On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic – and the world as we knew it changed forever.
The federal government has declared March 11 as a National Day of Observance to honour the memory of those who lost their lives and to recognize its effect on every Canadian.
Nearly 37,000 Canadians have died from COVID, and more than three million Canadians have been infected. Many have experienced long-term debilitating symptoms.
OPSEU/SEFPO members have stayed on the front lines during the pandemic, keeping the province operating and protecting us. They didn’t hesitate to step up to keep public services available, and they have been there for us when we needed them.
Many have fallen ill, and at least two members have lost their lives from COVID. In solidarity, OPSEU/SEFPO will lower its flags to half-mast at all its offices.
This pandemic has profoundly affected Ontarians in many ways. Thousands have lost their jobs, and everyone’s lives have been turned upside-down. However, some people have been affected to a much greater degree than others.
Women, especially racialized women, dominate front-line work. They have been called upon to make more sacrifices in terms of working gruelling shifts and balancing work with increased family responsibilities.
Some members of the LGBTQ+ community were disconnected from their safety nets and supports, and stuck in isolating, homophobic situations. For people transitioning or coming out, there were massive implications around being trapped in unsupportive family units, where parents and partners were hostile or even violent.
There has also been emotional strain and stress for transgender people relying on various public resources, like name-change applications and medical interventions. Medical backlogs made it harder for many to move on with their new identity. Those backlogs continue.
People with disabilities have also been affected disproportionately. We think particularly of the deaf and hard-of-hearing who have been unable to read lips because of the mask mandate.
Canadians of Asian descent have suffered despicable abuse at the hands of hate-filled racists. OPSEU/SEFPO condemns this violence in the strongest possible terms and assures Asian-Canadians of our unfailing support and gratitude for their enormous contributions to society.
Black, racialized and Indigenous people have also faced added barriers in getting access to public services like health care.
No matter how we mark this National Day of Observance, we are bound together by a humble pride in the way we have worked together to minimize the effects of the pandemic – and more determined than ever to ensure our public services are responding to the needs of Ontarians.
OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer