LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Thursday 2 December 2021 Jeudi 2 décembre 2021
Report continued from volume A.
Providing More Care, Protecting Seniors, and Building More Beds Act, 2021 / Loi de 2021 visant à offrir davantage de soins, à protéger les personnes âgées et à ouvrir plus de lits
Continuation of debate on the motion for third reading of the following bill:
Bill 37, An Act to enact the Fixing Long-Term Care Act, 2021 and amend or repeal various Acts / Projet de loi 37, Loi visant à édicter la Loi de 2021 sur le redressement des soins de longue durée et à modifier ou à abroger diverses lois.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?
Ms. Jessica Bell: I’m going to be sharing my time with the member for Humber River–Black Creek today.
I’m proud to be speaking on third reading of Bill 37. I want to start off by just summarizing the bill as I see it. One is that it sets goals, but not firm targets that are enforceable, for increasing the number of hours of care that residents in long-term-care homes get from PSWs, RNs and RPNs. Then, it also increases penalties and increases enforcement for long-term-care-home operators that don’t do their job, that don’t provide adequate care to people.
But here is the problem: To a large extent, this bill is very similar to the Long-Term Care Homes Act that this bill is replacing. This government has already had the enforcement mechanism and the penalty mechanism to hold long-term-care-home operators to account, and, tragically, this government has chosen not to do that.
I want to give Natalie Mehra from the Ontario Health Coalition’s summary of what this bill essentially is, and I’m going to quote:
“The Ford government has gone to extreme lengths to brand this as a new” long-term care “act. It is not a new act. It is almost clause by clause the existing act. What improvements that could have and should have happened are far more than the changes that they have made. Basically, there are a few amendments to the existing act. Many of them” are “fluff.”
That is how I’m going to summarize this act to start off. I also want to put this act in context, this move by the Ontario government to improve the long-term-care-homes sector. This bill has happened against the backdrop or in response to the backdrop of the greatest tragedy to long-term-care-home residents and also retirement home residents that Canada has ever seen. During the pandemic, the rate of death in long-term-care homes in Canada was the highest in the Western world, and that is from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
The reason why I bring this up is because, to a large extent, many of the deaths and illnesses that took place in long-term-care homes were preventable, because other provinces and other countries took better and more effective action than we did here in Ontario. What is even worse to learn is that of all the provinces in Canada, Ontario was actually the worst: 4,000 people died in long-term-care homes in Ontario. And what is so tragic is that the death rate in for-profit homes was higher, far higher than the death rate that occurred in non-profit homes and municipally run homes.
That’s why I want to emphasize that in many of these cases, these deaths and these illnesses were preventable. I also want to emphasize it because it addresses some of the root cause, the systemic issues that are facing our long-term-care-home sector, and that is that there are for-profit companies that are taking revenues—a lot of it is taxpayer revenue—and giving it to shareholders in the form of dividends, instead of reinvesting it into these long-term-care homes to ensure that personal support workers get the proper pay that they deserve and to ensure that residents get the care they deserve. That’s extremely concerning.
I want to thank Family Councils Ontario; SEIU; the Ontario Health Coalition; ACE, the legal clinic that works with seniors—I’ve done a lot of work with them—as well as friends and families of loved ones in homes, staff, ONA, OMA—many of the organizations, the institutions and the individuals that have worked so hard to hold this government to account and to push for fundamental change to the long-term-care home sector. Your voice matters. Keep organizing. Keep putting the pressure on. We will achieve change.
I also want to talk a little bit about the three homes in my riding and talk about what I saw during the pandemic and how this bill, Bill 37, will impact and will not impact some of the harsh realities that I saw.
The first address I’d like to give is the St. George home. It’s on St. George Street. It is a home that provides care to people who are often younger. Many of them are formerly homeless and some of them continue to manage mental health conditions and drug addiction. It is a hard place. These are residents who need a lot of support. Many of them don’t have access to family members. They’re often on their own, and it also means that they’re very vulnerable.
It is a place that I visited a few times before the pandemic. The building is poorly maintained. There are not a lot of recreational facilities or programs available to the residents. It’s a hard place to visit, and it would be a hard place to live in. What was so difficult is that, during the pandemic, they were not, surprisingly, one of the long-term-care homes across Ontario that was hit the hardest by COVID. At one point, they had one of the largest outbreaks in Ontario, where 156 residents had COVID, 28 staff had COVID, and tragically, 17 people who lived at St. George tragically died. It was awful. I spoke to workers there. Because many of them were fearful of reprisal from Sienna, the company that managed St. George, they were too scared to speak and put their names to their quotes, but they spoke with me extensively.
I remember one individual. She contracted COVID at the facility, and she told me that at night, she would look after 48 residents and one staff person, because the facility was so understaffed. When I talked to her, she had difficulty getting up out of bed, because she had COVID and it took her a very long time to recover from it. One of the greatest difficulties she had to cope with is that she brought COVID home to her family. Her husband got COVID as well.
What I found so frustrating and upsetting, and what this personal support worker found so frustrating and upsetting as well, is that Sienna, the for-profit company that ran St. George at this time, as well as many other long-term-care-home facilities in Ontario, is traded on the Canadian stock exchange. It continues to be traded on the Canadian stock exchange. It continues to give out dividends to shareholders—an exorbitant amount; its most recent dividend payout was in November.
This is a company—and I’ve said this before in the House, but I do believe it’s worth repeating—that received $43.6 million during the pandemic for COVID support, to help them keep residents alive, to introduce and implement infection protection controls, in order to operate during the pandemic. What was so tragic is that most of that money—about the same amount of money—went out in the form of dividends during the exact same period.
