Dear Friends in Christ,
We are definitely in the second wave of the pandemic, with Ontario reporting more than 800 new cases of COVID-19 this past Tuesday. Nearly three-quarters of these cases occurred within our Diocese, not only in the “hot spots” of Toronto and Peel Regions but also in York Region, Durham Region, and beyond.
We are all in this together. But we do not all face the same level of risk. New data from the City of Toronto shows that certain neighbourhoods have a far higher positivity rate than others. Some of our neighbourhoods have more than 10% of all COVID-19 tests coming back positive, compared to the City average of 3.1%. These neighbourhoods tend to have a higher proportion of racialized and lower-income residents.
These neighbourhoods are home to those who work in the construction, retail or service sectors, where people do not have the advantage of safely working from home. They may not have paid sick leave with their employers. More of them may be dependent on public transit to get to and from their jobs. People living on lower incomes are more likely to live in dense living conditions, where it is difficult to practice isolation from others who are or might be infected. This is especially true for people living in homeless shelters, where physical distancing has not always been enforced. Many unhoused people have, justifiably, concluded that their odds of avoiding COVID-19 are better living in a tent than in a shelter. Yet encampments also face lack of access to sanitary facilities. And winter is rapidly approaching, bringing additional health risks to those sleeping rough.
While the pandemic might be “unprecedented,” the inequities exacerbated by it, sadly, are not.
What would it mean for us truly to be “all in this together?” For us to treat no one – not the people who bag our groceries or clean our hospitals nor the person living in a tent in the local park – as disposable?
Our annual Diocesan Outreach & Advocacy Conference is asking that question – online – tomorrow. Bishop Peter Fenty will be giving the keynote address, recalling that Scripture tells us we are all members of the same body. A range of workshops will address different types of inequities and how they can be addressed. We’ll also hear from some of our FaithWorks ministries working tirelessly among people who are all too often forgotten. If you haven’t yet registered, I encourage you to do so here.
Please take some time to consider how the global pandemic is highlighting shocking inequalities in our society. Our faith in Jesus calls us to consider “who is my neighbour?” and to work towards the fulfillment of God’s vision for the world, where every individual is precious and beloved, valued and cared for, and absolutely no one is disposable.
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto