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When Canadians look at what is going on south of the border these days, they can be forgiven for feeling blessed. And yet Canada has its own divisions of race, class and income. The coronavirus has laid them bare for all to see. Just look at the striking map of Toronto that city officials released last week.

TORONTO’S PANDEMIC INEQUITIES

TOTAL CASES BY NEIGHBOURHOOD

Data as of June 3

Rate per 100,000 people

800

200

600

400

1

3

2

4

Glenfield-Jane Heights

Runnymede-Bloor West Village

Rosedale-Moore Park

The Beaches

1

2

3

4

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME

BY NEIGHBOURHOOD

Median household income

70,000

50,000

80,000

60,000

1

3

2

4

CHEN WANG AND MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TORONTO PUBLIC HEALTH; 2016 CENSUS; NOTE: 2,048 CASES (ABOUT 17% OF TOTAL CASES) ARE MISSING ADDRESS/POSTAL CODE IN THE DATABASE AND THEREFORE NOT INCLUDED IN THE MAPPING

TORONTO’S PANDEMIC INEQUITIES

TOTAL CASES BY NEIGHBOURHOOD

Data as of June 3

Rate per 100,000 people

800

200

600

400

1

3

2

4

Glenfield-Jane Heights

Runnymede-Bloor West Village

Rosedale-Moore Park

The Beaches

1

2

3

4

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME

BY NEIGHBOURHOOD

Median household income

70,000

50,000

80,000

60,000

1

3

2

4

CHEN WANG AND MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TORONTO PUBLIC HEALTH; 2016 CENSUS; NOTE: 2,048 CASES (ABOUT 17% OF TOTAL CASES) ARE MISSING ADDRESS/POSTAL CODE IN THE DATABASE AND THEREFORE NOT INCLUDED IN THE MAPPING

TORONTO’S PANDEMIC INEQUITIES

TOTAL CASES BY NEIGHBOURHOOD

Data as of June 3

Rate per 100,000 people

800

200

600

400

1

3

2

4

1

Glenfield-Jane Heights

2

Runnymede-Bloor West Village

4

The Beaches

3

Rosedale-Moore Park

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME BY NEIGHBOURHOOD

Median household income

70,000

50,000

80,000

60,000

1

3

2

4

CHEN WANG AND MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TORONTO PUBLIC HEALTH; 2016 CENSUS; NOTE: 2,048 CASES (ABOUT 17% OF TOTAL CASES) ARE MISSING ADDRESS/POSTAL CODE IN THE DATABASE AND THEREFORE NOT INCLUDED IN THE MAPPING

It divides the city into 140 neighbourhoods and shades them according to the number and rate of COVID-19 cases. The most affected are generally in the northwest and northeast shoulders of the city, inner suburbs where indicators of well-being are below average. The least affected are mostly in the more prosperous parts of town. Set this image beside an income map of Toronto and you can’t fail to notice how closely they match.

In the northwest, one of the shaded areas is Jane-Finch, the low-income quarter around the intersection of those two streets that often figures in Toronto crime headlines. The worst-hit neighbourhood in the whole city by overall cases is up there. Glenfield-Jane Heights, which flanks Jane south of Finch, had 333 cases as of June 3. To put that in perspective, leafy, well-off Rosedale-Moore Park had 17, Runnymede-Bloor West Village 17 and the Beaches 13.

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The rate of infection in Glenfield-Jane Heights was 1,092 per 100,000 people – in other words, about one in a hundred – third highest in the city. Only nearby Weston and Humber Heights-Westmount were doing worse. Contrast that with Rosedale-Moore Park (81 per 100,000), Runnymede-Bloor West Village (139) and the Beaches (60) and the unequal impact of the virus jumps out.

In Glenfield-Jane Heights, many people don’t have the luxury of working safely at home on Zoom. They are going off to jobs as construction workers, personal-support workers, security guards or store clerks. Some are working two or three jobs at once. Those who are staying home often live in densely populated apartment towers or townhouse blocks where physical distancing is tough. They encounter other people on the elevator, in the laundry room or on the bus. Their own living spaces may house three generations.

On a hot afternoon this week, people were lining up at the bus stops on Jane and at the beer and grocery stores at Jane and Finch. A sign by the sidewalk advertised warehouse jobs at $15 to $17 an hour, “immediate start.” Care workers in masks stood outside a long-term-care facility where close to four dozen residents have died of COVID-19. In Toronto, as in the rest of the country, the great majority of deaths have been in care homes.

A neighbourhood profile of Glenfield-Jane Heights says that 77 per cent of residents are “visible minority,” compared with 51 per cent in the city as a whole. Twenty-three per cent live in “unsuitable housing,” compared with 12 per cent for Toronto. Just 11 per cent have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 44 per cent for the city.

Of course, every city has poor parts and rich parts. In Toronto, the divides between them aren’t as wide as you see in many American cities. With its green parks and winding suburban side streets, Glenfield-Jane Heights bears little resemblance to the inner-city barrens of Detroit or Milwaukee. Toronto has poured resources into improving conditions in its poorer neighbourhoods. The federal and provincial governments have invested, too. Lots of good stuff is going on around Jane and Finch. It has strong community organizations, anti-poverty programs and youth groups.

All the same, the map of COVID-19 in Toronto should give us pause. We have known for a long time that low incomes correlate with poor health. This map brings it home like a punch to the chest.

It shows that the most serious viral infection to sweep the world in memory is taking a disproportionate toll on our most disadvantaged neighbourhoods. It shows, in the most graphic manner possible, the vulnerability of our poorest residents. It shows that the prosperous are far safer than the poor – an unacceptable outcome in a caring city.

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If the pandemic does anything, it should make us redouble our efforts to help struggling neighbourhoods and keep those who live in them healthy and safe.

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