Ms. Sandy Shaw: Terrible.
Ms. Jessica Bell: It is terrible, and this also happened when the CEO at the time—they’ve since left—earned $4.7 million that year at a company that was paying its workers just above minimum wage for going into exceptionally dangerous, scary, back-breaking conditions. It’s hard work being a personal support worker; it’s physically demanding work. In the case of the personal support worker I regularly talk to, she brought it home to her family. It was very hard.
I’m just going to use my time to bring up this example, and then I’m going to bring it out to the larger context that we’re facing here, and that is that Sienna has never been held to account. It has never been fined. Its management and its senior management have never faced criminal charges, which is the real tragedy.
Sienna is one of the many for-profit companies where families now have to prove gross negligence instead of just negligence if they want to take Sienna and some of these for-profit companies to court, to hold these companies to account for the harms that they caused to their family members during COVID. That’s because of Bill 218, where this government chose to limit liability, to protect these companies from the damages they did to over 4,000 residents and their family members.
Not only that, what I find so hard to stomach is that this government is now looking at rewarding these companies by moving forward and giving these companies 30-year for-profit contracts to continue to provide the same below-standard, at-best-mediocre service to people who are extremely vulnerable. I think that we can do better than that. I know that we can do better than that.
We have a long-term-care-home plan that includes phasing in a non-profit and public model of providing long-term care, because long-term care is health care. It’s health care. It’s just like hospitals. It provides critical care to people who need it.
I’m going to conclude for today, because I want to hand over time to my colleague the member from Humber River–Black Creek. Thank you.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): I recognize the member from Humber River–Black Creek.
Mr. Tom Rakocevic: Thank you so much to the member from University–Rosedale for so graciously sharing her time on such an important topic. In the short time I have, I’m reminded of a dear friend of my father. His name is Peter. My father passed away many years ago, and I grew up with him. We spoke not that long ago. He’s a senior now, and he said to me that one thing that he learned as a senior is how little people seem to take notice of him anymore, how little people seem to care. He said he could rob a bank, and they would say it was just some old guy who did it; he would probably get away without punishment.
Those were his words, and I thought about that. He was making a joke, but it’s actually really sad. We love our children; we care about them. And I think it’s so important. We should do more for our children in this society. But why don’t we treat seniors with the same love and respect? All things being equal, if you look at a human life, the time of greatest needs come from birth. I know; I have a five-month old, and he relies heavily on his parents.
You go through life. You go through a life of working in a system, giving back, maybe having your own family and taking care of them, taking care of your neighbourhood, your neighbours. Think of all the things you do. You help build this province we all live in. And then when your time of need comes, what happens to you?
What was it like for Vibert? I took his story here. I questioned the Premier this morning on it, because his sister, his loving sister Pamela, reached out yesterday, desperately saying, “My brother is now in a hospital and being forced to go back to a private long-term facility that we had to rescue him from.” She said that he had a bedsore that started small and over the course of a month—I saw the image. She shared it with me. I brought it in an envelope and I shared it with the Premier, and I gave a copy to the Minister of Health, asking for help for this family. What that image was, was literally—it looked like an ice cream scoop was taken out of this poor man, Vibert. That’s what it looked like. He had to be put on 17 bags—17 bags—of antibiotics. He’s still on antibiotics. And now she is desperately facing a decision: Go back to the place that ultimately led to his being in the hospital—or what? Or what? So I hope that she will find help for her brother.
I speak about him because it seems to me that the Conservatives will literally try to privatize and monetize anything they can get their hands on. That was the solution of the Conservatives in the 1990s when it came to long-term care: find a way to further privatize the system. And during this pandemic, we saw by far the worst outcomes were in private long-term care: 78% more deaths there. The military had to be called in. What did they find? In some cases, maggots, feces, people dying of dehydration in a long-term-care centre. Imagine that, dying of dehydration because you were not given water.
And the solution to fixing long-term care is to reward these private operators with more beds—that is the Conservatives’ solution—and to get up, member after member, sanctimoniously attacking the official opposition that wants to fix long-term care and give the best outcomes, which are public and non-profit spaces. They don’t want to consider it. For them, they are going to reward their operators, their donors, their friends, the boards staffed with former members that members in this party go on when they’re past their political lives to make huge payouts in a system that’s monetizing our loved ones.
Can you imagine? They get up and they say they’re going to improve penalties; they’re going to strengthen penalties. Who do you think actually believes this? You—this government—sorry, through the Speaker: This government, in the midst of this pandemic, now with over 4,000 seniors and others dying in long-term care—their priority, when it came to long-term care, was to protect the liabilities of these operators. That was the priority. That’s what they rushed to introduce legislation on: to protect the liability of private operators.
In 2019—and I think you’ll all remember this, because when people have come to this chamber, to this building, to reach out and to tell us what needs fixing in the system—when I talked to nurses and PSWs, they came to me and they said the situation was absolutely untenable, that the ratios of staff to residents, especially and for the most part in private long-term care, was abysmal. And so look at the outcomes.
But imagine, as they were saying this—and all of us, I’m sure, were receiving calls from residents, from their loved ones saying, “This is the terrible situation that the person I love is in right now. How do we help them?”
In 2019, under the leadership of this government, out of 626 long-term-care homes, how many were inspected? Nine out of 626 homes—imagine having the job as that inspector. On the docket for January, “Hey, you’ve 626 homes. Go do nine inspections.” Then, they come with the audacity to say, “Look at us. We’re now improving these fines. It’s going to be scary. We’re going to go after these operators with these fines.”
