Plus de 300 interprètes ont été tués par les talibans, sans compter certaines de leur famille (http://www.afghaninterpreters.ca and https://nooneleft.org). Ce problème ne se résoudra certainement pas par lui-même. Un vétéran a même déclaré que “les talibans traversaient l’Afghanistan à la vitesse d’une voiture de sport modifiée tandis que les Forces canadiennes bougeaient à celle d’une Pinto prise en première vitesse”.
À chaque jour qui passe, il devient de plus en plus compliqué de porter secours à ceux·celles dans le besoin, mais il ne faut pas penser qu’il n’y a rien à faire pour atténuer les horreurs dont nous sommes partiellement coupables.
Nous avions plus de 5 mois pour agir. 5 mois que les Libéraux ont passés à réagir plutôt qu’à prendre des actions proactives. Ce qui se déroule est décourageant et, en raison de l’inaction du gouvernement, de nombreux Afghans sont décédés et ont été mis en danger.
Le Canada doit faire tout en son possible pour assurer la sécurité des femmes, des minorités et de ceux·celles qui ont aidé nos Forces armées. Il est primordial d’étendre nos opérations d’évacuation pendant qu’il est encore temps. Nous nous devons de protéger les droits des femmes et des minorités afghanes. Nous parlons ici des droits sociaux, politiques et éducatifs qui devraient être disponibles à tous et toutes. Ceci est une priorité et il est nécessaire que nous agissions de même.
Tout mon coeur et toutes mes pensées sont présentement avec le peuple afghan.
Over 300 interpreters have already been murdered by Taliban forces, some alongside their families (http://www.afghaninterpreters.ca and https://nooneleft.org). This problem is not going away on its own. One veteran stated that “the Taliban were moving across Afghanistan like a suped-up sports car, and the Canadian response was equivalent to a Pinto stuck in first gear”.
With each day that passes, it becomes harder to render rescue or aid, but there are still things left that we can do to mitigate the horrors that we had a hand in creating.
We have had more than five months to help these people, while the Liberals chose to take a reactive approach instead of taking proactive steps. This is a desperate situation where, through the government’s inaction, Afghanis have died and more are in danger.
Canada must do everything it can to ensure the safety of women, minorities, and those who helped our Armed Forces. We must expand our evacuation operations while there is still a window to do so. We must ensure that the rights of women and minorities in Afghanistan are upheld. These include social, political and educational rights for all. This is a priority, and we need to start acting like it.
My heart and thoughts are with the Afghan people.
Guaranteed Livable Income – Now is the time
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed long-enduring inequalities. Indigenous Peoples, women, people of colour, the economically disadvantaged, small businesses, and the elderly have all borne the brunt, while the rich get richer. The CERB briefly offered financial security for millions of Canadians and showed that a basic income is simple and possible. That scared Liberal and Conservative elites, because people with income security won’t accept precarious or exploitative jobs – this strengthens bargaining power for workers. So the Liberals axed it and are praying that people forget it.
Now is the time for the NDP to deliver a Guaranteed Livable Income for all Canadians. We can create a floor under everyone, ending poverty and homelessness, unleashing creative and entrepreneurial energies. It will pay for itself, by cutting red tape, allowing the government to tax back from those who don’t need it (without impacting their tax bracket), and saving billions in healthcare costs. As local NDP supporters Elaine Power and Jamie Swift wrote in the introduction to their recent book, The Case for Basic Income: Freedom, Security, Justice, it offers people freedom:
Freedom to say no to a job that is poorly paid, boring, or simply nasty. Freedom to work caring for a relative or friend. Freedom to exit an abusive relationship. Freedom to try something new, like a small business. Freedom to do socially and culturally vital work that is unpaid or underpaid.
A Guaranteed Livable Income can help provide security to workers who are subject to precarious employment. It will strengthen the Labour Movement, which is an essential force for good in our society. As the new ‘gig ’economy continues to evolve, wage and benefit provisions and labour laws must also be strengthened to adequately protect workers. Let me be very clear: a universal basic income goes hand in hand with disability supports, EI, and pensions. It does not replace these hard won benefits, but it will replace inadequate and sometimes demeaning welfare regimes, in collaboration with the provinces. We must also bolster and build other social programs such as National Childcare, Pharmacare and affordable, sustainable housing for all.
