During the COVID-19 crisis, our commitment to advocating for gender equity and justice is as strong as ever. The pandemic has dramatically highlighted the deep inequalities in our social, economic, and justice systems. As part of our efforts to transform these systems, we are amplifying calls to action from other organizations and community groups. If you’re looking for ways to contribute during the pandemic, or just trying to stay up to date with what’s happening in our communities, here are some calls to action for you to consider.
- The HIV Justice Worldwide Steering Committee has an open letter urging leadership to recognize COVID-19 as a public health issue, not a criminal issue. Share widely!
- The BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors has four calls to action to urge the BC government to equitably protect the health of vulnerable people.
- PEERS Victoria is looking for people to join their letter writing campaign for economic justice for sex workers in COVID-19 response plans.
- Homes Not Hate is asking people to join their letterwriting squad to denormalize public poor-bashing and anti-homeless hate.
- Poverty Kills is asking people in Lkwungen Territory, (Victoria), be part of the redistribution of inequitably distributed resources, including access to money, supplies, information, and time/skills.
- Canadian Women's Foundation has written an open letter to the federal government asking for an intersectional feminist lens to the COVID-19 pandemic, to the emergency measures, and to the recovery.
- Migrant Workers Centre is calling on the government to create a permanent residency program for all migrant workers who provide essential services and work in jobs where there are labour shortages.
- The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition is urging people to email the Premier and Minister Simpson to take urgent action targeting low-income and homeless BC residents.
- The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition also has an open letter calling for immediate action to provide housing for people who are homeless or inadequately housed in BC, and to reduce the threat posed by COVID-19.
- Groups across the lower mainland are calling for accountability from the Greater Vancouver Food Bank for their practices that have created unnecessary barriers to receiving food supports. You can sign on to the accountability letter to the GVFB.
- The Carnegie Community Action Project is asking for supporters to sign their petition to prioritize a COVID-19 protection plan for the homeless.
- The Union of BC Indian Chiefs has an open letter calling for an inter-jurisdiction approach to homelessness, with a focus on the densely populated Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.
- Migrant Rights Network has a petition calling for supports for migrant students.
- Migrant Rights Network also has a petition asking that no one be left behind in the response to COVID-19, regardless of immigration status.
- WISH Drop-In Centre has launched the Courage Campaign, which includes four strategies to support women working in the street-based sex trade.
- The BC Persons with Disabilities COVID-19 Committee has a petition to end clawbacks of financial supports.
- The Women's National Housing & Homelessness Network has a call for all levels of government to implement a gender-informed response to COVID-19 that recognizes the women, girls, and gender-diverse people who are homeless, vulnerable, or facing violence.
- Women Transforming Cities has written an open letter to Vancouver's City Council to ask that efforts continue to apply a gendered intersectional framework for the benefit of all.
- Save Translink Coalition is asking people to call on the federal government to provide emergency funding to maintain essential transit service for essential workers as well as for members of the community who rely on transit service to meet their daily needs.
- leadnow.ca has a petition to close industrial camps, also called man camps, which increase the risk of COVID-19 and gender-based violence, particularly for Indigenous communities.
- Canadian Women's Foundation is spreading the word about a signal for help that can be used on video calls when someone is unsafe.
- YWCA Canada is calling for a feminist approach to COVID-19.
- BCCLA is calling for a Coroner's Inquest into the death of a person who was incarcerated at a Federal institution in Mission.
- Demand Prisons Change is asking people to boost the five demands for decarceration by emailing or calling your representatives and demand action now.
- The Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project has released an open letter you can sign on, to highlighting the unsanitary conditions, close quarters, and frequent physical contact in Canadian prisons, as well as the underlying chronic health conditions of many detained people
- Prisoners’ Legal Services in BC has put together an open letter from concerned health-care providers calling on federal, provincial, and territorial governments to depopulate Canada’s prisons and jails to protect our communities from COVID-19. If you are a health-care provider, please consider adding your name to PLS’s open letter.
- The Prisoners' Rights Project and Criminalization and Punishment Education Project have organized weekly "email zaps" focusing on the human rights of prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Union of BC Indian Chiefs has an open letter calling for government to take action on the life-threatening over-incarceration of Indigenous people during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Fostering Change is asking for supporters to sign their petition to make sure no youth falls through service gaps in this pandemic.
- Child Care Now is calling for support for their plan to save child care from COVID-19.
COVID-19 Activism in the Spotlight
May 8 – Supporting Sex Workers
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the needs of many communities who experience systemic marginalization are significant. This is certainly true for sex workers, who are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and who face heightened risks during this time.
Many sex workers have experienced an abrupt loss of income, yet they are unable to access government financial supports and income replacement like the CERB and provincial income supports. Those who are able to work—or who have no choice but to work—report limitations in their ability to negotiate wages, reduced autonomy and agency and, as a result, increased violence, as well. Trans and racialized women make up a large percentage of people engaging in sex work and face further stigma and harm during this public health crisis.
Closures and changes in services and programs mean that many sex workers are unable to access housing and other amenities they need to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy. The ability to socially distance and self-isolate is not accessible to all groups equally.
Frontline community organizations that provide support to sex workers have called on the government to provide cash-based support and make efforts to reach those who may not have identification, employment records, or bank accounts but are in critical need of financial support.
Sex workers cannot be left out of government responses to this pandemic and need immediate supports.
April 25 – Decarceration
The ability to quarantine is a privilege many people do not have. This is especially true for those who are caught in the prison system during this pandemic.
Many people in Canadian prisons live in close proximity to others and often have pre-existing health conditions. Despite the heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 and dying from this disease, people in prison have mostly been left out of the provincial and federal public health responses.
As anticipated by grassroots groups, there have now been multiple reported COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons across the country. These community advocates continue to call on the governments to take immediate action to protect people in prisons. Protections should include the depopulation of prisons and the release of prisoners wherever possible. For those who cannot be released, activists have called for basic protections, including free soap, personal protective equipment, and cleaning supplies.
The lack of government action is particularly concerning given the close links between marginalization and incarceration. Not only are Indigenous women vastly overrepresented in prison populations, but racialized, trans, and gender non-binary people are far more likely to experience harm from poor prison conditions. These harms include violence, harassment, and a lack of access to health care.