“Enough is enough. Not one more,” chanted those present at a protest in Montreal Friday, one of many held across Quebec at the same time to protest against femicides and violence against women.
The events were inspired by tragic statistics: since the start of the pandemic, 13 Quebec women have been murdered in cases linked to domestic violence, including eight within the last eight weeks.
“A horrifying tally,” said actress and author Ingrid Falaise, one of the event’s organizers and herself a survivor of domestic violence.
And for each of these murdered women there are thousands of others who live in fear on a daily basis, said the group that organized the events.
It consists of the Alliance des maisons d’hébergement de 2e étape, la Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes, L’R des centres de femmes, le Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale, and Falaise.
In Montreal, the participants — most of them women — walked from Park Lafontaine to Mount Royal. Many made the journey in silence.
Several held signs: “We never kill love,” and “More listened to dead than alive,” two read. Others wore a white ribbon on their clothing or masks.
At times, the line of walkers stretched over more than six city blocks.
A woman named Noémie said she was there because she herself was the victim of domestic violence, beaten while pregnant with her daughter.
“I got out of it, but you never really get out of it afterwards, because the justice system is not made for the victims, it is made for the torturers,” she said.
She said that by coming out in cold on Friday, she hoped to help make a difference, in her own way.
“By giving my voice and participating in events like this,” she said, she wants to make them “be talked about. And that we are not afraid to talk about it, that we are not ashamed that it happened.”
One of the men who attended, Eugène Dufresne, said he was there to walk “in solidarity” with women. “We have to be able to stop the violence,” he said. “This must end.”
One of the group’s leaders addressed the crowd at one end of the march.
“We can’t take it anymore. We can’t take it anymore,” said Viviane Michel, the president of the Federation of Native Women of Quebec, in a somber tone.
“We must educate our boys from a young age,” she said.
The rate of violence against Indigenous women is particularly high.
In the middle of the park, the group observed a minute of silence in memory of the 13 women killed. Each of their names was read, then repeated by the crowd.
Events were planned in some 20 municipalities in Quebec, including Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, La Malbaie, Montreal, Baie-Saint-Paul, Victoriaville, Tadoussac, Baie-Comeau, Sept-Îles, Rimouski, Sherbrooke, Gaspé and Joliette, among other cities.
The organizers also challenged the government on the importance of acting now in terms of strengthening the safety net for victims of domestic violence.
The number of cases continues to steadily increase, said Laurence Bitez of the Maison aide aux femmes de Montréal, who was present at Park Lafontaine.
“We have had many more calls since the start of the pandemic, but we lack funding and we lack places” for them, added the young woman, herself a former victim of violence.
“It’s a problem that concerns us all,” she continued, also pointing to the fact that many more women than men attended the march.
“I have a lot of gratitude for those who are there,” however, she said. “Luckily you see more and more of them at events like this.”
Quebec’s Minister for the Status of Women, Isabelle Charest, participated in the walk on Friday with her two children.
She said she was present as a citizen but also as an elected official, to tell Quebecers that “we are here, we will continue the fight against this devastating problem.”
The demonstration was important because there is a need for overall awareness, Charest said.
About shelters decrying the lack of places to accommodate women — as well as the $22.5 million over five years dedicated to these shelters in the last budget, an amount deemed insufficient by people in the field — she said Quebecers should expect more news.
“The budget is not an end in itself,” she said. “We continue to discuss and work with them.”
Two members of the Parti Québécois, Véronique Hivon and Méganne Perry Mélançon, participated respectively in Montreal and Gaspé.
And Liberals Isabelle Melançon and Maryse Gaudreault showed up to the rallies in Montreal and Gatineau.
The names of the 13 women killed since the start of the pandemic:
– Johanne Corriveau
– Sylvie F.
– Francine Lussier
– Mary Saviadjuk
– Françoise Côté
– Elisapee Angma
– Marly Édouard
– Nancy Roy
– Myriam Dallaire
– Sylvie Bisson
– Nadège Jolicoeur
– Kataluk Paningayak-Naluiyuk
– Rebekah Harry
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Watch the video above to see Billy Shields’s video report from Montreal.
Ontario hospitals may have to withhold care as COVID-19 fills ICUs
By Allison Martell and Anna Mehler Paperny
TORONTO (Reuters) – Doctors in the Canadian province of Ontario may soon have to decide who can and cannot receive treatment in intensive care as the number of coronavirus infections sets records and patients are packed into hospitals still stretched from a December wave.
Canada‘s most populous province is canceling elective surgeries, admitting adults to a major children’s hospital and preparing field hospitals after the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs jumped 31% to 612 in the week leading up to Sunday, according to data from the Ontario Hospital Association.
The sharp increase in Ontario hospital admissions is also straining supplies of tocilizumab, a drug often given to people seriously ill with COVID-19.
Hospital care is publicly funded in Canada, generally free at the point of care for residents. But new hospital beds have not kept pace with population growth, and shortages of staff and space often emerge during bad flu seasons.
Ontario’s hospitals fared relatively well during the first wave of the pandemic last year, in part because the province quickly canceled elective surgeries.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told doctors last Thursday that the province was considering “enacting the critical care triage protocol,” something that was not done during earlier waves of the virus. Triage protocols help doctors decide who to treat in a crisis.
