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Rallies fail to generate much interest

Posted: July 4, 2020

(July 3, 2020)

By: Harold Carmichael, Sudbury Star (Print Edition)

Last week, the Sudbury Health Coalition – concerned about the province passing two bills that would change how long-term care facilities in the province are monitored and can be taken to court – held two protests.

One was held on Elm Street in front of the North East Local Health Integration Network offices in the Rainbow Centre, and the other at the intersection of Barrydowne Road and Gemmell Street in New Sudbury.

The downtown protest attracted some 20 participants while the New Sudbury one, while not as well attended, was a lively event with lots of vehicle horn-honking, according to organizers.

On Thursday, the coalition planned lunch-hour protests at the same two locations to coincide with similar protests across Ontario, including one at Queen’s Park, to alert the public the two bills are moving closer to becoming law.

However, coalition co-chairwoman Dot Klein was the only protester downtown, while no one attended the New Sudbury one.

“It was too much of a heatwave and right after Canada Day,” Klein said. “Many people here, they had gone to camp and are not coming back until next week … We are in the North and we do have access to lakes and standing on hot pavement waving a banner, well, it must have been at least 33-35 Celsius.”

Greater Sudbury, which is under a heat warning, experienced temperatures of more than 30 C by the lunch hour, but feeling more like 36 C due to the humidex.

Klein said the Ontario Health Coalition, as well as other local health coalitions across Ontario, are opposed to Bills 175 and 161, which are now at the third reading stage and could be passed into law by the end of next week.

At the same time, the province’s plan to set up a commission to look into what went wrong at long-term care facilities this spring during the coronavirus epidemic has yet to be set up and hearings held.

“What the Ontario Health Coalition and the Sudbury Health Coalition wants is withdraw Bill 175 and Bill 161 until the pandemic is declared over and there has been proper public input and consultation, and the long-term care system, the home-care system and the community care system has recommendations to meet the needs of the communities to ensure the safety and care of all Ontarians, especially the elderly, the vulnerable, those living in congregate settings, and their families and the caregivers,” she said.

The protesters say Bill 175 privatizes and removes oversight for home and community care, while Bill 161 makes it harder to launch class-action lawsuits against private companies, including for-profit, long-term care homes where so many residents died this spring due to COVID-19. Twitter: @HaroldCarmichae

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