The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified deep structural inequalities in our society: the increase in precarious work affecting youth, women and racialized workers; the lack of affordable housing and drinkable water in Indigenous communities; and the privatization and deterioration of eldercare, to name but a few. PSAC and our Social Justice Fund (SJF) are faced with enormous challenges to address these issues.
Government assistance packages—both in Canada and internationally—have overlooked some of the most pressing needs of vulnerable communities. In response, the SJF Steering Committee created a COVID-19 Emergency and Recovery Fund. It is working closely with allies and communities to expand existing programs or identify new directions that the SJF has not considered before, both here in Canada and internationally.
During the first wave, the SJF provided support to several national efforts, such as Canada Without Poverty’s Pandemic Watch, the Dignity for All campaign Chew on This, the newly formed Network on the Right to Housing, and the campaign to prevent further COVID-19 evictions organized by ACORN in cities across the country.
Our response in Canada also included targeted local initiatives, such as:
- Contributions to the Abluqta Society foodbank in Baker Lake, Nunavut, which has been overwhelmed by demand because of a mine closure and underemployment due to COVID-19.
- The distribution of food boxes, personal protective equipment, information sessions and legal support for migrant farms workers in Southern Ontario through Justicia for Migrant Workers.
- Support for the Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre to transition from an entirely in-person social service to one that offers programs virtually.
Internationally, SJF-supported organizations in Columbia and Guatemala face very difficult challenges to keep their unions and communities safe, keep food and health resources available, maintain clean water and hygiene in refugee camps, and keep their social networks alive while maintaining their struggles in defense of their land and environment. All the organizations are involved in on-going community defense struggles, even as they respond to COVID-19.