In a given year, 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness.
That’s a population the size of a small city.
In Toronto, activists say there have never been so many people without a place to call their own. They use the word “epidemic.”
According to the Toronto Homeless Memorial Network, a group that tracks deaths among the homeless, 17 have died in Toronto since the beginning of October 2019.
The thing is, when people talk about the homeless it’s often in terms of numbers and statistics like the ones above — but the issue really hits home when you meet the people.
The National’s Leonardo Palleja and Nick Purdon spent time with a number of homeless people in Toronto, here are some of their stories.
For six months, Frenchie (he says that’s what his friends call him) has slept in a tent under a bridge in Toronto — a few blocks from some of the most expensive houses in the country.
Frenchie says he lost his restaurant job and had some bad luck, and after that things went downhill.
“It’s a difficult life, but we survive. Every day we survive,” he says.
There are about 15 other people living in the makeshift camp under the bridge, a small community where he says he’s treated well. Above ground, on the street, he says people judge him.
We have a different life, but we are still human — we are not alien, we are still people.– Frenchie
“I just want to say to people, we are not that bad,” he says. “We have a different life, but we are still human — we are not alien, we are still people.”
It’s hard to know exactly how many Canadians sleep outside on a given night, but the best estimate is around 35,000 individuals.
Frenchie says he doesn’t worry that much about winter — he has plenty of tarps and blankets, and sometimes he lights a small fire in his tent to keep warm.
Hear more from Frenchie:
At 43, Paul has been homeless for six years — ever since he lost his job framing houses in Toronto.
“I had a work injury and I also suffer from depression,” he explains.
What’s remarkable about Paul is that if you passed him on the street, you probably wouldn’t realize he’s homeless. He doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of an entrenched homeless person many people imagine when they read statistics about the problem in Canada.
Like the one that says 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness in any given year.
“It’s not just the bums you see on the streets — we’re everywhere now,” Paul says.
“The vast majority don’t look like they’re homeless. It’s people who have fallen on hard times, got divorced, lost their jobs, got a work injury,” he says.
Paul says he’s lucky to have a bed at one of the city’s shelters while he’s on a waiting list for subsidized housing.
A list that is 11 years long.
“We’re a rich country, there’s no reason for this to be happening,” he says.
Paul says not having a place to call his own takes a tremendous toll on his mind.
“You have no hopes and dreams left anymore. You have no nothing,” he says. “People think you are nothing, and so you end up thinking you are nothing.
“You just eventually end up fading, fading away slowly.”
Hear more from Paul:
Kevin Durance has become an unlikely activist.
He fidgets on stage as he addresses a protest in front of Toronto city hall.
“I know how hard I have to work just to survive,” he tells the crowd.
Durance has lived in a Toronto homeless shelter for the past six years. He knows how bad the situation is on the street, and he wants the city to declare a state of emergency and open more beds to the homeless.
“It boils down to real humanity,” he says. “We’ve got to start caring about people.”
Activists insist high rent prices in Toronto make it hard for people who earn minimum wage or collect social assistance to afford a place to live.
The number of people sleeping in shelters in Toronto has doubled in the past five years and now hovers somewhere around 8,000.
Still, Kevin’s wish is a small one — for people to see him and not look away when they pass him on the street.
“They don’t see me, they see that stigma. [They think] I’m violent, I’m strange, I’m different — I’m just simple. I need someone to help me.”
Hear more from Kevin:
Scott used to run a small hotel in downtown Toronto.
The day that closed, he lost both his job and his place to live.
He never thought he’d find himself living in a shelter.
“I always had money, I always had a job,” he says. “It’s getting to the point where I’m getting too old to get a job and my physical features aren’t what they used to be. Who wants to hire somebody with no teeth to go serve tables?”
Scott hasn’t told his friends or family that he’s staying in a shelter, saying “I don’t want pity.”
He says all he wants is to get back to work full-time and have a place of his own.
“Just get back up there where I used to be, where I get up in the morning and I’ve got a place to go.”
Hear more from Scott:
WATCH | The National’s feature and learn from those living it what it’s like to be homeless in Toronto:
Pfizer pitches Canada for tax breaks in upcoming budget – CTV News
Pfizer Canada is pitching the federal government to bring in new tax breaks and change related corporate tax policies, suggesting the feds need to do more to incentivize pharmaceutical companies to invest domestically in a post-pandemic world.
Specifically, Pfizer is proposing that in the upcoming federal budget, the government “maintain or reduce corporate income tax rates,” and offers a series of suggestions of ways to do so.
The company suggests that the federal Liberals provide certainty about how Canadian tax rules, regulations, and policies will be “fair, clear and predictable,” particularly in how they apply to scientific research and development as well as contract manufacturing.
Pfizer also wants to see Canada:
- Improve existing legislative tax measures such as increasing the Manufacturing & Processing (M&P) credit which decreases the federal corporate income tax rate;
- Repeal or postpone the planned phasing out of the Accelerated Investment Incentive beyond 2023, which offers tax relief on newly-acquired eligible property assets; and
- Expand eligibility to certain tax credits so that they are refundable to multinational enterprises, not only to Canadian-controlled private corporations.