“Everybody’s under extreme stress,” said Eddy Fan, an ICU doctor at Toronto’s University Health Network. He said no doctor wants to contemplate a triage protocol but there are only so many staff.
“There’s going to be a breaking point, a point at which we can’t fill those gaps any longer.”
In a statement, the health ministry said Ontario has not activated the protocol. A September draft suggested doctors could withhold life-sustaining care from patients with a less than 20% chance of surviving 12 months. A final version has not been made public.
Ontario’s Science Advisory Table had been forecasting the surge for months, said member and critical care physician Laveena Munshi. During a recent shift she wanted to call the son of a patient only to discover he was in an ICU across the street.
“The horror stories that we’re seeing in the hospital are like ones out of apocalyptic movies,” she said. “They’re not supposed to be the reality we’re seeing one year into a pandemic.”
In COVID-19 vaccination pivot, Canada targets frontline workers
By Anna Mehler Paperny
TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is shifting its vaccination campaign to target frontline workers, moving away from a largely age-based rollout as the country tries to get a handle on the raging third wave of the pandemic.
Canada‘s approach thus far has left unvaccinated many so-called “essential workers,” like daycare providers, bus drivers and meatpackers, all of whom are among those at higher risk of COVID-19 transmission. Provinces are now trying to adjust their strategy to tackle the surge driven by new variants.
Targeting frontline workers and addressing occupation risk is vital if Canada wants to get its third wave under control, says Simon Fraser University mathematician and epidemiologist Caroline Colijn, who has modelled Canadian immunization strategies and found “the sooner you put essential workers [in the vaccine rollout plan], the better.”
Initially, Canada prioritized long-term care residents and staff for the vaccines, as well as the very elderly, health workers, residents of remote communities and Indigenous people.
Targeting vaccinations by age made sense early on in a pandemic that ravaged Canada‘s long-term care homes, Colijn said. But now, immunizing those at highest risk of transmission brings the greatest benefit.
“If you protect these individuals you also protect someone in their 60s whose only risk is when they go to the store. … The variants are here now. So if we pivot now, but it takes us two months to do it, then we will lose that race.”
Data released on Tuesday from the Institute of Clinical and Evaluative Sciences showed that Toronto’s neighbourhoods with the highest rates of COVID-19 infections had the lowest vaccination rates, underscoring the disparities in vaccination.
‘IT’S A JUGGERNAUT’
On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a plan to have mobile vaccine clinics target COVID-19 “hotspots” and high-risk worksites, although he stopped short of giving people paid time off to get the shot.
Karim Kurji, medical officer of health in York Region north of Toronto, characterizes the shift in vaccination priority from age to transmission risk as moving from defence to offence.
“It’s a juggernaut in terms of the immunization machinery, and turning it around takes a lot of effort,” Kurji said.
Meanwhile, officials in the western province of Alberta say they are offering vaccines to more than 2,000 workers at Cargill’s meatpacking plant in High River, site of one of Canada‘s largest workplace COVID-19 outbreaks. Provincial officials said in a statement they are looking to expand the pilot to other plants.
Quebec will start vaccinating essential workers such as those in education, childcare and public safety in Montreal, where neighbourhoods with the highest vaccination rates have been among those with the lowest recorded infection rates.
The people doing the highest-risk jobs, from an infectious disease perspective, are more likely to be poor, non-white and new Canadians, health experts say. They are less likely to have paid leave to get tested or vaccinated or stay home when sick and are more likely to live in crowded or multi-unit housing. They need to be prioritized for vaccination and their vaccination barriers addressed, experts say.
Naheed Dosani, a Toronto palliative care physician and health justice activist, said making vaccines available to high-risk communities is not enough without addressing barriers to access.
“The face of COVID-19 and who was being impacted changed dramatically. The variants seemed to take hold in communities where essential workers live. … This [pivot] is a step in the right direction and will hopefully save lives.”
(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Denny Thomas and Aurora Ellis)
Canada finance minister: Pandemic an opportunity to bring in national childcare
OTTAWA (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic and its damaging impact on women has underlined the need for a national childcare plan, which would also help the economic recovery, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday.
Since taking up her job in August, Freeland has repeatedly spoken about a “feminist agenda,” and has said childcare will be part of a stimulus package worth up to C$100 billion ($79.6 billion) over three years. She will unveil details in her April 19 budget.
“I really believe COVID-19 has created a window of political opportunity and maybe an epiphany … on the importance of early learning and childcare,” Freeland told a online convention of Canada‘s ruling Liberal Party.
The budget is set to be a springboard for an election that Liberal insiders say is likely in the second half of the year.
Canadian governments of various stripes have mused about a national childcare program for decades but never acted, thanks in part to the cost and also the need to negotiate with the 10 provinces, which deliver many social programs.
Freeland said a childcare program would help counter “an incredibly dangerous drop” in female employment since the start of the pandemic.
“It is a surefire way to drive jobs and economic growth … you have higher participation of women in the labor force,” Freeland said. “My hope … is that being able to make that economic argument as well is going be to one of the ways that we get this done.”
Freeland, who is taking part this week in meetings of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations and the International Monetary Fund, said U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had told her they saw early learning and child care as a driver for economic recovery.
($1=1.2560 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Leslie Adler)