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EVENT: OHC Long-Term Care Protest Round Up – Pics & Summaries from Across Ontario!

Posted: October 19, 2021

(October 19, 2021)

Ontario Health Coalition’s Long-Term Care Protest Round Up

Pictures & Summaries from our Day of Action Across the Province on October 4

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“Enough Suffering, Care Can’t Wait!”– the slogan rang out in town after town across Ontario. More than a thousand concerned citizens gathered outside MPPs Offices, City Halls, Parks and busy intersections to demand immediate action to improve care and accountability in our long-term care homes. Family members, residents, long-term care advocates, health professionals, nurses, care workers and their unions came out, mostly in the rain, in 17 different communities. They expressed our collective grief and outrage over the 4,000 residents and staff who have died of COVID-19 alone, and others who have suffered and died of dehydration, starvation, loneliness and depression while the Ford government has broken promise after promise to improve care and institute real accountability. Local health coalitions across the province hosted events in keeping with public health rules, which limited gatherings to 100 people maximum. But neither the limits on numbers nor the rain could dampen the anger, grief and frustration of those who told their stories about what has happened, and continues to happen in our province’s care homes for the vulnerable elderly and those with chronic illness/disability.

Care levels are worse than they were before the pandemic and terribly exploited long-term care workers have left in droves. Despite shedding tears and promising definitive action regarding horrific care conditions when the military report was released a year-and-a-half ago, the Ford government instead passed Bill 218 which shielded long-term care operators from lawsuits for their negligence in the pandemic. Not one single long-term care operator has been fined or lost their license. In fact, some of the very worst offenders are being granted new 30-year licenses and expansions. The Ford government hasn’t even reinstated annual surprise inspections. Their repeated promises to increase staffing (and thus care levels) have not met even the first initial targets and tens of thousands of staff, promised at least four times in the last year, have yet to materialize.

The message was clear: enough is enough! We will not rest until care conditions have been improved and justice has been granted for those who lost their loved ones to the ghastly negligence of the for-profit long-term care providers and the inaction of the Ford government. A huge heartfelt thank you to everyone who attended, shared their stories and showed their support. It was powerful and effective…. and we sent a really strong message to the Ford government on the opening day of the Legislature.

For a full album of pictures from events across the province, please see the Facebook album found here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=ontariohealth&set=a.2978681795729635

Toronto

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Outside the Ontario Legislative Assembly, the Ontario Health Coalition was joined by more than 100 family members, long-term care advocates, long-term care workers and their unions, and concerned Ontarians. The message couldn’t be clearer: care can’t wait and the Ford government’s inaction will not be tolerated.

The event was really powerful. OHC executive director Natalie Mehra led off with an impassioned call for real change, saying that she really believed one of the good things to come out of the horror of the pandemic would be that finally long-term care would improve. Despite promises and all kinds of PR from Doug Ford nothing has happened, and the terrible for-profits have been let off the hook. Speakers shared their stories about their loved ones, starting with family members of people currently living in long-term care, then stretching back over to those whose family members have died recently back to those who died through the first three waves. A front-line RN spoke along with union representatives from Unifor, CUPE and UFCW speaking for the vital care and support workers who continue to struggle under exploitative conditions. Everyone spoke as one, demanding better care, accountability and justice.

There was a lot of media at the event. Many stayed for the full hour and a half. You could see the emotion on the faces of the reporters and camera operators listening to the stories of the families and workers.  NDP leader Andrea Horwath and several NDP MPPs came out to listen and join in, along with two Liberal MPPs, and Green Party leader Mike Shreiner.  Major news outlets attending the event included Global, CTV, CP24, Globe and Mail and Queen’s Park Briefing.

Links to a sampling of media stories about the event:

https://globalnews.ca/video/8243051/protests-across-ontario-calling-for-improvements-to-long-term-care

https://toronto.citynews.ca/video/2021/10/04/anger-disappointment-over-ltc-plans/

https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/two-separate-protests-outside-queen-s-park-as-mpps-return-for-new-legislative-session-1.5610933

Durham

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Outside of Conservative MPP and Minister of Long-Term Care, Rod Phillip’s office, more than 50 protestors demanded immediate action to improve long-term care. They were led by Charlie Courneyea and Lance Livingstone, co chairs of the Oshawa Health Coalition. Notably present were the family members of Orchard Villa Long-Term Care, a for-profit long-term care home that was taken over by the military after residents experienced truly horrific neglect and more than 70 residents died from COVID-19 and more than 200 were infected. Orchard Villa is owned by Southbridge, a for-profit chain and they have applied for a 30-year license to operate and expand. The families were joined by seniors and retirees, care workers and their unions. Pam Parks from CUPE spoke as an RPN at Lakeridge Health about why these issues matter and how long the union has fought for improvements only to see repeated broken promises. She issued a powerful call for change. The protest was attended by Global TV Durham.

