Pausing In The Pandemic Portal
Above photo: Corona is the virus, the pandemic is capitalism from Medium.
Edited text of a speech delivered at the Just Recovery for All campaign launch on June 23, 2020, attended by representatives from the federal Liberal party, as well as NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party’s Elizabeth May
The pandemic is a portal, Arundhati Roy tells us. Between this world, and the next.
So before speaking of what has come before and the Just Recovery that must come after, let us pause for a moment. Here in this portal called COVID-19.
Imagine the breadth of your grief, your longing to see a friend, to be with those that you love and that love you back in these last few months.
Can you imagine then for a moment what decades of separation by borders feels like? How migrant women care workers hurt separated from their children? What refugees experience apart from their homelands?
Imagine the panic, or the boredom, the uncertainty, and the tiredness when you were unable to leave home.
Can you imagine then for a moment what incarceration could be like? Can you remember each time you think about the “lockdown” that over half the people in prison are awaiting trial, not yet found “guilty”? Or that Indigenous women make up 42% of imprisoned women? Or that prisons punish poverty over all else?
Think of the clarity that this moment has provided you with who sustains you. Who sustains us. The farmworker. The health worker. The delivery worker. The cleaners. The grocery store workers.
Can you hold on to this clarity as we step through the portal? That what sustains life is not those that choose profit, but those that ensure care.
And can you remember that it is those that sustained us who were forced to keep on working?
Can you remember once we are through this portal that we lived through once a period where almost all inessential travel was stopped? Where people chose to stay home, and often consume less. And yet climate change marched on. That individual action is not enough to stop the climate catastrophe.
Can you remember that in this moment, it was not corporations or privatization that protected us? But social services and mutual aid.
And in this portal that we are in — can you see, and can you remember — what it is that the pursuit of profit did to our elders that died in for-profit long term care homes, or that the homeless were going to be left to die till they rose up? Can you remember the farmworkers that suffered in the fields, greenhouses, and factories for our food? Can you remember Bonifacio, Rogelio, Juan, three farmworkers who died during COVID-19?
And in this portal: Remember that the strongest determinant of COVID-19 outbreak is the level of income in your neighborhood and not your health.
And as we are in this portal — can you remember on that day when they will ask you to forget — that no one should be evicted if it will make them homeless. That everyone deserves healthcare. That law can change overnight.
Can you remember that in this portal a 44-year-old Korean man was stabbed in Montreal as the violence grew against East Asians? That migrants were treated as carriers and as the risk, as borders were closed, even as migrants here were attacked, and fell ill?
And in this portal that we are in, can you remember the Coastal GasLink pipeline kept being constructed? That Ontario changed labor laws so that we could be fired without pay? That Canada began to sell weapons of war and death to Saudi Arabia on the same day as the first COVID-19 case emerged in Yemen. Alberta passed a law to kill civil liberties. Can you remember who it was that sold us out when we were in peril?
And in this portal that we are in — can you remember that in this moment in this portal, just since April — police in Canada killed nine Indigenous people: Eishia Hudson, Jason Collins, Stewart Kevin Andrews, Everett Patrick, Abraham Natanine, an Iqaluit man from Apex, Nunavut, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Chantel Moore, and Rodney Levi.
Can you see in this portal, at this moment, that what broke us free from the potential terror of death in a pandemic in the hundreds of thousands, what brought us to the streets is the far greater scourge and menace of anti-Black racism?
For when we leave this portal when we step in to the next world, the world in which all of us can thrive — we will come through chanting Black Lives Matter.
And as we step through the portal, into this new world — let it not be a return to normal.
For the normal for many of us was a slow death, before this, the fast death.
Normal is deportation — nearly 10,000 a year.
Normal is endless immigration imprisonment without charges or trial — simply for being born elsewhere.
Normal is 1 in 23 people in Canada are temporary migrants or undocumented — denied most services, even during a pandemic.
Normal is weapon sales, here in this country that we live in, one of the top 15 arms exporters in the world.
Normal is the debt of the poorest countries in the world to banks and places like Canada went up 85% in the last decade — even as they paid it back.
Normal is Israel’s annexation and occupation of Palestine.
Normal is gold mining.
Normal is attacks on the working class.
Normal is half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.
Normal is a woman is killed in Canada every other day
Normal is over a thousand missing and murdered indigenous women
Normal is eight queer and gay men disappeared and murdered by a serial killer in Toronto before police cared.
Normal is borders, isolation, displacement, refugees.
Normal is death.
Normal is that we live in one of the few places in the world where the colonizer remains and in control of the government. Normal is broken treaties. Normal is colonized land.
Refuse the return to normal.
In this day, at this hour, as we gather for a Just Recovery, as we gather to step in to this new world — let it be the world where all our lives blossom.
Let it not be climate justice and environmental rights for this place, now called Canada, while the rest of us, the poor the robbed the once colonized around the world suffer through.
Let it not be a world where in this place called Canada, there is recovery for citizens, but not migrants and undocumented people.
Let us build a Just Recovery where every life, wherever it is, is sacred, valued, loved.
Let us build a Just Recovery with Status for All — one with a single-tier immigration system — that everyone has full and permanent immigration status
Just Recovery is food for all, health for all, homes for all — not just here but everywhere, not just humans, all life.
Just Recovery is that when they come and tell us to tighten our belts when they come and tell us that they bailed us out and we must have austerity next. We refuse.
Let us ensure that when they scare us about rising deficits and tell us that we are poor because of the immigrants when they make us fight each other at the bottom of the barrel. We refuse.
Let us enter a just recovery which begins with Indigenous Self-Determination. Let us enter a Just Recover with Land Back
Let us be united. Let us hold hands. Let us leave no one behind. Let us leave this portal. Ready to fight for the fight of our lives. For that is what it will be. But we have a world to win. Now is the time.
The portal is open. Step forward.