Democratic Innovations – Participation and Proportional Representation
Creating a floor under everyone with a Guaranteed Livable Income will also be a huge boost to our democracy. People will have more educational opportunities, and they will be freer to participate in democratic processes between and during elections. Most importantly, everyone will have a greater stake in society and more motivation to help shape our collective future in these challenging times.
Democracy needs another boost as well. Canada is long-overdue for a National Citizens’ Assembly on the design and implementation of proportional representation at the federal level. The Liberals broke their promise to take action on this, as I will remind voters at the doors, during the federal election to come. The NDP will support a national democractic process that digs deep into the pros and cons of various proportional models, used by most democracies around the world. We will bring in a system that ensures that the votes of all Canadians count!
A Guaranteed Livable Income and Proportional Representation are two great evolutions in our democratic way of life that will feed into other transformative responses to the climate crisis that we all face. We must set our sights higher, towards a hopeful future for ourselves, and the generations to come.
“The success of CERB is proof a universal basic income is doable and beneficial”. The Toronto Star, David Olive, June 24, 2021; https://www.thestar.com/business/opinion/2021/06/24/the-success-of-cerb-is-proof-a-universal-basic-income-is-doable-and-beneficial.html
The Case for Basic Income: Freedom, Security, Justice, Between the Lines, Elaine Power and Jamie Swift, 2021; https://btlbooks.com/book/the-case-for-basic-income
Basic Income Canada Network website: https://basicincomecanada.org
“The Liberals broke their promise on electoral reform. Will it hurt them in 2019?” The National Post, Joanna Smith, October 12, 2019; https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/election-2019/the-liberals-broke-their-promise-on-electoral-reform-will-it-hurt-them-in-2019
Fair Vote Canada website: https://www.fairvote.ca
This is the longest blog post I will write, because climate change is simply the greatest challenge facing humanity. It’s a game changer for us all. We must rise to the challenge and lead where other political parties have failed, with bold actions that will create hundreds of thousands of sustainable jobs, meet our emissions targets, and ensure social justice. A Just Recovery for All from Covid-19 is an opportunity to leap into the great transition to a post-carbon way of life.
The Science is Clear
Greenhouse gases (GHGs), like carbon dioxide, drive climate change by trapping heat in our atmosphere like a blanket. We need this blanket, or else the Earth would be an ice cube. But if we make the blanket too “thick”, by adding too many GHGs, we cook. These gases come from our dependence on fossil fuels burned for electricity, transportation, heating and manufacturing; cutting and burning forests; and from industrial agriculture (e.g. methane from factory-farmed animals).
Scientists agree: our current path leads towards 4०C average global warming, compared to pre-industrial levels, by 2100. We are already seeing the effects today of a 1०C increase. Brutal heat waves, fires, droughts, superstorms, floods, mudslides and the extinction of more and more species would become normal, as the heat rises. Polar and glacial melting would cause sea levels to rise by many meters, displacing hundreds of millions from coastlines and island nations. The farmers we depend upon would struggle to feed the world. The U.S. Pentagon warns that without serious action on climate, tens of millions of “climate refugees” would be displaced and more global conflicts would erupt.
We must get to net-zero emissions (i.e. any new GHGs added balanced by GHGs captured/taken out of the atmosphere) as quickly as humanly possible. We cannot do this alone. Canada and 190 other countries set goals for cutting GHGs fast enough to limit global average temperature rises to 2०C, and hopefully 1.5०C, in the 2015 Paris Agreement. That’s the upper-limit for a relatively stable planet. There will be hardships, but we can work to adapt.
Systems Change – 500,000 Climate Jobs in 5 Years
Climate change demands systems change. The NDP is the only party that truly brings together the social, economic and environmental justice movements. We are the only party with a long-history of fighting the profit-driven, short-sightedness of the oil-based economy that got us into this mess. As an environmentalist who came to the movement in the early-1990s fighting smokestack emissions, I can help the NDP tackle climate change in Ottawa.
We face stiff opposition. The corporations who gain the most from business-as-usual continue to resist climate action. The Liberal Party has bought a pipeline project with our tax dollars, and is a clear enabler of the fossil fuel sector. The NDP must lead the struggle for real climate action.
The great transition to a sustainable economy means countless new opportunities for meaningful work. The Federal government can leap into funding, training and purchasing. We can unleash the creativity of problem solvers across the land with start-up funds; help oil and gas tradespeople retrain for renewables and retrofits; spur well paid union jobs in manufacturing by ensuring that energy and infrastructure projects, as well as electric buses, trains and vehicles are “Made in Canada”, as much as possible.
We must also grow essential sectors that are already low-carbon, skill-intensive, and well paid. Let’s expand the diversity of important jobs caring for the physical and mental health and the lifelong learning of others. Let’s invest in eco-services from sustainable forest management and tree planting to green tourism; plus research and multimedia work to generate and spread the ideas driving the great transition.
- Renewable Energy Powers the Future: The NDP has committed to making Canada’s energy systems net-carbon free by 2030 and cutting all fossil fuels from electricity generation by 2050. That means solar, wind, geothermal, sustainable-hydro, power-storage and smart grids with community buy-in and benefits. We must eliminate Canada’s $3-4 billion annual oil and gas subsidies and shut down the Liberal’s multi-billion dollar pipeline project and reinvest this money in the transition.
- Net-zero Buildings and Resilient Infrastructure: Starting with social housing, homes and public spaces, the NDP will initiate the retrofitting of all buildings in Canada by 2040 by providing new incentives for more insulation, new windows, sealed doors, and heat-pumps. New builds should require net-zero construction and solar panels where appropriate, as part of a National Sustainable and Affordable Housing Strategy. From roads, ports and bridges, to flood and drought-prone regions, our infrastructure needs climate-ready resilience upgrades. These community-driven projects will create tens of thousands of jobs for decades to come.
- Electrified, Affordable Transit: The NDP aims to electrify public transit across Canada by 2030, and make it more affordable for all. The Windsor to Quebec City corridor, where almost half of Canadians live, needs a high-frequency, electric train. We will support rural bus routes and active transport infrastructure for cities striving to become more bikeable and walkable. An NDP-led transition to zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) by 2040 will be a huge opportunity for Ontario auto-workers and those installing rapid-charging stations across the country. The NDP has promised to waive federal taxes and provide incentives of up to $15,000 per family for a ZEV.
- Food can Fight Climate Change: Local organic agriculture can shrink the carbon footprint of our food, while protecting pollinators, diverse habitats and watersheds. We need an ambitious national shift away from industrial animal factories and monocultures towards diversified, local farm, food and seed systems, with less meat and more affordable, fresh foods. The federal government must also lead a restructuring to curb the massive amounts of food waste throughout our society.
- Accessible Funding: These rapid changes require funding support. The NDP has proposed a Canadian Climate Bank, plus funds for public research and development. A Guaranteed Livable Income will empower entrepreneurs to take risks and contribute. Transitional support via Employment Insurance, post-secondary education, job re-training and new business-start up loans will all be essential.
Like Covid-19, climate change hits marginalized communities hardest. It impacts people of colour, including Indigenous peoples, disproportionately – a trend described as ‘environmental racism’. We must listen to people in harm’s way first when making climate policy, and prioritize social justice at home and abroad when taking climate action.
- Ecological Democracy: Big changes require buy-in which comes from having a say. From the energy transition to transit renewal – these changes must be designed by everyone, for the benefit of everyone. We can deepen democracy via citizens assemblies, community boards, live public consultations, and digital outreach mobilizing the creativity of youth and all generations.
- Basic Needs: Sustainable housing, food, water, transport, education and healthcare are essentials that must be affordable and accessible to everyone. These are human rights. The great transition is an opportunity to remake our fundamental systems to help end homelessness; reduce poverty and inequality; make our air more breathable and our cities more livable, while prioritizing the voices and needs of the most vulnerable members of our society.
- International Leadership: Climate jobs and climate justice should drive foriegn policy. Canada must focus technology transfers, education and development funding on the great transition, including supporting the democratic institutions, such as the UN and civil society organizations, required for humanity to work together globally. We must strictly regulate Canadian oil, gas, mining and weapons corporations as well, as we seek to minimize the resource conflicts and climate migration to come. Canada needs more emergency assistance teams to help with extreme weather events at home and around the world, and an immigration policy that welcomes more “climate refugees”.