Nobody believes you. You could add a fine to institute corporal punishment in this chamber right here by the mace. What’s it going to do if you don’t institute those punishments?
Do you think you will? Can you imagine how awkward the cocktail party—
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Through the Chair.
Mr. Tom Rakocevic: Through the Speaker: Can you imagine how awkward those fundraisers and cocktail parties you’re going to have will be with these same operators that you’re doling out fines to? Nobody is believing that. Nobody is believing that whatsoever. It’s really unbelievable.
We have an opportunity to fix a system that’s failing our loved ones, and what we have is basically increasing the monetization of a system that is failing our loved ones. The gentleman that I spoke about this morning, Vibert? Private long-term care. Earlier, I spoke about a person whose brother had to be rushed to the hospital because he was experiencing a urinary tract infection and was facing sepsis. Vibert, by the way, had sepsis. Where did this happen? At a private long-term-care facility where the military had to be called into, to go and sort it out and fix it.
After the military gets called in, you’ve got a hospital taking over. Even after the hospital takes over, we have a resident there, his loved one, his daughter, fighting the home to call an ambulance to potentially save his life, because he was moments away from sepsis. And yet the solution to fixing long-term care—which they all agree is a big problem—is going to be adding more private long-term-care beds.
They say that they’re going to hire more PSWs and more nurses. The staffing shortage is happening for many reasons, including burnout and how they’re treated on the job, the fact that our health care workers, who are there to protect and help our loved ones, are being paid minimum wage and are having to go from place to place, barely able to help their own families. The solution is, “Hey, we’re just going to hire thousands more, but not actually improve the job and make it something that people are going to flock to”—because they are suffering, going through PTSD, being burned out.
From top to bottom, there’s so much missing in this legislation. This could be a legacy. This could be something that you could be proud to tell your children, to tell your grandchildren about, that we have fixed the system, and that one day, heaven forbid, all of us who end up there will know that we are receiving the highest level of treatment that we expect and demand for our loved ones. But no, that’s not what we’re seeing. We are seeing yet another way to help their friends in private industry monetize our loved ones.
It just never seems to end with this government. We need change. Change is coming.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Questions?
Mr. Dave Smith: My question is to the member from—Humber Valley-Black River?
Mr. Dave Smith: Black Creek? Sorry.
I appreciate that the NDP is coming out and they’re saying that it should be not-for-profit and it should be municipally run. In my riding, not a single not-for-profit or municipality came forward and applied for more beds. We have a shortage of 5,500 right now; 5,500 people are on long-term care wait-lists in my area, and 502 new beds have been announced and are in the pipeline to be built. Since no not-for-profits came forward and no municipal homes came forward to get more beds, would the member say to my riding, “No, you should not have any more because you don’t need them”?
Mr. Tom Rakocevic: Respectfully to the member opposite, Conservatives love to complain about spending, but when it comes to things like a $10-billion highway that experts say will shave 30 seconds off a drive, they’re throwing money out the door. It’s like this, because the developers want it. Their friends, their donors are calling for it. But to show leadership, to come up with a plan to help create more public beds—no money; the door is closed: “Let’s just go back to our private friends, donors, and give them more beds,” so we can see more families suffering in the way that we’ve seen during this pandemic. Come on.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Question?
Ms. Sandy Shaw: Thank you to the member for calling it like it is. This government is doubling down on privatization in long-term care and retirement homes where they failed people. People died when they didn’t need to. This government took public dollars, public taxpayer dollars, and gave them to for-profit corporations who then gave them to shareholders as dividends. That is a shameful record. They should be ashamed of this record. I, for one, am proud that we in the opposition have stood up time and time again to defend seniors.
This Premier talked about an iron ring around seniors. It was only an iron ring around for-profit corporations. My question is: Everyone in the province knows that profiteering off the backs of our seniors is wrong—apparently everyone but this government. Do you think the people in the province are going to think that this bill is anything more than political theatre designed to distract us from their $11-billion boondoggle of a highway that nobody wants? I don’t think so. What do you think?
Mr. Tom Rakocevic: Thank you very much for the question. Nobody is buying this. I’d like to actually mention again a fact that’s been raised here, that experts have done the research and they’ve determined—Conservatives love to talk about efficiency—that on the dollar, for every government dollar invested into private long-term care, only 49 cents go into direct patient care. But when it’s non-profit or public, it’s 79 cents. And so, imagine the level of inefficiency that they’re willing to go through to basically once again reward their friends, these bad-actor operators in the private sector of long-term care. It just never ends with this government. People are not buying it, and they know it. They’re not buying it.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Question?
Mr. Dave Smith: Again, I’ll ask the question, because I didn’t get an answer. Zero municipal, zero not-for-profit requests for long-term care to be built in my riding, and 5,500 people are on the wait-list: Does the member opposite say my riding, the people I represent, do not deserve long-term care? Because we’re putting 504 long-term-care beds into my riding right now. Does the member say that because zero were requested by municipal and zero were requested by not-for-profits, I should get zero and my riding should get zero and 5,500 should remain on a long-term-care wait-list, because he doesn’t want to build them?
Mr. Tom Rakocevic: Imagine the system we could have if, through the Speaker, the member over there had the same passion in spending money to help our seniors, because public beds are available. But you—but this member wants to put more money into the hands of his donor friends. That is what this system is. Put the money—you want to spend it on highways that people aren’t asking for? Why don’t you do it for our loved ones? Please bring that passion and help the loved ones. We all need it. Do it.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Stop the clock.
