When COVID-19 first hit Canada, the country responded with a rallying cry: We are all in this together.
Today, more than a year and three devastating waves later, we know that well-meaning sentiment was, in many ways, false. It is undeniable that our fates are tied and collective actions matter in a pandemic, but the experiences of Canadians over the past 15 months have been vastly different.
Amid uplifting stories of people banding together to fight an invisible and deadly enemy – and the sounds of pots and pans clanging for health care workers – what emerged was a picture of starkly unequal pandemic experiences, divided by race, class and age.
Our failure to address the social epidemiology of COVID-19 has hampered government response, prolonged our time in lockdowns and caused unnecessary illness and death. Outside of long-term care homes the virus has had a disproportionate impact on racialized communities.
Today, The Globe and Mail is launching an extensive examination of a Brampton, Ont., neighbourhood that is one of the most impacted by COVID: L6P.
L6P is the first three characters of the postal code assigned to the city’s northeast corner, which is home to more than 82,000. Like the rest of Brampton, this Greater Toronto Area community is vital to the distribution of goods Canadians have relied on to survive the pandemic.
This neighbourhood has consistently seen one of the country’s worst positivity rates, often more than 20 per cent. It is home to thousands of essential workers, but spans the socio-economic spectrum. Institutionally, its schools have the highest rates of remote learners and its hospital has been overwhelmed with emergency admissions. Residents are near the top of vaccine priority lists, but are some of the hardest to reach.
The economic fallout from the health crisis has been equally devastating. Residents rank among the top recipients of Canada Emergency Response Benefit payments, while housing prices have skyrocketed despite a pause in population growth.
In short, this community tells the story of the pandemic in Canada and our failures to contain the virus like no other. As it has faltered, so too has the rest of the country. How it recovers speaks to our collective future.
We recognize our newsroom cannot tell the story of L6P on our own. More so, we don’t presume to already know what the story is. We need the community to tell us.
This week an invitation to participate in an extensive public consultation is being delivered to every home and business in L6P. We are asking residents to tell us how their lives have been impacted by COVID-19 and their answers will guide our journalism.
We are also collaborating with a half-dozen journalists who live in Brampton or are connected to its predominantly South Asian population. These journalists will steer our coverage and work in tandem with Globe reporters and editors. Many of them have battled COVID-19 personally or witnessed its devastating toll on their friends and families, here and overseas.
Brampton journalists Vrunda Bhatt and Gundeep Singh both contracted COVID-19. Working with the Globe’s race reporter, Dakshana Bascaramurty, we bring you their personal stories, along with an introduction to L6P and the people who live there, and the unique challenges they’ve faced during this pandemic.
To encourage community engagement, we are offering an introductory digital subscription to The Globe and Mail to all L6P residents. We are also translating our content into several languages and experimenting with new platforms. Our commitment to L6P will be continuing and wide-ranging with a goal of helping Canadians mark the end of the pandemic, together.
David Walmsley, Editor-in-chief
Matt Frehner, Head of Visual Journalism
Nicole MacIntyre, Deputy National Editor
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