- Paying for the transition: Carbon Pricing on the things we make and buy requires Canadian companies and consumers to pay for the GHGs we release into the atmosphere. The revenues drive innovation, funding the transition and creating good union jobs. Lower income people, affected disproportionately, need a monthly carbon cashback, which will reduce inequality. Luxury taxes on carbon-intensive purchases, such as mega-homes, super-yachts and private jets, are also needed.
- Hitting our targets: The NDP has called for a new Climate Accountability Office. I want this office to audit not only how we’re doing on our Paris Agreement emissions targets, but also on the climate job and justice targets we set here in Canada. To meet these essential goals, we need carrots and sticks – both incentives and public accountability if we fall short.
For Generations to Come
We cannot fall short. Climate change is an existential challenge facing everyone, everywhere. No community or nation-state can go it alone. We need a federal government that fosters vision, commitment, innovation, democratic debate and cooperation. For real buy-in on all levels of society, we need climate justice.
It will not be easy. We must work across this country, and around the world, to heal the harms of the past and change our whole way of thinking about and relating to each other and the rest of nature. Let us follow the lead of Indigenous peoples in seeing that we are part of an interdependent creation, as some would say, or an interconnected planetary system, as others would prefer. Our differences matter, but we must bridge them across the Earth. Our only home. Now. So we can ensure a livable and peaceful world, for generations to come.
A Just Recovery for All, Council of Canadians website, 2021; https://canadians.org/justrecovery
IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, October 2018; https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/download/
All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change, Michael Klare, 2019; https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781627792486
The Paris Agreement, United Nations Climate Change webpage, 2021; https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement
Trans Mountain Pipeline, The Narwhal, Backgrounder 2021; https://thenarwhal.ca/topics/trans-mountain-pipeline/
A New Deal for People: New Democrats Commitments to You, Federal NDP, September 2019; https://action.ndp.ca/page/-/2019/Q2/2019-06-19_Commitments-Doc_EN.pdf
Environmental Racism in Canada, Canadian Commission for UNESCO, Ingrid Waldron, July 2020; https://en.ccunesco.ca/-/media/Files/Unesco/Resources/2020/07/EnvironmentalRacismCanada.pdf
The discovery of the unmarked graves of 215 Indigenous children, some as young as 3 years old, on the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in BC has shaken Canadians. This stark reminder of our colonial past and present demands action, now. For generations, Canadian governments tried to extinguish Indigenous peoples and their cultures. Ending colonialism, healing, and reconciling the diversity of peoples here on Turtle Island today is a tremendous challenge, but also an opportunity to follow the lead of the Indigenous peoples who were here before us.
Colonialism Past and Present
My ancestors left India as indentured labourers, for the British Colony of Guyana, where my father grew up in deep poverty. When I was 11 years old, we moved to Thunder Bay. I lived and worked for years in Northern Ontario. I’ve seen the devastating violence and inequalities endured by Indigenous peoples in Canada. I have a unique perspective on racism and colonialism.
I was nonetheless shocked by the callous drive-by murder of Barbara Kentner in Thunder Bay in 2017. When Brayden Bushby was sentenced to 8 years in prison this past week for throwing a trailer hitch out of the back of a pickup truck at Kentner, the judge called his actions “an affront to all women”; women such as Tina Fontaine in Manitoba and in a systemic way, Joyce Echaquan in Quebec. Indigenous women are not safe in Canada. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) taught Canadians about the violence that Indigenous people have been experiencing for generations, that continues to this day (the TRC report showed that at least 3,123 Indigenous children died at 150 residential schools across Canada and the actual number is likely much higher, as we will learn from investigations in the months to come).
Taking Urgent Action
Urgent action is needed to deal with colonialism. Actions must be driven by the demands and needs of Indigenous people themselves. Apologies and promises are just a beginning. The Liberals have failed to act urgently; to make this country safe and redress injustices. The NDP has detailed policies on how to shift towards a genuine nation-to-nation approach, which needs to include Indigenous grass-roots and civil society voices. I wish to emphasize the policies I think are most important:
- Immediately fund infrastructure to provide safe drinking water and sustainable housing in every Indigenous community – these are human rights.