Okay, I’ve stopped the clock just for a moment. We’re going to bring the temperature down and we’re going to finish up the afternoon so that we can go and represent our communities. But I’m going to invite everyone to bring the temperature down, please.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): You can call it whatever you would like. I am asking everyone to allow the debate to continue in a parliamentary way. Thank you. We’re good? We can continue? Yes? Thank you.
Ms. Judith Monteith-Farrell: I thank the members from University–Rosedale and Humber River–Black Creek for their impassioned response to this subject. We all feel very strongly about this in our House.
I really love the line that long-term care is health care—and health care should be public. People believe that.
I also really like the comment from the members that we’ve lost an opportunity. It’s not strong enough. This is a point in time when we really need to make a difference. We know the urgency is there.
I’d like to ask the member a question that I feel very strongly about. I know we discussed long-term care, but I really feel that not having home care addressed in a serious way in this bill is a big problem. What’s your opinion?
Mr. Tom Rakocevic: Absolutely. I think we can all agree that families want to keep their loved ones—especially the loved ones themselves, to live in the dignity of their own homes, to be able to take care of themselves, with their loved ones. To invest in home care is something that should really be a priority for this government, to put the money that’s needed to help accommodate our loved ones at home as long as possible, and if the time comes for some to go into long-term care, to give them the best outcomes—and the best outcome is to invest, to show leadership and to create more public or non-profit beds. Be the leaders. Do it. They can do it.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Next question?
Mr. Amarjot Sandhu: My friends across the aisle have agreed with our government that eliminating the wait-list for long-term care is essential. Under the previous Liberal government, the wait-list swelled to over 38,000, leaving seniors waiting in hospital rooms for long-term-care spaces to become available.
Speaker, our government is acting quickly and making historic investments so that seniors can get off wait-lists and into homes. We are investing $6.4 billion to ensure that we meet our goal to build 30,000 new beds by 2028. This is more, annually, than the NDP has put in their long-term-care plan—and unlike the NDP, all the funds invested by our government will go to building new bed capacity and providing care, instead of wasting billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money expropriating property.
Will the member opposite support our commitment to putting money into actual beds, actual care, and ending the wait-list?
Mr. Tom Rakocevic: To keep it simple, the best outcomes are in non-profit, public delivery of long-term care. The most efficient use of taxpayer dollars through this government—49 cents in private, 79 cents in public or non-profit. It’s obvious that’s the solution. It just takes some courage, some leadership and some hard work, and we can do everything we can and really have a legacy we can all be proud of to help our loved ones in long-term care.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): We have time for a very quick back-and-forth.
Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: I have a question for the member from University–Rosedale around the retirement homes section. I know she’s very passionate about it; she has a bill that she presented. The member from Whitby talked about some of the improvements that this government is going to make, but I want to ask the member from University–Rosedale what her bill would actually do to improve the lives of residents in retirement homes, if they should pass it.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Response, the member for University–Rosedale.
Ms. Jessica Bell: Thank you for the question. I do have a bill that would provide better protections for seniors in retirement homes, and this bill came out of conversations and work with seniors who have been evicted from retirement homes against their will. This bill has two things: One, it would give tenants better protection if a retirement home wants to evict them—so strengthen them—because right now a retirement home can evict someone and they don’t even have to follow a fair process. Second, there are a lot of seniors who are being evicted because retirement homes, particularly the for-profit ones, will dramatically increase the fees for things like nursing care or giving out medication or food, and it’s not transparent and—
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Thank you. Further debate?
Ms. Sandy Shaw: It is always a pleasure to rise on behalf of the residents of Hamilton West–Ancaster–Dundas. It is my honour to serve you, and I would like to share with you my pride in how hard you’ve worked to protect people in your community, to protect our vulnerable citizens, like seniors. You are owed a debt of gratitude from me and from the members of the opposition.
In discussing this bill, I’d like to begin by saying that as we move towards the holidays and we are spending time with loved ones, I think we need to look back to where we were a year ago in this province. I’m sure every member here will know how we felt, from a personal perspective. We felt the fear of what was to come. Our family members were concerned for one another. Our neighbours were concerned for one another. But the biggest tragedy that everyone was speaking about was the horrors that were unfolding in long-term care and in retirement homes across our province. In my constituency office, we were inundated with calls, not only from desperate family members, but from desperate seniors. Seniors were calling us from their retirement homes saying that they needed help, that they felt so vulnerable, and that they were not getting any clear direction from this government.
I also would like to take this time to thank my staff. Our staff in our constituency offices had to hear horrific stories.
Ms. Sandy Shaw: The member from Whitby—I’m sure that in his constituency office they heard horrific stories of citizens and of residents who were struggling.
My staff bore the brunt of this. They heard stories that no one should have to hear. I want to thank them by name. I want to thank Paul, who was there from the beginning with me. I’d like to thank Alex.
I particularly want to thank Will, from my office. Will heard a story about a woman named Margaret, whose husband was in a retirement home. She couldn’t visit him, she couldn’t get him out, and she knew that he was failing. She tried so hard to get her husband the help that he needed. Will was there for her every step of the way. Will described the stories that Margaret was sharing about her and her husband—he said it’s like the movie The Notebook. They seemed to have such deep love for one another. They had been together for 60-plus years, and that this was the way they were going to end was tragic for her, and for Will. The sad part of the story is that after all these efforts on our part, we did manage to get Margaret’s husband out of the retirement home. She had to arrive with transportation. The home wheeled him to the front door in a wheelchair, and they opened the front door and gave him to Margaret. She did not recognize her husband. He had taken a number of falls and was battered. He should have been in hospital, but he wasn’t. She managed to get her husband home. Will was so happy to hear this, and Margaret was so thrilled to have him home. But he died a few short days later. So to Will, who understood that this was a love story, I’d like to say thank you for what you did for her.