Cornwall

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Approximately fifty protestors convened outside Conservative MPP McDonnell’s office to send a clear message that care can’t wait.  This protest was hosted by the chair of the Cornwall Health Coalition, Elaine McDonald, and the local Labour Council.  The event concluded with a plan to revitalize their local health coalition and their continued commitment to public health advocacy. Local residents who had family living in long-term care shared their experiences and the local Labour President and Vice President talked about the exploitative working conditions in long-term care resulting in staff shortages that lead to inadequate care. Local media attended the event including the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder, Cornwall Seaway News and TV Cogeco Network.

Links to a sampling of media stories about the event:

https://www.gananoquereporter.com/news/local-news/ontario-health-coalitions-cornwall-chapter-not-happy-with-state-of-ltcs

https://www.cornwallseawaynews.com/2021/10/04/protesters-call-on-province-to-put-tlc-back-in-ltc/
https://www.cornwallnewswatch.com/2021/10/01/mass-protest-monday-at-mpps-cornwall-office/

Chatham

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The Chatham-Kent Health Coalition, led by its tireless chair and retired nurse Shirley Roebuck, was joined by more 25 people outside and a car cavalcade at Conservative MPP Rick Nicholls’ office as they demanded immediate action to improve long-term care levels. The car cavalcade circled the office honking for over 40 minutes. Two retired PSWs shared their experiences of chronic staff shortages in for-profit long-term care homes and family members of residents spoke out about their experience with substandard care in long-term care. Local media attended the protest including the Chatham Voice, Chatham Daily news and CKXS FM in Wallaceburg. A special thank you to Shirley Roebuck for always stepping up on behalf of her community and region, and to Bill Zillio who organized the car cavalcade!

Links to a sampling of media stories about the event:

https://www.woodstocksentinelreview.com/news/local-news/understaffed-long-term-care-homes-nothing-new-retired-psws

https://ckxsfm.com/ohc-increasing-calls-for-better-ltc/

Hamilton

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The Hamilton Health Coalition, led by co chairs Janina Lebon and Rolf Gerstenberger, organized 40 concerned citizens to come out to Gore Park. They braved the rainy weather and held a moment of silence for the tragic loss of life in our long-term care homes and then demanded improved care levels and conditions of work in our long-term care homes. Lainie Tessier shared her mother’s tragic experience living at Shalom Village. The Spectator and KX947 news radio station attended the protest.

Kawartha Lakes

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The Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition, led by Bonnie Kennedy and Zac Miller, were joined by approximately 35 protesters at Conservative MPP Laurie Scott’s office. They were buoyed by lots of support from cars and pedestrians walking by. Christine Strachan, who lost her mother in long-term care while isolated during the pandemic, shared her experience, and Marilynne Lesperance, a former long-term care worker, shared that conditions are worse now than when she retired. Local media attended the protest including the Lindsay Advocate, Haliburton Times and Kawartha 411.

Link to a sampling of media stories about the event:

https://www.kawartha411.ca/2021/10/05/health-coalition-urges-ontario-government-to-act-on-promised-improvements-to-long-term-care/

Kingston

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The Kingston Health Coalition, led by Matthew Gventer, were joined by 50 protesters at the busy intersection of Princess and Concession Streets and received a lot of support from cars and pedestrians walking by. Speakers included family members, long-term care workers, long-term care advocates and major unions that represent long-term care workers. Local media attended the event including Global News and the Weekly Standard.

Link to a sampling of media stories about the event:

https://globalnews.ca/news/8243161/ontario-health-coalition-province-wind-protests-long-term-care/

London

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The London Health Coalition, led by Peter Bergmanis, Shirley Schuurman and Jeff Hanks, were joined by approximately 20 protesters at Conservative MPP Jeff Yurek’s office as they demanded immediate action to help improve care conditions in long-term care. They were joined by Susan Godin, whose husband passed away at a for-profit long-term care home, and other health care advocates as they spoke out against the shameful state of care in Ontario. Media attended the event including MyFM St Thomas, CTV News, Global News and 680 News.

