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Return to “Normal” (8)   Leave a comment

The Pandemic Presents The Chance To End Homelessness In Canada For Good

It’s hard to social-distance at home if you don’t have a home.

 

There is a story about homelessness in HuffPost.ca that is part of After The Curve. This is an ongoing HuffPost Canada series that makes sense of how the COVID-19 crisis could change our country in the months and years ahead, and what opportunities exist to make Canada better. The story can be accessed at:

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/ending-homelessness-canada-covid19_ca_5ef388a3c5b615e5cd380bac

CHRIS YOUNG/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Doug Johnson Hatlem, a worker at The Sanctuary, a respite centre in Toronto, carries tents to be distributed to members of the homeless community on April 19 2020.

Housing is a human right! Now is the time to use our resources to make truly affordable housing available to everyone in our communities. Governments are demonstrating that there is no shortage of money, just a dearth of “political will”, or what used to be called “intestinal fortitude”.

Return to “Normal” (7)   Leave a comment

Is anyone still counting the number of days of “COVID Confinement”? Or, have you moved on to counting the number of weeks, or months?

With our attention currently focused on the pandemic, and systemic racism, the media and others seem to have forgotten that the Earth is concurrently in a climate crisis. Toronto author Tom Rand prefers to label this situation as a time of “climate disruption”[1].

Some aspects of our natural environment have improved while “the economy” has been operating in slow motion. Air quality has improved in many cities because people are driving and flying less; carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have not risen as much this year as in the past years; we hear the birds in the morning rather than traffic, and so on.

Many people are now looking forward to a “return to “normal”. Do you remember what “normal” was doing to the Earth’s environment?

  • A world of species extinction and hyper-consumerism

  • A world of an ever increasing disparity of wealth / equity / and racism

  • A world of the car culture and the combustion engine belching polluting gasses

  • A world of homelessness and lengthy lines at foodbanks

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BUT, we don’t have to return to that “normal”. We can work together to make a better world on three levels: personal, community, and as a society. Now is the opportunity to make a difference because change is in the air, and many people don’t want to return to the “old normal”. As Dr. Kwame McKenzie said in his blog, “Normal was the problem.”[2]

What would the “New Normal” look like? Some examples, for our consideration, are:

  • A society that puts people – and inclusion – first, recognizing our inter-relatedness with all people, and all of creation

  • A society that does not pay $40 Billion in annual subsidies to the fossil fuel industry

  • A society that retro-fits housing and other buildings to reduce their carbon footprint

  • A society that uses public street space for additional forms of transportation, such as buses, bicycles and pedestrians

  • A society with a progressive income tax system that includes meaningful taxes on wealth and the elimination of tax loopholes

As Gandhi said, “ Be the change you want to see in the world.”

My question is about how I make this “new normal” happen?

  • How do I want to live as a person of the Christian faith in the “New Normal” – both individually and as a part of my faith community?

  • How can I be effective in advocating for an economy that puts people before profit, and includes people of all cultures and skin colours?

  • How will I live with respect for other people, and the Earth, in the “New Normal”?

  • How will I seek justice for the Earth and its people, love kindness, and walk humbly with the Creator?

“The next few months are precious. Things have changed quickly.

We can imagine the “New Normal”. Naomi Klein

[1]Tom Rand, The Case for Climate Capitalism, ECW Press, 2020

[2]https://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/healthy-communities/the-new-normal-moving-from-surviving-to-thriving/

Return to “Normal” (6)   Leave a comment

 Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The Day After: Animals

The Day After: Animals marks the first installment in an ongoing curated series from Canadian Dimension that asks contributors to imagine the perils and possibilities that will ground our collective response to or emergence from the COVID-19 crisis.

Canadian Dimension will ask Canada’s leading scholars to respond to questions of human-environment relations to consider our post-COVID future:

  • What opportunities make you hopeful and what risks do you see at the human-nature interface?

  • How can we build an ethic of care for socioecological systems?

For the first in this series that contemplates a new “normal”, go to: https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/the-day-after-animals

Return to “Normal” (5)   Leave a comment

Post-pandemic, “normal” can mean a just society for all people in Canada. We now have the opportunity to establish a society where class privileges are eliminated. this is a core teaching of the Christian religious tradition.

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“As Christians, we believe that being created in the image of God establishes for the individual equal rights to all of the necessities of life:

  • a home

  • food

  • clothing

  • and an opportunity to fulfill oneself in a job.”