- Compensate all residential school survivors. Stop adversarial legal battles with survivors over this issue.
- Settle Indigenous land claims through nation-to-nation dialogues, not through the courts.
- Move forward on all Calls to Action made by the TRC, and the calls to justice in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls final report; not just the easier ones. Only a small number have been acted upon to date.
- Ensure self-determination and self-governance for Indigenous peoples.
Action in Kingston
Here in Kingston we live upon the traditional territories of the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples. Our City Council is holding a special meeting on Wednesday, June 16 at 5:00pm, to decide what to do about the City Park statue of Sir John A Macdonald, who professed white supremacy and orchestrated many assaults on Indigenous peoples, including setting up residential schools in the late-19th century. Please share your views on this important issue with your City Councillor and the Mayor.
I believe it has long been clear that we need to rename the elementary school and roadway bearing Macdonald’s name in Kingston. We must take the lead from Indigenous people, such as those now protesting in City Park, by removing the statue of Macdonald immediately, as they did in Picton last week. The site can be remade in a way that tells the truth about our history; about Macdonald and the unmarked graves of Indigenous children across this land; in a way that gives people hope for justice as we take concrete steps to end colonialism, towards deep reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
“More than 200 bodies found at Indigenous school in Canada”, The Associated Press, May 31, 2021; https://www.cbsnews.com/news/215-bodies-found-canada-indigenous-school/
“Man who killed Indigenous woman with trailer hitch in Thunder Bay sentenced to 8 years”, The Canadian Press, Colin Perkel Posted June 7, 2021; https://globalnews.ca/news/7927177/brayden-bushby-sentenced-indigenous-woman-trailer-hitch-thunder-bay/
Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, June 2019; https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/final-report/
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, 2015; http://trc.ca/assets/pdf/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf
Where are the Children buried? Dr. Scott Hamilton, Lakehead University, May, 2021; https://ehprnh2mwo3.exactdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/AAA-Hamilton-cemetery-FInal.pdf
“National Action Plan and Federal Pathway Will Not End Genocide of Indigenous Women and Girls”, Dr. Pamela Palmater, Chair in Indigenous Governance, Ryerson University, June 3, 2021; https://pampalmater.com/2021/06/national-action-plan-and-federal-pathway-will-not-end-genocide-of-indigenous-women-and-girls/
Calls to Action Accountability: A 2020 Status Update on Reconciliation, Evan Jewell and Ian Mosby, Yellowhead Institute, December 2020; https://yellowheadinstitute.org/trc/
“Indigenous group calls for removal of Kingston’s Sir John A. Macdonald statue”, Global News, Ladna Mohamed, June 11, 2021; https://globalnews.ca/news/7941349/indigenous-kingston-john-a-macdonald-statue/
“Macdonald statue removed from Picton’s Main Street”, The Kingston Whig Standard, Bruce Bell, June 09, 2021; https://www.thewhig.com/news/macdonald-statue-banished-from-picton-main-street
Covid-19 has shaken us all. We have been forced to pivot from our long-term challenges and goals, towards emergency crisis management, privately and publicly. The pandemic has laid bare systemic inequalities that are made worse by environmental harms and climate change. As we recover from the pandemic, we must seize this unprecedented opportunity to transform our social safety net and economy, prioritizing access for everyone: our energy supply, our infrastructure, our cars, our homes, our jobs; our very way of thinking about our relationships with the rest of nature and future generations must change.
My experience as a scientist and environmental activist, from climate change, to fighting smokestack emissions in Sudbury, to the toxic contaminants in Kingston’s Inner Harbour, underpins my drive to help build a more sustainable and socially just future as your Member of Parliament in Ottawa.
I will share my views on urgent climate action next week in A Just Recovery for All: Climate Jobs, Climate Justice. My early week posts will be more personal, so that you can get to know me as a candidate seeking your trust and your vote.