Links to a sampling of media stories about the event:

https://www.stthomastoday.ca/2021/10/05/long-term-care-protest-targets-mpp-jeff-yurek/

https://globalnews.ca/news/8241737/ontario-health-coalition-call-for-long-term-care-home-reforms/

https://london.ctvnews.ca/health-watchdog-uses-throne-speech-to-call-for-immediate-improvements-in-long-term-care-1.5610644 

Niagara

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The Niagara Health Coalition, led by chair Sue Hotte, was joined by 35 community members crowding the sidewalks at Conservative MPP Sam Oosterhoff’s office as they demanded immediate action to improve conditions of care in long-term care.  They received excellent community support with truckers and cars passing by on the street honking to show their support. Local health advocates were joined by family members of residents as they shared their experiences with substandard care and neglect and the low staffing levels and poor conditions that contribute to it.

Link to a sampling of media stories about the event:

https://www.thestar.com/local-grimsby/news/2021/10/04/one-day-it-will-be-you-protesters-outside-sam-oosterhoff-s-office-call-on-province-to-improve-ltc-homes.html?li_source=LI&li_medium=star_web_ymbii

North Bay

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Approximately 20 concerned Ontarians joined local activist Henri Giroux as they demanded immediate action to improve conditions of work and care in our long-term care homes outside of Conservative MPP Vic Fedeli’s office.  They were joined by family council members and many people shared their support. The group is going to establish a new health coalition locally and join the Ontario Health Coalition. Yay!

Links to a sampling of media stories about the event:

https://www.baytoday.ca/local-news/protesters-fight-for-more-long-term-care-home-support-4483706

https://www.nugget.ca/news/protest-calls-for-greater-accountability-in-long-term-care

https://www.northernnews.ca/news/protest-calls-for-greater-accountability-in-long-term-care

https://www.mynorthbaynow.com/85406/health-coalition-rises-up-for-long-term-care/

Oakville

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The Canadian Federation of University Women led approximately 50 community members at Navy and Lakeshore St as they demanded immediate action to improve conditions of care in long-term care. Protestors braved the rain and showed their support by dressing in purple.  Anne Douglas, an advocacy member of the Canadian Federation of University Women and Advancement of Women Halton, spoke about how long-term care has deteriorated and how we need to raise awareness about the conditions of care in long-term care.  Many long-term care homes are not even meeting the provincial average of 2.7 hours of care, she reported, let alone the 4-hours of care per resident per day that are needed to get care up to a safe standard. She raised the total absence of accountability in long-term care. No licenses have been revoked, even for the most negligent operators, and the Ford government forced through Bill 218 which shields long-term care operators from lawsuits for their negligence.  They were greeted by enthusiastic support from the community as they walked about in downtown Oakville. Local media attended the event including The Beaver and Oakville News.

Link to a sampling of media stories about the event:

https://www.thestar.com/local-oakville/news/2021/10/04/oakville-residents-take-part-in-province-wide-rally-for-long-term-care.html 

Ottawa

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The Ottawa Health Coalition organized an emotional protest at City Hall with 100 people in attendance. Family members of residents, Betty Yakimeko, Grace Welsh, Aaron Pflantz and Christine Collins, shared their loved ones’ tragic experiences in long-term care. Long-term care workers and their unions shared their experiences working short-staffed and struggling to provide care to their residents, and Alex Silas from the Public Service Alliance of Canada spoke out about the dangers of for-profit long term care and their campaign to make Revera (a for-profit long-term care chain operator) a publicly owned entity. CBC Radio and the Ottawa Citizen both attended the protest. Thank you to co-chairs Ed Cashman and Mary Catherine McCarthy, and to the steering committee of the Ottawa Health Coalition for such a thoughtful, effective organizing job!

Watch a video from the event

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8QSyOGT4ng

Links to a sampling of media stories about the event:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/nurses-psws-sick-covid-long-term-care-1.6202633

https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/covid-19-any-new-pandemic-measures-would-be-localized-and-targeted-says-throne-speech

Sudbury 

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The Sudbury Health Coalition, led by co-chair Dot Klein, gathered outside the gates of the Civic Memorial Cemetery for a memorial and protest demanding immediate action to improve care conditions in long-term care.  They were joined by approximately 60 concerned Ontarians to remember the tragic loss of 4,000 long-term care residents during this pandemic and to demand that the Ford government take immediate action to fix the long-standing understaffing and underfunding of our long-term care homes.  Several family members carried pictures of family members who died during isolation during the pandemic. Family members of residents in long-term care, Albert Dupuis and Alessandro Presenza, shared their family’s tragic experience in long-term care as well as the need to work together and advocate for improvements. They were joined in this call by Shawn Mathe, Tracy and a registered nurse who spoke about the tragic working conditions they face every day in long-term care and their administrations’ apathy towards improving conditions. MPP Jamie West also spoke out about the need for collective action to demand improvements to care. Local media attended the event including CBC TV and radio, Francophone newspaper and radio, Sudbury Star and Sudbury.com.

