Connect with us


Montreal advocates concerned new mask fines will target vulnerable communities



When the province started to see an uptick in cases earlier this month, the government announced it would crack down on those not following public health regulations by implementing hefty fines for not wearing a mask in indoor public spaces.

Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault repeated the importance of the fines in a news conference Friday.

“It’s important to have repressive measures and it’s important to have the means so that our police officers can give out tickets and fines, that they can intervene when people refuse to comply with public health measures,” said Guilbeault.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said that, while she does not want to see an increased police presence, it is a necessary step in controlling the pandemic.

“We don’t like seeing police officers intervene in the public sphere or even private sphere,” she said.

But, she said, the increased police presence in parks amid the first wave of COVID-19 worked.

Advocates working with Montreal’s homeless population and other marginalized groups, do not share that point of view.

When the province began ticketing people for non-compliance with physical distancing regulations last summer, Jessica Quijano, co-ordinator at the Native Women’s Shelter, said it created an extra layer of tension and trauma for Montreal’s homeless community.

“[The police] ticketed enormously for [not] social distancing,” said Quijano.

“We have an enormous amount of police ticketing and police violence downtown so I don’t think we can leave that to the discretion of the police officers, especially when we have all of the problems of racial profiling.”

Quijano is afraid those tensions will worsen now that police have another reason to issue fines.

Fines for not wearing a mask in indoor public spaces can range anywhere from $400 to $6,000 in Quebec.

Fines for not wearing a mask in indoor public spaces can range anywhere from $400 to $6,000 in Quebec. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

And with the cold weather approaching, those living in the streets of Montreal will soon be relying on public indoor spaces, such as shopping malls and metro stations, for comfort and safety.

While the clients she works with would like to wear a mask and may understand the importance of public health regulations, Quijano says some just don’t have that option.

Providing masks to vulnerable people

The Native Women’s Shelter tries to distribute as many free masks as possible, but with funds short, they tend to run out, leaving many without a mask or the resources to buy one.

“It would just make so much more sense that, for example, when they’re going to a mall, that the security guard were to just have some extra masks for someone who is homeless or struggling,” said Quijano.

“Instead of just sending police and ticketing them an enormous amount that they’re never going to be able to pay.”

Jessica Quijano, a co-ordinator at the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, would like to see the government invest in more awareness programs and masks for the homeless. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

Instead of giving more power to the police, Quijano would like to see the government and city hire more intervention workers who could facilitate mask distribution and education in vulnerable communities.

“I think that most people would comply. I think there’s very few people that are doing this intentionally. There are some, the anti-maskers, but that’s not the majority of people,” said Quijano.

Parallels with HIV/AIDS pandemic

Quijano said the current situation of policing is similar to what the city saw during the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the 1980s.

“The AIDS pandemic is a good example of criminalizing people with HIV — thinking that it would incite people to wear condoms and so forth — but we know that what works with people is prevention, education,” said Quijano.

Quijano isn’t the only one who drew a parallel with policing amid the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

In a report released by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association last June, research into government strategies during past pandemics, including HIV/AIDS, concluded that an educational approach was more effective in curbing the spread of infection than fines or criminal charges.

“There’s a disproportionate impact on certain populations that are often already sort of marginalized or otherwise vulnerable,” said Cara Zwibel, a lawyer and the director of the fundamental freedoms program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“It’s just easier for some populations to comply with those rules than it is for others and so we do have concerns about how it will affect communities, but also whether it’s effective in terms of achieving the public health goals that we want to achieve.”

Concern for people of colour

Fo Niemi, director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, does not believe Montreal police will be as understanding as they claim to be when handing out fines. (Sudha Krishnan/CBC)

Between Sept. 7 and 13, Montreal police issued only one fine for not wearing a mask on the metro, a spokesperson told CBC News earlier this week.

“Our officers prioritize an approach of public awareness and co-operation,” the SPVM said in a statement.

“They will first ask the offender to comply with sanitary regulations.”

Quebec City police also issued only one fine last weekend.

But Fo Niemi, director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, does not believe all officers will have the same tolerant approach.

“We’ve never seen it happen like that,” Niemi said.

“Despite the best intentions on the part of either the premier, the minister or even the police chief and police union, it’s not going to work that way, on the ground, in some neighbourhoods.”

Niemi said that, while this approach may work for some of the province’s — largely white — outlying regions, he is concerned about the impact it could have on Black people and people of colour in Montreal.

“We know that police officers are known to be biased towards certain groups in society,” he said.

Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


CBU to honour Donald Marshall Jr. with new research centre




A new research institute planned for Cape Breton University will honour the legacy of Donald Marshall Jr., who fought for the Indigenous right to fish for a moderate livelihood.

The Mi’kmaw man’s name has been invoked in recent weeks by Indigenous fishermen in southwest Nova Scotia who have launched self-regulated lobster fisheries. 

“I think it’s very timely in terms of the need for knowledge sharing, for advocacy and for action,” said Janice Tulk, a senior researcher in the university’s development department. 

The idea for the institute has been in the works for a couple of years, sparked by one of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which emphasized the need for education about Indigenous law and Indigenous rights.

Donald Marshall Jr. addresses a crowd in Sydney, N.S., after leading a peaceful protest over Indigenous fishing rights, on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2000. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

“We started thinking about what could we do at Cape Breton University that would respond to that call,” said Tulk, whose areas of expertise include Mi’kmaw history and culture, as well as Indigenous economic reconciliation.

Tulk said the university has partnered with Cape Breton’s Mi’kmaw communities over the past 40 years to provide higher education in a variety of fields, with the creation of Mi’kmaw studies programs, Mi’kmaw science programs and more recently, Indigenous business and mentorship programs. The university saw the research institute as a next opportunity, said Tulk.

