their lack of action now.

We are in unprecedented times, with hundreds of thousands of people across the country behind in rent and eligible for eviction. Our shelter systems are full and overcrowded. After being sued, the government was forced to look to hotels and other interim solutions in response to the pandemic. We have thousands of people living in encampments across the country, being forcefully and violently evicted by police, with nowhere else to go.

The population in shelters is increasingly made up of migrants left without status due to huge problems based on race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability in Canada’s immigration system. This population has special needs, none of which are even touched on in any of the platforms.

The housing platforms of all major political parties fall grossly short of the change that is needed to support the right to housing.

Our governments at all levels are complicit in this crisis, and we demand long-term sustainable solutions that secure the right to housing for people at all income levels.

Our Housing Platform Demands:

  • A commitment to 1 million new social housing units, nationwide, to be built by 2025
  • An ongoing funding commitment to municipalities comparable to rates adjusted for inflation before funding cuts in 1993 for the maintenance and creation of social housing going forward
  • The facilitation of new housing cooperatives in every city, in the amount to house all those waitlisted and meet ongoing demand by 2026
  • An increase in taxes for those who own more than two properties
  • A 20% vacancy tax for empty and unused properties for up to 3 years
  • The expropriation of empty and unused buildings sitting for over 3 years to create more not-for-profit housing options
  • Stronger policies that support the rights of tenants, including rent forgiveness for pandemic arrears
  • Redefine the term “Affordable” to reflect deeply affordable housing based on income and not in contrast to market rent
  • Focus on shifting the financialization of property to providing housing for all who require shelter
  • End the for-profit model for long-term care facilities and ensure dignified and safe housing for all, at every stage of life.

OCAP Statement regarding Encampment Clearing at Trinity Bellwoods

OCAP Denounces the Repressive Violence in Clearing Unhoused People from Trinity Bellwoods Park

June 22, 2021
On the morning of June 22, 2021, hundreds of Toronto Police Service officers (TPS) and privately contracted security officers descended on Trinity Bellwoods Park to remove houseless people living in tents with tenuous promises of shelter or by force if necessary. Residents of Toronto mobilized to prevent the unnecessary and heartless removal of those residing in the park without any other safe place to live. Police erected fencing around the perimeter of the park, boxing in residents and supporters, effectively “kettling” those in attendance and preventing further supporters from entering the area.
This was a planned coordination of excessive force on the part of the City of Toronto (CoT) and the TPS to demonstrate power and intimidate residents and supporters. The police used escalation tactics, threatened fines, arrests, and the removal of residents and supporters. Resources were at no shortage to the TPS as hundreds of mounted police, plain clothes officers, riot cops and corporate security were present to control the movement of 20-25 encampment residents.
Under the guise of “restoring” the park, the City of Toronto is faking concern for encampment residents by spreading misleading and unfounded anxiety such as “fire risks” and other threats to safety which could be mitigated by working with those living in encampments rather than by forceful evictions. The more likely motivation for displacing encampment residents who are seeking safe alternatives to the unsafe and overcrowded shelter system is to remove the visibility of poverty from increasingly gentrified neighbourhoods for the perceived comfort of those living in nearby luxury condo developments.
The show of force by the city in the effort to remove unhoused people from the only safe refuge they have found in the midst of a pandemic, as the housing crisis is not only unacceptable and callous but gravely contradicts public health standards. Displacing people while offering no true alternatives is cruel, traumatizing, and unnecessary. The tactics being used by the city and its police forces are not a solution to the issues that create these encampments and only serve to dehumanize residents and protestors alike. The city of Toronto must stop these violent and unwarranted evictions and focus on true solutions and alternatives in regards to safety and housing by working with the community rather than escalation of the ongoing war on the poor and unhoused. We applaud the resistance shown by the community, residents, and supporters, and condemn the predatory and discriminatory actions of TPS and CoT.
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)


Defund, Disarm the Police
Stop Greedy Landlords – put an end to evictions
Demand immediate increase in Rent Geared to Income Housing
Demand and Enforce “Use It or Lose It” policies and by-laws
Expropriate Land and Buildings left for-profit and speculation
Demand Safe Injection Spaces and Safe Drug Supply
Expand Drop-In and Health Services in Our Neighbourhoods.

OCAP Denounces Expanded Police Powers: Overreach of Police Enforcement Will Not Solve the COVID Crisis.

Although the province has partially walked back it’s statement on empowering police to perform “random” street checks under the new covid restrictions, police powers to stop and question individuals have still increased under the guise of suspicion of participation in an organized public event or social gathering.
Any increased powers afforded to the police will be utilized to further harass and intimidate targeted individuals and communities with sanctioned impunity.

Doug Ford’s incompetence and negligence has resulted in a catastrophic rise in cases of COVID-19 resulting in the unnecessary illness and death of thousands of Ontario residents. Yet, the Ford government is determined to continue placing profits before people while refusing to enact public health measures which could aid in the reduction of Covid transmission and infections.

What we are seeing is the cumulative results of the Ford government failing to listen to health professionals and take the correct action necessary to curb the spread. In light of losing control of the situation, the Ford government has created more anxiety and confusion in the public leading them to misplace their fear and anger on individuals, instead of the factories, essential businesses, and congregate settings where the infection continues to run rampant because employees cannot properly isolate or take time off because they lack life-saving benefits and sick pay.

Restricting the basic rights and freedoms of residents is not going to improve this situation, it will only make matters worse. Police do not make communities safer, they serve to criminalize the poor, racialized and otherwise vulnerable and marginalized communities, including creating increased fear for those forced to be out on the streets, in transit, or unable to stay in one place during this time. Communities do not need more policing, they need labour protections and safe and adequate housing.

In order to avoid the inevitable abuse of police powers under the recent expansion of pandemic restrictions, we demand the Ford government immediately:
Remove the expanded overreach of police authority to stop, question, or card individuals under the new lockdown restrictions, regardless of supposed discretionary suspicion
Reallocate police resources to health and social services overburdened by the explosion of COVID cases
Implement permanent, seamless employer and provincially paid sick days for essential and vulnerable workers
Improve equitable vaccination availability and access in high-risk communities, including non status migrant and homeless populations

It is impossible to police ourselves out of this pandemic. Increasing punitive measures onto vulnerable and marginalized people will do nothing to improve public health outcomes. Shifting responsibility onto individuals without giving the necessary supports to follow public health guidelines is callous and offensive. The blame for the current state of public health lays firmly at the feet of the Ford government, not the people of Ontario.


Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
April 19, 2021

National Housing Day 2020: A crisis like we have never seen, housing is a public health emergency 

As we approach National Housing Day on November 22nd, the shelter and housing crisis in our City is unlike anything we have ever seen before. 

COVID-19 has amplified this crisis as more people lose income and struggle to survive. The provincial and municipal governments refuse to institute a moratorium on evictions, paving the way for new waves of evictions. Shelters are full, and remain sites of fear for a perfect storm for COVID transmission as conditions do not allow for distancing or enough personal space. Encampments have grown in every park across the city, and communities of people in tents are staring down the approaching cold weather with no real alternatives. All levels of government have failed miserably to house people. We see drops in the bucket, tiny Bandaids on a giant wound. The City of Toronto recently opened up the Better Living Centre as a respite site, complete with dystopian cell-like glass cubes  – no privacy, no respect for the dignity of poor people in our city, no offer of one person one room, nor enough beds for everyone who needs them right now. 

Overdose deaths have nearly doubled since last year. Doubled. We are seeing the collision of the housing/shelter crisis with an overdose crisis and the results are catastrophic. Communities are losing people – loved ones, friends – at a shocking and horrific rate. This grief and trauma cannot be measured. 

We need housing and we need it now. Not trickled down half measures, but bold, determined, full access – HOUSING. Immediately. 

In the spring we fought for access to hotels and housing as an alternative to overcrowded shelters. We won some spaces in hotels, but that has proved to be, once again, a drop in the bucket, and with a dangerous lack of adequate harm reduction supports on-site. A few weeks ago we marched again on 214-230 Sherbourne, an empty property and abandoned building in the middle of one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, to demand it be expropriated and immediately converted to housing, which the city had promised to do. 

As we head into another winter. As COVID-19 cases rise dramatically, it feels like entire communities are left on deflating lifeboats. Who will get a chance to survive?

Today, we renew our support for the 6 Demands for Immediate Action created by Encampment Support Network:

  1. Invest in actually affordable housing Obtain vacant buildings to convert into housing. Create 10, 000 units of rent-geared to income housing in the next 24 months 
  2. Immediately enforce an eviction moratorium
  3. Immediately end the criminalization of encampments and issue a moratorium on clearing encampments: No one should be ticketed or harassed by police or security for living in the park
  4. All shelter and supportive housing sites must be user-friendly and include robust overdose prevention and harm reduction services as well as robust covid safety measures 
  5. Until there is enough permanent, safe, dignified, and affordable housing, immediately ensure enough emergency shelters (with COVID safety measures). That means 2000 more rooms before winter comes
  6.  Immediately provide winter survival gear for those in encampments, including fire safety gear, sleeping bags, access to food and water, winter clothing, and heaters.

Many people across Toronto and beyond are organizing and resisting – from supporting the encampments to blocking evictions – poor and working-class people who are defending themselves, supporting each other, and organizing. 

In the same way, there can be no half-measures from the government, there can be no half-measures in our organizing as we fight for what poor and working-class people need to survive in this critical moment. If you are not already in the struggle – join it. Join a neighbourhood anti-eviction committee with Parkdale Organize or People’s Defence, join the Encampment Support Network, join Jane Finch Action Against Poverty, join OCAP, or fight where you are. Let’s work together, let’s organize, let’s win. 

 

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty 

November 22, 2020

OCAP Supports the AIR-Encampment

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty condemns any attempts or threats to forcibly remove encampments of people from Nathan Philips Square. Since June 19, the Afro-Indigenous Rising Collective and supporters have been peacefully protesting in place at Nathan Philips Square against centuries of colonial and state condoned police violence against Indigenous and African-Canadian communities.

The City of Toronto is saying that the encampments are putting health and safety at risk when, in fact, police brutality against Black and Indigenous peoples puts their health, their safety, and their lives at risk every day.

At the same time, the City deliberately ignores the health and safety of hundreds of homeless people by putting their lives at risk in their refusal to provide safe environments, forcing them to live in crowded shelters where social distancing is impossible to achieve. The reality is that the City politicians and officials are refusing to acknowledge the protesters’ demands to defund/abolish police – demands echoed by thousands of people in anti-racism protests across the world following the murder of George Floyd in the US.

The continued existence of this encampment flies boldly in the face of the City’s efforts to ignore protesters demands. They are hoping that “out of sight-out of mind” will enable their efforts to ignore all demands to defund/abolish police. The City’s concerns that the square is a “public space” that should be shared by all, clearly denies the rights of protesters to share this space. The protesters have been ordered to take down their encampment or face charges of trespassing and $10,000 fines. OCAP supports the right of this Collective to camp in Nathan Phillips square without harassment or threats from the City of Toronto. We support their demands to defund the police and to redirect funds into communities.

Building Resistance in the Pandemic & Beyond

As an organization that has spent decades organizing against the agenda of austerity and the war on the poor in Ontario, OCAP is now trying to take stock of the incredible changes that have been set in motion by the pandemic and the unfolding economic slump it has set off.

This may only be the first wave of the coronavirus and there may be more lockdowns ahead of us. Huge numbers of people have been thrown out of work during the present lockdown but it is clear that many will not go back to work and that a period of mass unemployment is now underway. After the lockdown, hundreds of thousands of tenants will face the threat of eviction, the food banks will not be able to cope with the levels of hunger and the homeless crisis will intensify greatly.

We can also expect to see a huge assault on workers rights, an austerity driven attack on public services and an intensification of the threat of xenophobia and racism, both in the form of government policies and from the far right. Already we are seeing resistance on this front, as migrant sex workers organize against increased police powers, and migrants fight for access health care and benefits. Clearly, the pandemic has opened the door to an economic crisis of capitalism and to political attacks on a scale that can be compared to the Great Depression.

Even before the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis ignited an uprising in the US, along with a ‘defund the police’ movment, that has now spread to Canada, there was already resistance in the face of the pandemic. ‘Essential’ workers on the front lines have challenged unsafe conditions,with hundreds of work refusals in Ontario. Tenants have organized rent strikes and other actions. There has been determined community action to challenge the abandonment of homeless people as the coronavirus
spreads among them. However, it’s clear that we are up against a completely changed situation and that small scale and limited resistance will not be enough. A recent EKOS poll in Canada had 73% of those surveyed saying that they wanted to see “broad transformation of our society” and major social reforms that prioritize “health and well-being”after the pandemic lockdown. The failings of the austerity damaged healthcare system, the unforgivable loss of life in for profit care homes, the obviously disproportionate degree to which poor and racialized people have been impacted by COVID-19 have produced a widespread sense that things must change. After the lockdown ends and, in conditions of economic crisis, governments try to impose the burden on working class people, the possibility of mass social resistance will be very great. In OCAP, we think we need to start preparing for that changed situation now.

If the kind of fightback the unfolding situation requires is to emerge, it is going to have to come from the base in society. Workers and communities under attack are going to have to give the lead. The struggles for survival will require a deeply rooted level of solidarity and a high level of organization. How can we work to lay the foundations and begin to take the actions that can give a lead in this?

OCAP is interested in hearing from organizations and community members that share our sense that we need to prepare for huge struggles in the coming months. We would like to begin the discussions and create the spaces where we can take forward the task of organizing in the face of this unprecedented crisis. Please let us know if you are interested in being part of this.