I also would like to say to Will, I’m so happy that you’ve found a love in Sheila that is equal to The Notebook. You’ve done a good service, and you’re a good man, and you deserve all of our gratitude.
I also want to thank Britney, who worked so hard on developing my Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority bill, which would have done something to actually fix retirement homes—not this piece of theatre that’s before us in this bill—
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): I’m sorry to interrupt the member. She will have time to complete her remarks at a later time.
Third reading debate deemed adjourned.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): It being 6 o’clock, it is now time for private members’ public business.
Private Members’ Public Business
Anti-Asian Racism Education Month Act, 2021 / Loi de 2021 sur le mois de sensibilisation au racisme anti-asiatique
Mr. Ke moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 34, An Act to proclaim May as Anti-Asian Racism Education Month / Projet de loi 34, Loi proclamant le mois de mai Mois de sensibilisation au racisme anti-asiatique.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Pursuant to standing order 101, the member has 12 minutes for his presentation.
Mr. Vincent Ke: I’m humbled to rise in the House to present the second reading of my private member’s bill, Bill 34, Anti-Asian Racism Education Month—in May.
Speaker, I’m humbled and grateful that Bill 34, which I first introduced in this House on October 27, has received so much genuine interest and support from many honourable ministers and MPP colleagues, and especially encouraging, from many of my constituents and the public at large.
By raising awareness of the many positive contributions of the Asian community in Canada, Bill 34 has the opportunity to raise the profile of Asian heritage in our communities. It is an especially important endeavour in terms of educating children and young people of all backgrounds about the importance of fairness, recognition and inclusion so they and future generations will have a better understanding of others and their valued place in our shared history as Canadians.
For instance, the Chinese railroad workers worked tirelessly on the rugged Canadian frontier in dangerous, even treacherous, conditions to bring to life the Canadian dream of a cross-country railway that was intended to connect Canadians coast to coast. For all their labours in the harshest landscapes and most unforgiving of environments, the Chinese railroad workers suffered many unjust hardships, and as many as 4,000 workers sacrificed their lives for the creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Unfortunately, they were unrecognized for their significant contributions. When the railroad was completed, the Chinese railroad workers were excluded from official photos as if they were invisible and unworthy of acknowledgement.
An excerpt from the Canadian Encyclopedia website: “The Chinese head tax was enacted to restrict immigration after Chinese labour was no longer needed to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. Between 1885 and 1923, Chinese immigrants had to pay a head tax to enter Canada. The tax was levied under the Chinese Immigration Act (1885). It was the first legislation in Canadian history to exclude immigration on the basis of ethnic background. With few exceptions, Chinese people had to pay at least $50 to come to Canada. The tax was later raised to $100, then to $500. During the 38 years the tax was in effect, around 82,000 Chinese immigrants paid nearly $23 million in tax. The head tax was removed with the passing of the Chinese Immigration Act in 1923. Also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, it banned all Chinese immigrants until its repeal in 1947. In 2006, the federal government apologized for the head tax and its other racist immigration policies targeting Chinese people.”
Speaker, Bill 34 is truly a non-partisan bill, and, if passed, I believe it will make a meaningful difference in the lives of people of all ages, but especially for visible minorities of Asian descent, the children, youth and the vulnerable elders in my community of Don Valley North and in countless other communities all across Ontario.
Bill 34 aims to target our attention on education and awareness about anti-Asian racism, hatred or discrimination—also known as the “shadow pandemic” since the onset of the COVID-19 public health crisis—to encourage respect for people of Asian heritage.
In June 2020 and in June 2021, in partnership with the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia, the Angus Reid Institute found that another kind of virus, racism, had spread across the country. “Assaults, verbal threats, graffiti and worse—all directed at people of Chinese (and other east Asian) descent—have been reported since the pandemic was declared.” And Canadians “are far more pessimistic about the timelines associated with eliminating one of the ugly by-products of COVID-19: an intensification of anti-Asian discrimination in Canadian communities.” Among those surveyed, “Asian and non-Asian Canadians tend to agree that this issue will take another generation to solve.”
Speaker, Canada is home to many thousands of proud Asian Canadians. They should feel comfortable to express their pride in their Asian culture and heritage, just as many other Canadians who have immigrated to Canada from all over the globe do, without fear of social reprisal.
Asian Canadians often suffer in silence because they don’t want to risk attracting criticism or negative attention. The perpetrators of anti-Asian racism count on their silence and ours to continue without any consequence, expressing their racist words in person or on social media. Anti-Asian racism damages their feelings of self-worth and sense of belonging.
It is important to acknowledge that when one person is affected by racism, hatred, prejudice or discrimination, we are all affected. Anti-Asian racism has the power to harm and diminish us all.
Education is the gateway to awareness. Awareness is the first step we must take to create cultural change, guide us to mutual respect, understanding and empathy. By learning more about anti-Asian racism, we each have the power and responsibility to acknowledge, address and eliminate it.
Today, we have the chance to stand together to support Asian Canadians. Bill 34 will give Asian Canadians the courage to raise their voices in unison with ours to speak up about and against anti-Asian racism.
Speaker, many Asian Canadians, especially those of Chinese descent, express to me that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, they feel like convenient scapegoats who get unfairly blamed for the virus.
In a country that prides itself on inclusion and multiculturalism, we are taught to tolerate differences and include others. It is not acceptable for anyone to ostracize others and treat them like second-class citizens.
The truth is, anti-Asian racism is not new, but since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, this form of racism has seen a sharp escalation. Asian Canadians are told, “Go back where you came from.” They are spat on. They are mocked. And in some cases, shockingly, they are physically assaulted. This is absolutely unacceptable.
While I believe that most Canadians harbour no ill will towards their Asian neighbours, those who do feel animosity against Asian Canadians and express it with hateful words must be held accountable, because racism hurts us all.
Tina J. Park, a fellow at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University and the CEO of the Park Group, recently wrote a powerful opinion piece for Policy Options about anti-Asian racism, which was featured in a reprint by the Ottawa Citizen: “The true measure of Canada’s response to the surge in anti-Asian racism will depend on how quickly serious policy measures are undertaken at various levels of jurisdiction, to educate the public, punish the perpetrators and provide a solid source of support for those who are affected.”
Speaker, may Bill 34 serve to remind us that Asian Canadians deserve the same respect and esteem afforded to us all as Canadians of equal worth. I am confident that with Bill 34 we will witness change in action that will restore a sense of pride, peace, hope and inclusion in the hearts and minds of Canadians, including Canadians of Asian descent.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?
Ms. Jessica Bell: I’d like to thank the member for Don Valley North for his powerful presentation about the value of his bill, the Anti-Asian Racism Education Month Act—and declaring the month of May as being that month. It is very clear that it is vital and that everyone in the Legislature agrees that we need to build a respectful, inclusive and welcoming province.
In my riding of University–Rosedale, approximately 11,000 residents are Chinese Canadian. The Chinese community in my riding is central to who we are, to the vibrancy of our community, to the health of our neighbourhoods. The Chinese community in my riding has helped build our city and has helped our city grow. We have the largest Chinatown in Toronto and one of the largest Chinatowns in Canada. It is a cultural hub, it is a community hub, it is a tourism hub, and it’s also home to so many people.
I want to recognize some of the Chinese Canadian leading organizations that operate in my riding, including the Chinatown BIA and the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter—there are many others, but those are two that I work with regularly.
I also want to acknowledge and reiterate what the member for Don Valley North said about the long history of Chinese communities being targets of racism. The member for Don Valley North mentioned the Chinese head tax and how that was replaced by the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was explicitly designed to restrict immigration from China after the work that was done to build the railway across Canada was completed—and that work was completed on the backs and the hard work of Chinese Canadians.
I also want to recognize Jean Lumb. Jean Lumb recently died during the pandemic. She was a resident of Mon Sheong, a long-term-care home/charity in my riding. She was directly impacted by the Chinese Exclusion Act and was separated from her husband for many years, because they were not able to immigrate and reunite. They lived in separate countries for many years. She was also instrumental in the struggle to save Chinatown in the 1960s. City hall brought forward a plan to decrease the size of Chinatown from the size that it was then to less than a third. It was the work of Jean Lumb, as the chair of the Save Chinatown Committee, that resulted in Chinatown in my riding continuing to exist today. And that was another example of racism.
I do want to also support what the member from Don Valley North said about how racism targeting the Asian community has worsened in the pandemic. In my riding, there have been weekly protests, and many of the protesters have chosen to target Chinese-owned businesses, Chinese employees and shop owners. It is a huge problem. There have been approximately 1,150 incidents of recorded racism. There are so much more, but there have been 1,150 recorded incidents. Many of them have happened in Ontario, and tragically, many of them have happened in my riding.
I think that we can do a lot better than this. I share the member’s concerns and the need to take action. What we do here in the Legislature sends a very clear message about what is acceptable and not acceptable in society. When we ignore hate, we are tacitly condoning it. When we rise to the challenge and we show leadership and work in many ways to create a diverse, welcoming and tolerant province where everyone is of equal worth, as the member so wisely said, then we set an example.
We support calling May the month when we tackle anti-Asian racism through education. I also encourage the government opposite to augment the education component to this month with additional steps that we can take to tackle anti-Asian racism. They can include establishing a province-wide anti-racism strategy that works to dismantle organized hate groups and systemic discrimination. In my riding, it is very clear that groups get together and organize online and then come to my riding—Kensington, Chinatown—and deliberately target people. It is an organized effort. It is extremely concerning.
We are also calling for the establishment of a fully funded and independent anti-racism secretariat to take the lead on this work. We must augment this education with action and institutions to enforce the rules.
We are calling for the mandating of race-based data collection so that we can identify inequities in our schools, in our hiring practices, in our provincial workplaces.
We are also calling for a COVID-19 plan that addresses inequality and helps small businesses in communities, including racialized communities. The example that comes to mind when I speak of that is the small business support grant program. I went door to door to many of the retail stores in my riding, and what I found is that many business owners who were fluent in English knew about the small business support grant program and had already applied. They were having difficulty, but they had already applied. But when I went to stores in Chinatown, I found that the language barriers and the cultural barriers and the racism resulted in many of them not even knowing that that small business support grant program existed. Staff in my office who are fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin had to work with them to ensure that they had equitable access to these important programs.
To conclude: When we’re speaking about providing additional support to marginalized communities, I also want to emphasize the community housing in my riding that houses many seniors who are from Hong Kong and China, who live in community housing which is, quite frankly, poorly maintained. They need additional support. They need to live in stable, high-quality homes, and they need culturally appropriate support as well. So when we’re thinking about tackling anti-Asian racism, I ask this government—yes, we’re supporting this bill—to also think of practical ways that our programs can help people as well.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?
Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: It is an honour to rise today to stand shoulder to shoulder with my good friend and colleague the member from Don Valley North. Like the rest of our government, I stand in support of his private member’s bill.
