It’s beautiful outside, and I for one, am thankful for that. It does seem that most people are relaxing a little (or a lot) when it comes to their level of Covid caution, and there are many reasons for this, including the need to shed a long, hard winter of discontent, bad government-fatigue, uncertainty-fatigue, and straight-up pandemic-fatigue. I’m not immune to this tendency toward being less tense about it, but the fact remains that distinctions between relaxed, careful, careless, and reckless do exist. Many of us have some idea what these are, instinctually.
Yesterday our province reported an increase of 720 cases and 82 deaths since the day before. Obvious: this is still WAY too high. It’s hard to argue that this is a ‘reasonable’ number and that cases have gone down enough to begin reopening even MORE than we have, but, of course, that’s exactly what team Legault is up to. I have found it difficult to listen to Legault call it a ‘good sign’ each time the numbers dip a little. As the death toll mounts, and human suffering in a thousand colourful forms continues to rise, that rainbow plastered on everyone’s windows looks sickening to me. I know hope is key–don’t get me wrong. But in Quebec, I feel that hope and denial have been severely blurred.
*Our ‘guardian angels’ are expected to be martyrs, it seems*
Speaking of a whole rainbow of suffering, Quebec’s asylum seekers make up a significant percentage of the people working long, hard hours in meat-packing plants, warehouses, and as ‘guardian angels’ in CHSLDs (low-paying, hard-to-fill jobs), many of them living in the poorest, most racialized, and therefore hardest hit areas. Some people from Montreal Nord actually commute to the bloody Townships to work as orderlies, for fuck’s sake, but aren’t even provided with daycare, or with covid testing in some cases (due to their status, and their lack of RAMQ card, respectively). Big surprise: the CAQ has voted against a motion to grant them permanent residence, even though all other parties have said they would support it. When asked why, all Legault’s done is completely avoid the question by spouting ignorant hate speech (IMO) that conflates « illegal » (note the major quotation marks) immigrants with asylum seekers, and has refused to budge on improving their status. Maybe he’s gambling, seeing if death and deportation can’t work hand-in-hand to create a Quebec for Quebecers? But not to worry–Legault made it clear (in response to this same question) that Deputy Health Minister Lionel Carmant (a black man) is « his good friend. »
If nothing else, the CAQ should be able to see that not providing essential daycare–for instance–to asylum seekers working on the frontlines will force them into more precarious positions whereby safety protocols must be tossed out the window in order to survive from hour to hour–which only worsens the spread of the virus. FYI, this is the same government that recently expressed ‘disappointment’ when nurses protested a lack of adequate protective equipment, inhumanely long shifts, and too many patients (that’s just scratching the surface, as you likely know).
*Race to race*
Interesting to note also that on May 6 Arruda said Quebec would be collecting Covid data on racial, socioeconomic, & ethnic backgrounds. Yet just yesterday the health ministry said they’re not doing it yet, and have no timeline in place for starting the process. Epidemiological ‘experts’ cited in The Gazette have brought up this idea that collecting such race-based data can actually fuel discrimination and unfair treatment based on false distinctions. I say that if/when that’s true, it’s a failing on the part of government/ policymakers/ health administrators. The information is not to be blamed. The information is one of the only ‘official’ ways Quebec’s horrific racial, economic (and therefore health) disparities can be more fully exposed, much as they have been in the US with similar info. But, as usual, PR and laziness override common sense and human decency.
*Swedish berries for all*
It’s clear to me that our government has no sense of collective wellbeing, nor do they have a basic sense of what might help curb the virus, like I dunno, not rushing full steam ahead as though Quebecers are god’s chosen rainbow people (in spite of people dying–every. single. day). They are apparently also refusing to learn lessons from other places, like Sweden, who has one of the highest death rates in Europe, and about 7% immunity, last I checked–much to the bewilderment of their epidemiologists, who advocated for a herd immunity approach, but some of whom are now changing the story somewhat, saying the only aim was to slow the virus, not create immunity–much like Quebec’s ever-changing narrative to justify an unchanging ‘plan.’ Not hearing anyone make those Quebec-Sweden comparisons anymore.
*Inner prison, outer prison*
For those of you following the situation with multiple outbreaks at Bordeaux prison, they had their first inmate death a couple days ago, a 72-year-old man. Horrific stories of inmate treatment have been coming out of Bordeaux via prison advocacy groups for weeks now–from forced lockdown measures that prevent people from even accessing a shower for weeks on end, to guards refusing to wear masks, and inmates being threatened with purposeful exposure to the virus. Since the pandemic started, Quebec’s Ligue des droits et libertés has been pushing for the release of at-risk inmates, including elderly people, pregnant women or anyone with underlying health conditions. Guess what? The CAQ ain’t having it. Minister of Public Security Geneviève Guilbault said efforts are in place to keep inmates safe and are going ‘relatively well.’ Ted Rutland, a member of Anti-Carceral Group points out that « four other provinces have released 25 to 45 per cent of their prison populations. Quebec refuses to take such steps, even as Quebec’s prisoners are the hardest-hit in the country, and 75 per cent of provincial prisoners are awaiting trial and could be released on bail. »
*The historical virus*
People from the Mohawk community of Kanesatake outside MTL are also demanding that authorities slow down the reopening. Community members are still (last I heard) blocking access to Oka provincial park, which was scheduled to partially reopen Wednesday morning–without community consultation, of course. Grand Chief Serge Simon has invoked the historical use of the virus as a weapon against Native communities, saying, « What’s almost always killed off First Nations historically is the virus, it’s not the gun or the sword so we’re asking people to stay away.” Add to this the fact that as a result of said history, Native communities today have higher percentages of people with pre-existing health issues, and people living in substandard and overcrowded housing–for starters. This means they’re more likely than others to experience ‘severe outcomes’ from Covid-19. The CAQ’s response? Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault has said, “We have to try to see how we can reassure them, and how we can come to a solution,” adding that prohibiting access to the park is not the answer. That’s that, then. From where I’m standing, our government has learnt nothing from its historical relations with First Nations. Hardly news.
The rest of the country (and indeed other parts of the world) are critical of the CAQ’s ‘approach’ (if it can be called that), and rightly so. Here’s our current calendar (Quebec favours calendars to strategies and tangible ways of measuring success or failure–in case you missed that):
-May 11: Construction & Manufacturing all over the province & elementary schools outside MTL all reopened. I haven’t heard any updates whatsoever on how this has gone–have you? Stories from construction sites, factories? I’ve heard about how safety protocols are impossible/challenging to follow in all of these settings, but nothing more. And as for schools, France saw 70 new cases just days after re-opening…maybe we’re just different.
-May 22 (that’s today!): Across the province (including MTL), outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people from 3 separate households are now allowed. What fascinating science. Unlike NB’s « 2-household bubble » strategy which pairs up households and doesn’t require social distancing within that group of people (because you don’t have contact with anyone else), Quebec has decided that it’s cool if you wanna meet 10 people from 3 different households in the morning, and 10 people from another 3 households in the afternoon–just keep that 2 meter distance going and all will be hunky dory.
-May 25: Retail stores and businesses across the province (including MTL) will reopen.
-June 1: Daycares across the province (including MTL) will reopen.
-June 22: Day camps across the province (including MTL) will reopen.
I can only assume that in typical CAQ fashion, any of these dates might get pushed (or not, depending on what Legault’s PR people whisper in his ear that day), when (not if) cases and deaths spike even higher.