Using Science to Fight Emissions in Sudbury
In the 1990s I joined the Sudbury Air Quality (SAQ) committee. My research showed that sulfur and nitrogen dioxide emissions from local nickel smelting were not only acidifying the environment, but also causing higher rates of emergency visits to the hospital, especially those related to asthma in children. The SAQ presented evidence to the City that asthma is triggered by air pollution, and that there are long-term consequences such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, etc. Our science-based activism forced the two nickel giants in Sudbury, Inco and Falconbridge to shut down production when the air quality was poor, and install technology to scrub emissions from their smokestacks.
During 30 years as an epidemiologist, my environmental and social justice activism has led me to fight against pollution and in favour of access to healthy food for all. My close work with Indigenous communities and deep respect for their traditional knowledge and wisdom informs my perspective on everything from ecological agriculture and habitat conservation to climate change.
Toxins in Kingston’s Inner Harbour
Since coming to Kingston 15 years ago, few federal environmental policies have caught my attention like the $71 million proposal to clean up toxic sediments in Kingston’s Inner Harbour between the Lasalle Causeway and Belle Island. For over 100 years, heavy metals (lead, mercury and chromium) from the Davis Tannery and lead smelting, plus residues from coal burning, petroleum storage and PCBs from the Belle Park garbage dump, were released into Kingston’s Inner Harbour. Parks Canada and the Ministry of Transport have a fund to clean them up, and they want the City of Kingston on board.
This has raised strong reactions and important concerns amongst some community members, and one Queen’s chemist, who are worried about the impacts these toxins might have if disturbed during the clean up process. Many of these concerns are addressed in a 2014 report based on years of research by RMC’s Environmental Sciences Group (the full report is available upon request from the City of Kingston; it is summarized in this letter to City Council). The science is complex, but the issue comes down to the fact that the levels of heavy metals are so high along the shoreline of Douglas Fluhrer Park and other areas towards Belle Island that plants and wildlife are still being harmed by the toxicity to this day. Because the water is so shallow, these toxins will not be locked naturally into sediments along the river bottom – they are stirred up by waves and other disturbances, over and over, and could even cause cancer in humans via prolonged skin exposure.
Serious questions need to be answered about the clean up process, and the risks to the environment and local businesses in the Inner Harbour. Public consultations are forthcoming and it will be many months, likely years, before the clean up would start. In the meantime, we need to support the Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour and others asking questions. As we get answers, we need to consider the science carefully and make smart decisions.
The same approach is needed when consulting public health experts and doctors during the pandemic. Sometimes governments listen and sometimes they seem to ignore the advice of experts who, for example, knew what was coming as the virus spread and variants emerged.
I will always seek out and listen to all views while making careful decisions that best reflect the evidence and are in the interest of the general public and Kingstonians, not elites, nor lobbyists. This is the tough work of politics – asking hard questions and making the right choices in collaboration with our community. I will do things differently, and bring a much needed public health scientist’s view to the NDP and Parliament Hill.
“Environmental concerns prompt Council to defer proposal for Kingston Inner Harbour”, The Kingstonist, Tori Stafford, April 7, 2021 https://www.kingstonist.com/news/environmental-concerns-prompt-council-to-defer-proposal-for-kingston-inner-harbour/
Letter to the City of Kingston on Kingston Inner Harbour Report, from Environmental Sciences Group RMC, May 18, 2021https://www.cityofkingston.ca/documents/10180/38925656/City-Council_Meeting-13-2021_Addendum-Number-2_May-18-2021.pdf/03a6e6bf-b4e0-357b-1be4-17fb113b1e1d?t=1621372745059
“Kingston Inner Harbour cleanup can be done safely, RMC researchers say” The Kingston Whig Standard, Elliott Ferguson, June 2, 2021 https://www.thewhig.com/news/local-news/kingston-inner-harbour-cleanup-can-be-done-safely-rmc-researchers-say
Background on the Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour’s website: https://www.friendsofinnerharbour.com/april-update-2021/
Housing is a Human Right
Housing is a human right and must be a top priority for all levels of government in Canada. Lack of affordable housing supply is the key issue. I will push the federal NDP to go beyond the 500,000 affordable housing units promised in our 2019 election platform. I will advocate for the $22 million in federal affordable housing funding that the City of Kingston has called for. We require a National Housing is a Human Right Strategy, driven by the voices and needs of homeless and vulnerable citizens, prioritizing a shift to the zero emission homes, accessible to everyone.
Where are we at and how did we get here?