The richness of Ontario’s cultural heritage is a source of great strength for our province. You can walk down nearly any street and meet people who began from all corners of the world and now choose to call our province home. The cultural heritage of our Asian Ontarians weaves important threads in our cultural tapestry.
Racism in any form is wrong. Anti-Asian racism cannot and should not be tolerated. It has no place in the Ontario of 2021. Racism is based on hate: hate of the unknown, hate of the other. The story of our Asian heritage in this province is one of love. Like many immigrants to Ontario from all around the world, this story is one based on love and hope for a better future for ourselves and our families.
I’m honoured to be the first Korean Canadian to be appointed a provincial cabinet minister. I’m humbled by this responsibility. It is incredible to see so many members in this House who are the first members of their cultural communities to be elected.
I’m also blessed to represent the incredible riding of Scarborough North. Like many parts of our marvellous province, it is incredibly diverse. Though we are diverse, we also share much in common. We take care of those most in need, working together to build a more vibrant community.
This is the path forward: getting to know our fellow Ontarians. When we do, our shared values can overcome hate in any form. Our shared love for this great province will prevail.
I thank my good friend and colleague the member from Don Valley North for bringing forward this private member’s bill, and I proudly support it.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?
Mr. Chris Glover: It’s an honour to stand in the House today and speak in favour of this bill, and I want to thank the member from Don Valley North for bringing it forward. The bill is entitled An Act to proclaim May as Anti-Asian Racism Education Month. This is an important step in dealing with anti-Asian racism.
Just today, I was speaking with a resident of mine named Jane, who lives in Chinatown, and she was talking about the racist attacks that she has experienced during the pandemic. She talked about microaggressions, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, where people would give her a disgusted look and then start moving away from her. She also talked about a racially charged attack that she experienced just walking down the street with her dog—completely unprovoked. And she talked about the lasting impact that racist attacks have had on her. She said that during the height of SARS, when she was in grade 6, a kid came up to her and coughed in her ear and said, “SARS.” She still remembers that. It still has emotional resonance for her today. These microaggressions, these racist attacks have real implications and impacts on people. That’s why it’s so important that we actually deal with anti-Asian racism and all forms of racism. I think the bill is a move in the right direction.
I was speaking with the NDP’s anti-racism critic, the member for Kitchener Centre, and I would really encourage all members of this House, from all sides, to speak with her. There is no member in this Legislature who has a better understanding of anti-racism and how to overcome racism than that member. I asked her about this bill, and she said the bill is good. We need education in order to deal with racism. But she said it needs tools and resources as well, and we need trauma-informed responses. She said teachers need training. If we’re going to be talking about education, teachers need training to get the tools so that they can make the experiences in schools better. And she said that in the height of the pandemic, Asian communities are being targeted, and they need a place to report and leaders in our schools who are prepared to respond. Those are some of the suggestions. I would highly encourage all members of the House to reach out to the member from Kitchener Centre about strengthening this bill and implementing the bill so that we get the educational resources that are needed to actually deal with it.
The other thing that I will say is, I’m very proud to represent a large portion of Toronto’s Chinatown, and I am also deeply ashamed of the long history of racism from the government and from the people of this country towards the Asian community. We are starting to make amends for it, but there’s so much more to do. We’ve got the mistreatment, the horrible abuse, of the railroad workers in the mid-1800s, and then the Chinese head tax, and then the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923. The Chinese Exclusion Act restricted all Chinese immigration into Canada, separating families, so that many men who had immigrated before that were unable to earn enough money or to allow their families to come and join them. Between 1923 and 1946, when the law was finally repealed, only 15 Chinese immigrants were allowed into Canada.
I’m glad that we’re starting to make amends. There have been amends from the government level: the Chinese railroad—a monument is in my riding. I’m proud that we go down there every year and we celebrate down there the contribution of the Chinese community.
I’ve got one minute left. I want to talk about Jean Lumb and a challenge to the Chinatown community right now. Jean Lumb settled here in Toronto’s Chinatown in 1936. She challenged the Chinese Exclusion Act, and she opened a restaurant with her husband. In the 1960s, she saw that two thirds of Chinatown was demolished to make room for Toronto city hall and Nathan Philips Square. She was the chair of the Save Chinatown Committee and advocated to save what was left of Chinatown from further demolition.
The challenge that is being faced by Chinatown right now is that of gentrification. Chinatown’s history of displacement must not be repeated. Some 70% of the area is rental housing and mom-and-pop businesses, with culturally sensitive and language-specific services, and they are being priced out to make room for franchises. Chinatown is constantly under threat for gentrification, so I would highly recommend that the government look at ways, and work with us in the opposition to look at ways to preserve Chinatown so that we have this incredibly vibrant community in the future in Toronto.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?
Mr. Amarjot Sandhu: First and foremost, I would like to mention that I’m proud to stand in the Legislature today to support a motion that reflects and carries not just my values but the values of everyone in this House. I would also like to thank my friend the member from Don Valley North for advocating and tabling this motion, which I believe will go on to play a critical role in our combat against racism and discrimination in Ontario.
Madam Speaker, Bill 34, An Act to proclaim May as Anti-Asian Racism Education Month, is a significant step forward to help us move past this pandemic. It is unfortunate to see that the term “COVID-19” has been associated with people of Asian heritage. Far too many people have used disrespectful slurs and slang to describe this problem.
It’s no secret that people of Asian heritage have experienced a heightened rate of race-related incidents during this pandemic. The Asian community, just like my community, is a visible minority and has been an easy target for others to direct their frustration and anger towards. To everyone listening and watching, let me make one thing clear: Racism and hate have no place in Ontario.