Rt. Rev/ Dennis Drainville

 

 

The Anthropocene   Leave a comment

“In our new and powerful role over the planet, we have now become capable of engineering our own demise.”

“I feel the urgency to make people aware of important things that are at stake. By describing the problem vividly, by being revelatory and not accusatory, we can help to cultivate a broader conversation about viable solutions, inspiring today’s generation to carry the momentum of this discussion forward, so that succeeding generations may continue experiencing the wonder and magic of planet Earth.”

Edward Burtynsky in Earth 2020: An Insider’s Guide to a Rapidly Changing Planet, p. 115

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Return to “Normal” (4)   Leave a comment

Dr. Kwame McKenzie dreads returning to “normal”. In his view, the old “normal” wasn’t working for the majority of people.

In this blog posting on the Wellesley Institute website, Dr. McKenzie writes about what the old “normal” looked like; and proposes a vision of how a new “normal” could benefit the majority of people by taking care of the common good.

A new normal

Kwame McKenzie – May 13, 2020

I am told that we are preparing to slowly get back to normal. That fills me with dread.

I remember normal.

Normal was when Ontario had its highest ever GDP per capita, but at least 350,000 people used food banks and social assistance rates were so low that those considered too sick to work were living in poverty.

Normal meant a business model where many jobs were precarious, had no pension or benefits and the provincial government thought that $15 an hour and paid sick days were an unreasonable burden for employers. It was where young adults earned less than they did 40 years ago and GTA immigrants had not had a pay increase for 35 years.

Normal was a real estate market so out of control that the average family could not afford to buy a Toronto condo. It was when the majority of long-term care homes were private, for-profit and the provincial government had scaled back inspections.

It was when Ontario was the second lowest spender on health in Canada and our health services were cut back so far that people were dying in hallways. Health service workers could not have a cost of living increase and public health was to be cut by 10% provincially and 20% in Toronto.

Normal was when we spent 30% less on mental health than recommended leaving services for people with serious mental illness underfunded. It was when the target of ending homelessness by 2025 had been shelved.

Normal was the problem.

It allowed government to put industry’s interests ahead of the people. It made it acceptable to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. It was bad for our health.

It increased the rates of chronic disease and slowed our gains in life expectancy. It led to 20 years difference in life span between rich and poor in some Cities. It led to indigenous and racial disparities in health, social care and policing. It left workers with fewer protections and produced epidemics of loneliness and mental health problems.

It left us more vulnerable to COVID-19.

It left families overcrowded and unable to physically distance. It left personal support workers underpaid, undervalued and resigning in droves and our long-term care homes understaffed and vulnerable. It allowed COVID-19 to prey on our elders.

It left us with so little hospital capacity that we had to develop new, poorer quality alternatives. It may decrease COVID-19 survival rates.

It left our public health system weaker, demoralized, and with the lowest rates of COVID-19 testing in Canada.

It led to people with serious mental illness swelling the numbers of homeless, or living in shared rooms separated only by a curtain, and it led to homeless shelters resembling refugee camps with just 2.5 feet between beds. It led to COVID-19 outbreaks.

I do not want to go back to that normal. It was wrong, and it will delay our recovery and have a huge economic impact. The truth is it was not normal at all and it reversed the gains we have made over the last 40 years.

We need a new normal.

A new normal where we put people first – not say we will and then do the opposite. A new normal which aims to increase affordability, equity and inclusion. A new normal where people thrive, rather than just survive.

This means we need: good jobs, employment rights and wages which ensure that people thrive; a revitalized benefits system based on a universal basic income which ensures that we never again allow people to live in government sponsored poverty; and, a housing strategy that makes homes affordable.

We need to: right-size our health and social services sector; look at how B.C. is improving standards for long-term care homes; and, reconsider the shelter system and find homes for the homeless.

We need to do this to honour the people who have died because of COVID-19, those who will die because they do not receive proper care, and the families who have not been able to properly grieve. We need to honour the essential workers who have put themselves and their families at risk, the employers who have lost their livelihood, the people who have lost their jobs and the students who have had their education disrupted.

If we just go back to normal we are disrespecting these sacrifices, we are ignoring what COVID-19 has taught us, and we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to the next pandemic.