Homeless encampments will grow again in Kingston as the summer arrives. These encampments develop out of necessity, a need for community, and in search of safety. The federal government should ban encampment evictions across the country immediately. As stated in a UN special report on Encampments in Canada:
Ultimately, encampments are a reflection of the Canadian government’s failure to successfully implement the right to adequate housing.
The crisis grew worse when the Chrétien/Martin Liberals downloaded funding for non-profit housing to the provinces in the 1990s. In Ontario, Mike Harris’s provincial government further downloaded housing to municipalities (who do not have the tax revenue to support this responsibility), while simultaneously cutting funds to mental health and addiction services, pushing many onto the streets. The statistics are staggering:
- One third of Canadians are renters, and it is estimated that almost 1 in 5 Canadians spend 30% of their household incomes on shelter costs. This may be as high as 40-50% for households in Kingston earning less than $30,000 per year. This causes stress and tough decisions between paying rent vs. buying groceries.
- More than 235,000 people in Canada experience homelessness each year, including an estimated 800+ people in Kingston, with an average of 182 people each night in 2018, as stated in a recent report.
- Indigenous people, veterans, racialized people, youth, people suffering with addictions and mental health are the most vulnerable.
One recent study on homelessness in Kingston gives us a sense of the indignity and discrimination experienced by a person living on the street here, in their own words,
Being homeless… You’re restricted because of the way you look. You’re on the street. You don’t have a place. Doors are shut. People just shun you and everything else…
What can we do about it?
The Liberals and Conservatives have neglected this crisis for far too long. We can start by following the United Nations recommendation and immediately banning evictions from homeless encampments. This is just a beginning – durable solutions are essential. To create more affordable housing, the NDP has a 10 year plan to invest $14 billion (during the first 5 years) in 500,000 new units across Canada, including fast-tracking funds to municipalities. I will work hard to advocate for more. These funds need to focus on supporting municipal projects; increasing community, affordable housing and co-op capacity; and on the urgency of zero emissions building to respond to climate change. New builds will create thousands of green jobs in communities and help Canadians find affordable homes. These policies ought to be paired with speculation taxes to limit the impacts of investors who do not rent or occupy buildings, thus driving up housing costs; as well as the extension of first-time mortgage terms to 30 years, to help new buyers afford their monthly payments.
Until Canada implements national solutions to dramatically reduce homelessness and increase access to affordable housing for everyone, we can never think of ourselves as a nation that prioritizes justice for all.
A New Deal for People: New Democrats Commitments to You, September 2019, https://action.ndp.ca/page/-/2019/Q2/2019-06-19_Commitments-Doc_EN.pdf
A National Protocol for Homeless Encampments in Canada: A Human Rights Approach, Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, April 2020, https://www.make-the-shift.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/A-National-Protocol-for-Homeless-Encampments-in-Canada.pdf
Core Housing Need, 2016 Census, Statistics Canada, November 2017, https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/chn-biml/index-eng.cfm
A Foundation for the Public Good: Recommendations to Increase Kingston’s Housing Supply for All, City of Kingston Mayor’s Task Force on Housing, February 2020, https://www.cityofkingston.ca/documents/10180/33838002/MTFH_Recommendation_Report_2020_2_26.pdf/94f30134-cd0d-161a-117f-317e73efc513?t=1582817514977
Beyond Surviving: Identifying how to support individuals living with mental illness and/or substance use difficulties to thrive following homelessness in Kingston, Ontario, Transition from Homelessness Project Kingston Site Report, March 2021, https://www.homelesshub.ca/resource/beyond%C2%A0surviving%C2%A0identifying-how-support-individuals-living-mental-illness-andor-substance
The State of Homelessness in Canada 2016, Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, 2016, https://homelesshub.ca/sites/default/files/SOHC16_final_20Oct2016.pdf
“Experience of healthcare among the homeless and vulnerably housed a qualitative study: opportunities for equity-oriented health care”, International Journal for Equity in Health, Eva Purkey and Meredith MacKenzie, July 2019, https://equityhealthj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12939-019-1004-4
Zero Emissions Building, 350 Kingston Speaker Series, Greg Allen, April 2021, https://world.350.org/kingston/zero-emission-buildings/