Links to a sampling of media stories about the event:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sudbury/long-term-care-sudbury-ontario-1.6199352
https://northernontario.ctvnews.ca/protesters-rally-to-tell-premier-long-term-care-has-to-be-not-for-profit-1.5611745
https://www.cochranetimespost.ca/news/local-news/this-isnt-working
https://www.sudbury.com/local-news/video-sudbury-among-16-cities-targeted-by-rallies-demanding-change-in-long-term-care-4484984
https://www.thesudburystar.com/news/local-news/long-term-care-protest-monday-in-sudbury

Woodstock

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The amazing Oxford Health Coalition and the Stratford Health Coalition, led by Bryan Smith, were joined by 25 advocates outside Conservative MPP Hardeman’s office demanding immediate action to improve care levels in long-term care. They were well prepared, marching through the community with waterproof signs and pictures of loved ones who suffered in long-term care. Here too, the local participants report that they were shown a lot of support by cars and pedestrians walking by. Doug Steele spoke out about the awful working conditions in long-term care that contribute to low care levels and Marg Murray shared her family member’s experience working at a local long-term care home. Bryan Smith highlighted the conditions of care for residents in long-term care and made a call for action to seek improvement while also reading a note from a long-term care worker. Local media including Heart FM and Woodstock Sentinel Review attended the event.

Link to a sampling of media stories about the event:

http://www.heartfm.ca/news/local-news/ltc-protest-in-woodstock/

Windsor

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The Windsor Health Coalition, led by co-chair Patrick Hannon, demanded immediate action to improve care levels in long-term care at Dieppe Park.  Almost 30 protestors gathered around a wheelchair decorated with pictures in memory of one participant’s father who passed away in long-term care. It was a calm and impactful event. Tracey Ramsey, co-chair of the Windsor Health Coalition framed the context of the current state of long-term care and the work the OHC is doing to hold the provincial government accountable while Gemma Grey-Hall spoke about what the government can do to support and improve long-term care. Christine Brown and Anne Dube, family members of residents (past and present) in long-term care, spoke from the heart on the conditions facing our family and friends in long-term care and shared their loved one’s experiences living in local long-term care homes. CTV 6 PM News and the Windsor Star covered the event.

Links to a sampling of media stories about the event:

https://windsor.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=2291881 at 16:22 into the video
https://windsorstar.com/news/local-news/locals-protest-terrible-state-of-ontario-long-term-care

Waterloo

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Protestors, led by Jim Stewart, co-chair of the Waterloo Health Coalition, banded together at Waterloo Public Square despite the threat of downpour to express their collective outrage with the Ford government’s inadequate response to the long-term care crisis. Gail Roussy was joined by three other family members of residents as they shared their heartbreaking experiences with long-term care. Local CTV News stations covered the event.

Links to a sampling of media stories about the event:

https://kwnow.ca/npps/story.cfm?nppage=3624

https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/advocates-push-for-improvements-to-long-term-care-homes-at-protest-in-waterloo-1.5610649
https://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=2293979

Thunder Bay

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The Thunder Bay Health Coalition, led by chair Jules Tupker, was joined by more than 50 concerned community members to express their frustration with the state of long-term care and demand immediate action to protect our most vulnerable citizens. Unlike southern Ontario, the day was sunny! Long-term care advocate Lori Kivi spoke out about the urgency of improving long-term care and demanded immediate action from the Ford government. This call was echoed by family members of long-term care residents who wrote letters to Jules Tupker who read them aloud at the protest. Long-term care workers detailed how the conditions of work are the conditions of care with Kari Jefford of Unifor, Clair Skochinski and Carlos Santander-Maturana speaking about the working conditions in long-term care. Local media including Chronicle-Journal, Thunder Bay TV (TBT) TV and radio and CBQ Radio (CBC affiliate in Thunder Bay) attended the event.

Links to a sampling of media stories about the event:

https://www.tbnewswatch.com/local-news/province-wide-protest-calls-for-long-term-care-reform-4484498
https://www.country1053.ca/2021/10/04/province-wide-protests-against-ltc-home-conditions/
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/ltc-rally-thunder-bay-1.6199102
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-391-superior-morning/clip/15869980-jules-tupker-mini-queens-park-rally