Toronto — During Wednesday's question period, NDP MPPs Rima Berns-McGown (Beaches—East York) and Bhutila Karpoche (Parkdale—High Park) called on Doug Ford to finally address the urgent public health emergencies of homelessness and overdose-related deaths, which have been made worse by the pandemic.
Overdose deaths are currently 40 per cent higher than prior to the pandemic, while homeless encampments grow and the temperature drops. The NDP MPPs called on the Ford government to stop turning their back on vulnerable populations.
“Addiction is a public health issue, and more people are dying than before, with COVID-19 making it harder for people to access help,” said Karpoche. “We need to treat this crisis; we don’t need an ideological government to pick and choose which lives in our city are worth saving.”
The Ford government cut the number of overdose prevention sites allowed to operate in Ontario, and cancelled a provincial task force established to address the opioid crisis.
Berns-McGown said COVID-19 has also exacerbated Toronto’s existing homelessness crisis, as shelters, respite centres and drop-ins are operating at reduced capacity.
“Winter is coming, and people have nowhere to go,” said Berns-McGown. “Most people who experience homelessness are Black or Indigenous—the same communities most impacted by COVID-19. Doug Ford’s cuts to mental health and harm reduction services, plus his government cancelling a moratorium on tenant evictions mid-pandemic and passing a law that makes it easier for landlords to kick tenants out, have all worsened Toronto’s homelessness emergency, causing the network of folks living in encampments to grow.”
Both MPPs urged the Ford government to step up and increase resources to save lives by creating tens of thousands of rent-geared-to-income rental units; and provide immediate shelter and hotel spaces accompanied by overdose prevention, and mental health and harm-reduction services.