Community in action: Ways you can support our most marginalized communities during Covid-19
In these times of uncertainty where events are rapidly unfolding, it is hard not to feel overwhelmed and daunted by the challenges we must confront.
Like many of you, West Coast LEAF’s staff team is in our fifth week of working remotely and maintaining social and physical distance to quell the spread of COVID-19. We are thinking of you – supporters, donors, community members, and friends of the organization. We hope that wherever you are, you and your loved ones are safe, healthy, and supported.
We are awed by the many organizations, community groups, and determined individuals who are mobilizing to provide direct services for those most vulnerable in our communities.
While we’ve had to change how we do our work, our commitment to advocating for gender equity and justice is as strong as ever. This crisis has put into stark relief the systemic and structural inequities in our social, economic, and justice sectors. Our work to make society equitable for all women and all those who are marginalized on the basis of gender remains vital to meeting the challenges ahead.
We are awed by the many organizations, community groups, and determined individuals who are mobilizing to provide direct services for those most vulnerable in our communities. To amplify their efforts, we’ve put together a list of some of the calls for support we’ve received from our community partners over the past few weeks. If you’re looking for ways to support, or just trying to stay up to date with what’s happening in our communities, here are some resources and calls for action to consider.
Economic and Food Security
The Migrant Rights Network is calling on federal, provincial, and municipal leaders to ensure worker and migrant justice is part of the COVID-19 response, including health care for all, worker protections, and an end to detentions and deportations. Sign the Migrant Rights Network’s petition and use their tool to call members of the government. Sanctuary Health is seeking donations of money or food to ensure that migrant communities in Vancouver can afford to pay rent, their bills, and put food on their tables.
Criminalization and Detention
While deportations have been halted, the government has yet to address immigration detention, where migrants are being held in confined spaces with no ability to self-isolate. Thirty-four detainees at Laval Immigration Centre in Quebec are asking for public support in their call for the release of everyone who is currently detained.
Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project has released an open letter highlighting the unsanitary conditions, close quarters, and frequent physical contact in Canadian prisons, as well as the underlying chronic health conditions of many detained people. Sign on to TPRP’s call to action here to call on the government to reduce the number of people in prison, jails, and detention centres. Similarly, UBCIC is demanding the immediate release of all non-violent offenders as part of the COVID-19 pandemic response, highlighting the high and increasing rates of Indigenous incarceration. And the HIV Justice Network is urging the government to consider communicable diseases as a public health issue, not a criminal issue.
Prisoners’ Legal Services in BC has put together an open letter from concerned health-care providers calling on federal, provincial, and territorial governments to depopulate Canada’s prisons and jails to protect our communities from COVID-19. If you are a health-care provider, please consider adding your name to PLS’s open letter here.
Families and Children
The Child Welfare League of Canada is calling for the immediate and indefinite, and additional supports for youth who have recently aged out of foster care. Fostering Change was also asking for supporters to sign their petition to make sure no youth falls through service gaps in this pandemic. The BC government recently responded with regulatory changes to expand supports.
A letter signed by organizations from across the lower mainland is calling on the Greater Vancouver Food Bank to roll back changes to its intake process that require new and existing clients to provide additional documentation to access food. Sign the letter to oppose these changes by the Food Bank here. In Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, organizations are coordinating their response to COVID-19 to ensure this unprecedented threat does not disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in our communities. DTES Response is asking for people to refrain from visiting the DTES area, to make a donation, and to sign up for their newsletter to hear about volunteer opportunities.
Homelessness and Harm Reduction
You can share this Vancouver (DTES focused) Emergency Food and Support Map, which is updated daily. BC Poverty Reduction Coalition is asking for people to use their tool to email the Premier, asking for urgent action to support low-income and homeless BC residents. The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition has put together a list of harm reduction and substance use resources during COVID-19.
Also, good news! You can still buy your copy of Megaphone from your local vendor. Use the Vendor Emergency Support fund to make a donation and get your digital magazine.
Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination
We know that communities need urgent support today and that the disproportionately gendered harms of this pandemic will be felt for months, years, and decades to come.
And if you need some personal emotional support, a group of 25 BC counsellors have come together to offer free short-term video/phone counselling for folks throughout BC. They are a network of private practice therapists and are best suited for clients who would benefit from two-to-three sessions (one per week) during these difficult times and do not have access to a regular counsellor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get connected to a counsellor.
We know that communities need urgent support today and that the disproportionately gendered harms of this pandemic will be felt for months, years, and decades to come. Systems we already knew to be insufficient to support the most marginalized members of our communities are clearly in need of meaningful transformation.
Especially in hard times, we must hold hope and space for solidarity and collective action. We are certain that we will come out the other side stronger and more resolved than ever to fight inequity and injustice – together. Stay safe and well!
Questions? Feedback? Blog[at]westcoastleaf.org