A Return to “Normal”? (3)   1 comment

IMG_1262During COVID-10 Confinement:    by Allan Baker

In this time of COVID confinement

when we are all in this together

as children of a loving God;

we are showing each other

 that the power of love

is everywhere on Planet Earth.

Love is pervasive, and invasive.

Love is strong, patient, and kind;

not insisting on its own way

but accepting that there are many pathways through life.

So, as we long to return to “normal”

we are learning to give, and to receive;

sharing love and kindness; friendship and connection,

and learning to use these life-giving gifts

to affirm the goodness of people, and of creation.

May it continue to be so.

Posted April 29, 2020 by allanbaker in Canadian society, Inspiration

Tagged with , , ,

A Return to “Normal”?(3)   Leave a comment

 

Toward a More Caring Society: Practicing Empathy During a Pandemic

by: Amanda Harvey-Sánchez

In a society plagued by the logic of neoliberalism, which encourages a turn towards individual interests and an “every person for themselves” mentality, acts of empathy and collective action may seem rare. But mutual aid also demonstrates how collective interests and a capacity for empathy have not entirely disappeared, and we may still have an opportunity to build upon these promising actions.

More on empathy at: https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/toward-a-more-caring-society-practicing-empathy-during-a-pandemic

 

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A Return to “Normal”? (2)   Leave a comment

Rejecting the death instinct in a pandemic age:

by Matthew Behrens, April 21, 2020

Image: Amanda Slater/Flickr

Matthew Behrens has shared his thoughts on what we choose to happen as we “return to normal” after COVID-19. He begins by writing that:

“The ongoing pandemic epoch has exposed a clear duality marked both by increasingly obvious and blatant inequalities, hypocrisies and systemic failures as well as beautiful, loving and creative responses in the form of mutual aid communities and direct action to save lives.

What happens when — or if — this epoch comes to an end is anybody’s guess, but there are clearly two paths forward, with a thankfully growing consciousness developed long before COVID-19 that our present path is one leading directly to disaster. Indeed, the 24-hour news cycle dominated by masked faces, hospital images and infection charts has almost obliterated from memory everything from January’s apocalyptic Australian brush fire scenes that served as yet one more warning about planetary peril to the grotesque armed invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory by paramilitary RCMP units.”

 

Which path will we, individually and as a society, choose to follow? The whole of Matthew’s article can be found at:

https://rabble.ca/columnists/2020/04/rejecting-death-instinct-pandemic-age

 

 

 

A Return to “Normal”?   Leave a comment

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Photo: Allan Baker – Lake Ontario beach at Morningside Creek

Do we really want to return to “normal” as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides? Is a return to “normal” in the best interest of humanity, or Planet Earth?

Yes, there’s plenty about this time of COVID confinement that I do not enjoy, and in my heart I wish that “social distancing” were over with, for example. However, what was “normal” before this time? Was it all-good? What would we have changed about life to make it richer and more meaning-full for ourselves and people in our communities?

Thanks to Prof. Dennis Bartels, I have set up a small chart of SOME of the differences that we are currently (April 2020) experiencing:

Before COVID -19                                             During COVID-19

Concern for gov’t DEBT                              No limits on gov’t spending

Opposition to carbon tax                           Environmental issues fade

Housing the homeless is an                      People without homes are being housed in hotels,

Intractable problem, cannot                    new shelters set up.

be solved, just tolerated                           Concern that “they” may infect “the rest of us”

Underfunding of daycare                         Gov’t establishes FREE daycare

                                                                          for children of “Essential” folks

As André Picard, the health reporter for Toronto’s Globe & Mail says: The big unknown question is, are we going to learn lessons from this? Or are we just going to go back to what we did before? ….I think there’s some real opportunities here to do things differently. I hope the bright side of this is that we really do take advantage of this crisis to do bold things and not just go back to the safe, not very effective way of doing health and social services.”

 What we are seeing during this pandemic are acts of kindness, and love for other people who are all part of our human family.

I’ll conclude with a quote from Bill McKibben, who wrote this in the May, 2020 edition of Sojourners Magazine: The day will come when we can easily return to church, to the store, to the hairdresser – for that we will be able to thank the scientists, and the brave doctors and nurses, who did what they had to do during this emergency. But their courage will have been wasted if nothing deeper changes in how we treat one another and the planet.”

Let’s not “waste” this opportunity.