Earlier this year, in March, two surveys were conducted in Toronto which focused on anti-Asian racism since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The results generated from these surveys were concerning. From March 2020 to February 2021, in under a year, the results of these surveys tallied more than 1,000 occurrences of racism against Asian Ontarians, of which 60% of the victims were women.
Speaker, in a separate report published by Statistics Canada in July 2020, just a few months after the initial cases of COVID-19, it showed that attacks and harassment towards visible minorities had tripled compared to the rest of the population, and the largest increase was seen among individuals belonging to an Asian background. Furthermore, Madam Speaker, Toronto is said to have the second-largest number of cases associated with anti-Asian hate crimes.
This is not the Ontario we helped build. As proud Ontarians, we take pride in celebrating our differences. We do not target each other based on our identity, religion, faith or colour. We have a responsibility to speak up and act against the injustice, intolerance and discrimination that racialized individuals continue to experience. We must show our solidarity and ensure that the Asian community is aware that we stand shoulder to shoulder with them.
Education is a vital component to combat racism. We can help eliminate discrimination and racism through education, as it will help change narratives and perspectives but, more importantly, educate Ontarians more about Asian heritage. Earlier this year, Speaker, our government took action to combat anti-Asian racism and discrimination in schools by providing $340,000 to support programs and initiatives with community partners. These critical initiatives have worked to help fight discrimination and racism but, more importantly, promoted inclusivity within our school system.
Our government has shown its determination to put an end to hate in our communities, but we know there is more to do before everyone in our province can be safe and feel as safe as they should. Speaker, by proclaiming May as Anti-Asian Racism Education Month, the province of Ontario will respect the proud accomplishments and sacrifices of Ontario’s Asian communities, who have helped build this province and country. We will continue to work with partners and communities to ensure everyone who calls Ontario home can feel at home no matter their background, race, language or religion.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?
Mr. Billy Pang: I’m proud to rise today to speak to Bill 34, Anti-Asian Racism Education Month Act, 2021. Speaker, racism and hate have no place in Ontario. As the MPP for Markham–Unionville, I’m honoured that my riding entrusted me to serve them as their MPP. In addition to Main Street, Unionville, which we are renowned for, we also have the largest concentration of Chinese Canadians in all of Ontario, which is 64.5%.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen rising incidents of anti-Asian racism and hate in Ontario. This has been a growing concern for residents in my riding. Speaker, no one should feel on edge when we are walking down a street or in a public space. And no one deserves to be shouted at, “Go back to where you come from.”
We each have a responsibility to speak up and act against injustice, intolerance and discrimination. I’m proud that our government continues to take action to combat this racism and hate through the doubling of the Anti-Racism and Anti-Hate Grant Program, from $1.6 million to $3.2 million, and a funding of $340,000 to combat anti-Asian racism in schools.
Change, Madam Speaker, also begins through education, which this bill focuses on. Ontario is built from the backs of hard-working Ontarians from different ethnicities and different cultures and traditions. Education can play an important role in addressing racism and discrimination. In addition to the contribution Asian Canadians play in today’s economy, it is also important to educate our community about the historic impact Asian Canadians played towards the success of our province and nation.
In the 1880s, over 17,000 Chinese labourers arrived in Canada to help construct the British Columbian segment of the Canadian Pacific Railway, a railway which continues to be one of the most important nation-building infrastructure projects in Canadian history. Chinese railway workers were often assigned the most dangerous sections to work on. And several sections of the CPR were constructed entirely by Chinese railway workers, including the 145-kilometre track from Port Moody to Yale and the 113-kilometre track from Lytton to Savona’s Ferry in BC. Madam Speaker, this is one of the many examples of what Asian Canadians have contributed to the success of our province and nation since the beginning.
I want to thank the member from Don Valley North for bringing forward this important bill. If passed, it will proclaim May as Anti-Asian Racism Education Month. This bill will be a big step forward to help combat anti-Asian racism in our schools, community and province.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?
Seeing none, I return to the member who has two minutes to reply, plus the time on the clock.
Mr. Vincent Ke: Thank you to Minister Cho, MPP Sandhu and MPP Pang for your confidence in Bill 34 and for your support. Thank you as well to the member from University–Rosedale and the member from Spadina–Fort York for your valuable input.
This year marks the 50th anniversary in Canada for multiculturalism as an official policy. May is Asian Heritage Month. May is also Mental Health Awareness Month across Canada, which makes this the perfect time and ideal social climate to have introduced Bill 34, Anti-Asian Racism Education Month in May.
Speaker, I strongly believe that Bill 34 will encourage open communication on the sensitive topic of racism. It will help to educate the public about anti-Asian racism, hatred and discrimination, and will have a positive impact on the public perception of their Asian Canadian neighbours.
Bill 34 will also help to foster a deeper sense of belonging in Canada among Asian youth and their families, as well as including the revered elders in Asian communities. Speaker, with collective courage and determination, Bill 34 gives us the prime opportunity to raise public awareness about the reality of anti-Asian racism and how it impacts each of us and our communities.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): The time provided for private members’ public business has expired.
Mr. Pang has moved second reading of Bill 34, An Act to proclaim May as Anti-Asian Racism Education Month. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Second reading agreed to.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Which committee?
Mr. Vincent Ke: Send it to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Thank you. Is the majority in favour of the bill being referred to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills? Agreed? Agreed.
All matters relating to private members’ public business having been completed, this House stands adjourned until Monday, December 6, at 10:15 a.m.
The House adjourned at 1839.