The company makes the case that a strong pharmaceutical sector can play a role in Canada’s economic restart and recovery post-pandemic but in order for that to happen, the government has to create a “fertile and hospitable environment” to retain and attract that investment.
It also notes that Canada will be competing for that investment with other countries who are implementing tax policies that attract manufacturing, research and development facilities looking to set up new locations and offer high-skilled and well-paid jobs.
The policy recommendations are detailed by the Canadian arm of the international pharmaceutical giant, in a pre-budget submission provided to the House of Commons Finance Committee.
“Pfizer and others in the health and life sciences industry have been at the forefront of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, we also wish to be at the forefront of helping with the economic recovery,” said Pfizer Canada President Cole C. Pinnow in the submission.
“Improvements to tax incentives cannot, alone, succeed in retaining and attracting economic activity in the healthcare sector but they are important building blocks. The overall business environment must be attractive, including clear and predictable tax outcomes.”
The pre-budget submission was one of 792 different pitches from various stakeholders, corporations and business people, offering their perspective to federal policymakers as to what should, or shouldn’t be included in the upcoming 2021 federal budget.
Pfizer’s submission was published by the committee on Nov. 21, 2020, before the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was granted Health Canada regulatory approval. Since then the federal government has been in ongoing discussions with Pfizer about its vaccine delivery schedule.
That schedule was recently interrupted by Pfizer, and is leaving Canada without any new doses arriving next week. It’s thrown the national rollout off track, though the company has made assurances that it’ll soon make up for the temporary shortages.
CTVNews.ca has reached out to Pfizer Canada for comment.
According to the Finance Committee’s website, no submission has been received from Moderna, the second pharmaceutical giant to have its COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in this country.
Receiving and scrutinizing pre-budget submissions are a routine aspect of the work done by the committee. Ahead of every federal budget the members hear from often hundreds of witnesses during dozens of committee hearings or as part of written proposals.
The committee then compiles what it’s heard and that’s submitted to the finance minister and other federal officials who are in charge of crafting the federal budget to inform their consideration.
The upcoming 2021 federal budget will be presented by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. It’ll be the first formal budget presented by the Liberals since 2019, after the 2020 version was postponed and then ultimately not completed, citing the unprecedented economic uncertainty and spending resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – 95.7 News
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):
Ontario says there are 2,655 new cases of COVID-19 in the province today and 89 more deaths linked to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says 925 of the new cases are in Toronto, 473 are in Peel Region and 226 are in York Region.
Nearly 14,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since Ontario’s last daily update.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021.
The Canadian Press
Feds deny Ottawa Somali centre funding claiming it's not Black enough – CBC.ca
Leaders of a Somali organization in Ottawa say their relationship with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) has been severely damaged after the department rejected its funding application by arguing it’s not Black enough.
“At this day and age, to come across something like that was very, very, very shock[ing] and somewhat uncalled for,” said Mohamoud Hagi-Aden, one of the founders of the Somali Centre for Family Services. The centre is among hundreds of organizations the government rejected, claiming they failed to meet its Black leadership criteria.
Hagi-Aden said he was in disbelief when he read the rejection letter, which claimed his organization was not sufficiently led by Black people. The centre’s founders, management and board are all of Somali background, according to the centre.
“The people who have been making these decisions [are] either from another planet, or they’re not from the [Black] community,” he said.
The letter recently sent by my department to unsuccessful applicants for funding was completely unacceptable.– Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen
Executive director Abdirizak Karod applied last summer for the federal funding, called the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative, after learning it was for Black groups looking to improve their work and community spaces. He said he wanted to use the funding to buy laptops for clients so they can access services and training remotely, as well as refurbishing the organization’s 28-year-old office building.
The funding guidelines say the groups must be focused on serving Black communities, and that at least two-thirds of the leadership and governance structure must be made up of people who self-identify as Black.
“I got an email saying our organization is not a Black-led organization,” Karod said. “I didn’t believe that what I [saw]. And believe me, I read it three times.”
A letter to the centre dated Jan. 12 states that “information provided did not meet this eligibility criteria or was insufficient to clearly demonstrate that the organization is led and governed by people who self-identify as Black.”
A second letter was sent the next day to correct the first letter. It said the group was rejected because “ESDC did not receive the information required to move forward with your application.”
“They never tell us why we got rejected. They never tell us anything,” Karod said, explaining how he answered all the questions on the application.
“How we can trust this department again?” he asked. “I can’t trust them…. It was not an honest mistake.”
Letter ‘completely unacceptable’: Minister
ESDC declined an interview with CBC News, pointing instead to the minister’s Twitter thread.
“The letter recently sent by my department to unsuccessful applicants for funding was completely unacceptable,” Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen tweeted. “As soon as it was presented to me, I quickly demanded a retraction and met with my officials to discuss how such a mistake could have happened in the first place.”
Hussen, who was born in Somalia, said he will “make sure it never happens again,” and vowed to work with Black-led organizations to improve.
I have implemented new measures to make sure it never happens again.<br><br>In addition, I will continue to work with Black Canadian organizations to improve our systems.
But the statement isn’t good enough, according to Hagi-Aden.
“How will [ESDC] repair the damage they’ve done to the Black community? We have so many barriers and so many difficulties,” he said. “The trust that we had in the system has been so severely damaged.”
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