Hello everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of the AlmaMAC. I’m Adam and I am your producer this week. This week’s episode is a very special one. For one thing, it’s the triumphant return of Sawayra Owais as host of the AlmaMAC. For another, she speaks to a guest who studies some very important, very timely issues. I’d probably label them as crises really.
Rida is a Masters student at McMaster university. This week Sawayra talks to her about her research which includes assessing science policy decisions from a human rights perspective.
For example: stay at home restrictions and the homeless/unemployed, and child welfare affected by institutional racism.
As I was editing this episode, Rida and Sawayra touched on a few things I wasn’t aware of. In particular, this glaring statistic that the homeless in Ontario are 5x more likely to die from COVID-19 related complications. From the CBC article by Kate McGillivray posted on January 12 (a few days after this recording):
“Following nearly 30,000 people with a recent history of homelessness over a six-month period, the researchers found that they were more likely to become infected with the novel coronavirus, be hospitalized, experience complications, and die.
“Individuals recently homeless were over 20 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19, over 10 times more likely to receive intensive care, and they were over five times more likely to die within 21 days of a positive test,” said principal author Lucie Richard in an interview with CBC Toronto.
The study was conducted by the Lawson Research Institute and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), where Richard is a research analyst.
So, we knew the homeless population was one of the most at-risk populations, but I wasn’t aware how much worse things were. In particular, I was not surprised to see the infection rates were higher, but the difference in mortality rates was shocking.
This begs the question; with new lockdown restrictions in Ontario, what are we doing to help more at-risk populations?
Quebec and Ontario in particular have adopted curfews coupled with hefty fines to help slow the spread among citizens. But that only really makes sense when you have a home to go to.
Quebec has taken a frankly disgusting stance on this, issuing fines. From an article by Jacob Serebrin in the National Observer:
“”We can’t force people to go stay in a shelter,” Bacro said. “We’re talking about people, not objects that we can move from one place to another.” Fining homeless people, she said, won’t help anyone.
Montreal police spokeswoman Const. Annabelle Prato said police officers have been asked to use their judgment when dealing with homeless people who are outdoors after 8 p.m. In an email Wednesday, she said police are looking at the context of each situation and, when possible, helping homeless people access available resources.
Obviously this is not a solution, and advocacy groups are actively looking for ways to protect these people.
In Ontario, we lagged behind on the curfew and stay at home orders, but have recently taken up something similar. However, the Ford government added the clause, (3) This Order does not apply to individuals who are homeless.
Obviously that isn’t going to fix the huge difference in outcomes experienced by the homeless in our communities. Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is, this is totally out of my wheelhouse. But I will share some resources in the show notes for our Hamilton listeners. Maybe there is an initiative that you can help out with.
And for more on these issues, and what it looks like to study them at a graduate level, have a listen to Sawayra’s interview with McMaster Grad student, Rida.