Friday, April 8, 2022

Urgent action required by Canada at the WTO to support immediate global access to vital COVID-19 vaccines

 Joint Letter - 8 April 2022

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P. 

Prime Minister of Canada

Dear Prime Minister: 

On March 31, 2022, scientific director of the COVID-19 Science Advisory Table Dr. Peter Juni, referring to a steep rise in daily infections in Ontario based on wastewater estimates and hospital admissions, was quoted in the Toronto Star as saying “Basically. we’re in either a resurgence, (or) a sixth wave…” That same day in an interview on CBC Radio’s The Current, two pandemic experts from India and Nigeria warned that if wealthy nations continued to exercise vaccine hoarding while many in low income countries have yet to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine, the pandemic will continue for several years with new variants likely to emerge every six months.

We understand that as Prime Minister of Canada you have some difficult decisions to make in
how best to respond to COVID-19 challenges both at home and abroad. However, we feel that
Canada is failing the world community in the choices it is making and by doing so it is also
increasing the risk of infection and death for Canadians.

Several groups from Northumberland County in Ontario sent you a letter dated May 3, 2021
requesting that your government actively support a joint proposal made in October 2020 by India
and South Africa to temporarily waive certain patent obligations under the WTO Agreement on
Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) until the COVID-19 emergency is
over. Unfortunately, a year has passed by and Canada, along with a handful of other wealthy
nations, continued to obstruct this call for a waiver at WTO TRIPS Council meetings. Since our
May 3, 2021 letter to you, the world and Canada have been hard hit by both the Delta and
Omicron variants with deadly consequences.

The COVID-19 pandemic is the most severe global health and economic crisis in generations. In
Canada and around the world the virus has disproportionately impacted women, migrant and
lower-wage workers, racialized and other marginalized groups. Millions of lives have already
been lost to this virus with some 270,000 recorded deaths from COVID-19 in low - and lower
middle-income countries in the last six months alone.

If wealthy nations had agreed at the WTO to lift vaccine waivers when it was first requested in
2020, world-wide production for domestic and regional use would be a reality by now. While
there is talk of a compromise in the works to pave the way for a waiver, we are concerned by the
numerous flaws that the draft text contains, which could severely limit its impact. Specifically,
we draw your attention to the following flaws in the compromise proposal:

• It does not cover all of the intellectual property barriers to COVID medicine access;
• It excludes entire countries so many countries with significant manufacturing capacity for
COVID-19 vaccines will be unable to make use of the waiver;
• It does not cover tests or treatments at a stage when these are critically important;
• It could impose new barriers to production of generics.

Canada must help ensure that vaccines, treatments and other pandemic-related products are
treated as global public goods available to all.

We are calling on Canada to be on the right side of history and at the June WTO Ministerial meeting reject the compromise waiver proposal in its current form. Canada shouldn’t settle for anything less than an immediate and comprehensive waiver package to break down all existing barriers to the scaling up of the manufacture and the supply of lifesaving COVID-19 medical tools across the world. The world has waited long enough.

Endorsed by the following organizations from Northumberland and Peterborough:

- Northumberland Chapter of the Council of Canadians;
- Northumberland Coalition for Social Justice;
- Northumberland Coalition Against Poverty;
- Northumberland Chapter of Amnesty International
- Peterborough and Kawarthas Chapter of the Council of Canadians
- Peterborough and District Labour Council
- Peterborough Health Coalition

Contact: Rick Arnold

Friday, March 4, 2022

NCSJ Communication After Lindsay Counter-protest


A couple of you who wanted to but couldn’t attend Saturday asked if we could pass along an e-mail address to which you could send best wishes to the Lindsay high schoolers who have been organizing the counter-demos up there.


After spending the afternoon with them yesterday I (Derek B) think that rather than just passing along the key organizer’s address to everyone, it would be better if you sent your messages to us.  We will ensure that they get there.


We say this because we have not, though we probably should have done, checked the credentials of everyone on this list.  We’ll get to that soon with some help from Google.  But so long as there’s a chance that someone who’s idea of social justice is closer to the convoy supporters crowd than ours who has managed to get onto the mailing, we’ve a bit of a concern about what messages might be sent.  And those half dozen young people are already taking a fair bit of abuse; they neither need nor deserve more.


Yesterday we had five older folks join the students.  Possibly as a result they were not approached by the police.  We held signs towards traffic and chatted amongst ourselves, trying hard to converse despite the bullhorns and honking car and truck horns.


There were about 75-100 convoy supporters.  They received considerable support in the form of vehicle horns getting a workout as they passed through the intersection.  Here’s a bit of taste of what things were like.


The students were approached by some elderly women who asked the young women in our group if they were vaccinated.  They then expressed their condolences to the younger folks as apparently it is well-known in certain circles that the vaccines are likely going to induce menopause in recipients; the chances, they said, are that they will not be able to ever have children.


Reproduction seemed to be something of a theme with the convoy supporters.  A man carrying a UN flag with a red circle around it and a slash through it was handing out leaflets detailing, a la Pat King, how the vaccines have the effect of sterilizing men.  Further, and again following the speeches of Pat King, he says, through a bullhorn at maximum volume, that the reason why the global north has higher vaccination rates than the south is not the results of inequities in the global health system but is instead designed to sterilize ‘white people’ so that the Black and the Brown folks and the UN can take over the world.


There was also a lot of student-baiting by a number of convoy supporters with bullhorns.  Invitations to leave their corner and go to one of the convoy-occupied corners to ‘figure things out’ with a clearly implied threat of violence for example.  It might be worth pointing out that the students are all between 15 and 17 years old.


All in all it is one thing to read about these things or see a few seconds on TV but it is quite disturbing to experience it directly.


More disturbing even, were the number of very clearly disenfranchised people involved.  Those still unemployed for example.  They formed the majority of the convoy supporters for sure but they were and are being organized and recruited by the white supremacists and others.


On the up side, those young people are very, very impressive indeed.  We’ll continue to do what we can to support them.  The Lindsay Labour Council is working with them this week to get them some media coverage and more bodies.  Other than the letter to the editor from the key student organizer which we forwarded on Friday, the coverage has all been of the convoy supporters.


The Lindsay students will continue their counter demonstrations for as long as the pro-convoy events continue after most of the public health restrictions end in the coming week.  They’ll let us know as soon as they can if we’re needed and we will pass along any further requests for assistance if there is time.  Two hours in the cold is not terrible and there’s a decent pub with excellent poutine not far from the demo location.  😊  There are worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon even if it does involve an hour’s drive.


Stay well.