‘I think it’s amazing’

Cape Breton University will work with members of the Marshall family over the coming months to solidify the vision for the institute.

“I think it’s amazing,” said Crystal Bernard, Donald Marshall Jr.’s daughter.

“We’re so humbled and honoured that they would do this for him, in his name. And I know he would be very proud, as well.”

The idea was made public Monday as the university unveiled plans for a proposed, $80-million Centre for Discovery and Innovation. The project has yet to receive funding, but should it go ahead, it will house the Marshall Institute.

“We need a space where community collaboration can occur,” said Tulk, noting the institute will proceed with or without the new building.

Janice Tulk’s expertise includes Mi’kmaw history and culture, as well as Indigenous tourism development and economic reconciliation. (

That collaboration will involve university researchers, faculty members and students, as well as community members and organizations such as the Bras d’Or Lakes Collaborative Environmental Planning Initiative and the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources, as well as various levels of government.

“I think we’re going to have some really valuable conversations that will advance our understanding of environmental justice and Indigenous approaches to climate change, and hopefully start to make some progress on those things through those dialogues, through advocacy, through policy change,” said Tulk.

Asked what role the institute might play in situations such as the current unrest over the Indigenous moderate livelihood fishery in Nova Scotia, Tulk said it would serve to help educate people about treaties and Indigenous rights.

“I would imagine that there would be advocacy as well,” said Tulk. “Certainly the institute could play a role in bringing stakeholders together to have honest conversations and collaboratively come up with solutions.”

Bernard said she believes her father would be disappointed by the ongoing situation in southwest Nova Scotia.

“I think it would be very upsetting to him that we’re having to go through this again,” she said.

“On the other hand, I think he’d be on the front lines, fighting with our people, trying to get people to understand that the treaty rights are not up for debate.”

Source link

Continue Reading


Calgary Catholic school increases safety precautions after district’s ‘explosion’ of COVID-19 cases




Just last week, the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the Calgary Catholic School District was in the low twenties. But over the weekend, there was an “explosion of cases,” which has led some schools to take drastic steps to prevent the spread of the virus.

Chief superintendent Bryan Szumlas says there are now 64 students and six teachers within the district who have active cases of COVID-19.

“Over the weekend, we saw an explosion of cases.… This is like a three times increase in the last five days. I believe this is what we’re seeing now as a result of the gatherings that happened over the Thanksgiving long weekend,” he said. “Within Calgary Catholic, we have 118 schools, and 35 of our schools right now are dealing with active cases of COVID-19.”

Szumlas said dealing with COVID-19 in schools is an always evolving situation.

“After a 14-day period, some of these schools come off the list where others go on the list. Since the beginning of the school year, it has been a roller-coaster of ups and downs,” he said.  “Right now, we are at a low point and we’re asking all of our parents and our students to please be vigilant and to continue to practise our health measures as we go forward.”

Szumlas said there were roughly 1,000 students in isolation last week, but since then that number has more than doubled, and there are now about 2,400 students and staff who are in self-isolation.  

“Now, that number may seem fairly large, but to put it in perspective, our school district has just over 56,000 students. So that’s roughly 3.5 to four per cent of our total population,” he said.

“Of course, it worries me, but I have a lot of faith that working together with our communities, that this is a little blip right now and we can, if we work together, we can change that curve and bring it down, if we’re all working together and continuing to practise our health measures.”

The recent surge in cases at Calgary Catholic has lead some schools like St. Francis High School to take a more severe approach to curbing cases within the school population. 

In a letter home to St. Francis parents on Monday, the principal announced that five families had received confirmation of a student testing positive for COVID-19, and thus 300 students and 12 staff were in isolation.

As a result of the rise in cases, St. Francis will end its fall athletic program.

“This is necessary to reduce staff and students potentially needing to self-isolate because of a positive COVID-19 case. The start of our winter athletic season will also be postponed until we see a drop in positive cases at Saint Francis,” wrote principal Mark Berger.

The school has also chosen to make final exams “write to improve” only (meaning a lower grade can’t bring down the student’s overall mark).

Szumlas said he supports these moves. 

“I do support what this principal and the school is doing. This is innovative, collaborative. They’re informing their parents. We stand behind this and it is part of the assessment practices,” he said. 

Berger’s letter also appealed to parents to not let teens gather on weekends.

“Some of the positive cases reported were associated with weekend student gatherings. We ask families to consider the potential negative impacts of group gatherings on our school community,” said Berger.

“We are asking parents to discuss with their children the importance of social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and the sharing of food and beverages.”

The Calgary Board of Education, since the beginning of the school year, has had 140 positive cases and 80-plus schools affected by them. 

In October, the CBE said 3,300 students and 325 staff members had been impacted by mandatory isolations. 

Of those attending CBE’s in-person learning, five per cent of students and 3.5 per cent of staff have been affected by required quaranties since September.

“To date, we have had six cases of suspected in-school transmission,” said CBE superintendent of school improvement, Joanne Pittman.

“What I would also say, though, is that even with that suspected in-school transmission, individuals who may have then tested positive have already been in quarantine, and as a result, additional actions were not required because of the safety precautions already put into place. “

CBE board chair Marilyn Dennis said parents should be encouraged by these numbers. 

“The fact that we have only 0.1 per cent of in-person students and .06 per cent of staff that have been identified with a positive case, I would think that would be very encouraging for families,” she said. 

“The strength of it is, No. 1, that we have strong compliance due to the protocols we put in place [and], No. 2, that we have been thorough in our response. We think we can be proud of the work that we’re doing in our schools to try and keep our communities healthy.”

Source link

Continue Reading


Corrections watchdog urges moratorium on doctor-assisted deaths in Canadian prisons – Kamloops This Week




Continue Reading