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In the early days of the pandemic, a common thought was that the novel coronavirus would be the great equalizer: a public-health disaster that affected all of us equally across class lines. (Remember Tom Hanks in quarantine?)

Instead, new data suggests that COVID-19 is a lot like most other serious health issues: it is most devastating to marginalized, racialized and low-income people.

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Toronto Public Health says that between mid-May and mid-July racialized residents made up 83 per cent of all COVID-19 cases, with Black people making up the largest group (21 per cent). That means racialized people, who represent 52 per cent of Toronto’s population, are being affected disproportionately.

Experts say it may be in part because of the spread of COVID-19 in low-income neighbourhoods, where there could be crowded living conditions, or employment in industries like factories that put the residents at higher risk of getting sick.

As federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments continue to tackle COVID-19, who the virus affects will be a trend worth watching.

The data does not include residents of long-term care or retirement homes.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


Saturday is Emancipation Day, the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in 1834 in what is now known as Canada. Today the federal government is officially recognizing two events – the existence of slavery until 1834 and West Indian Domestic Scheme – and two people – Black Loyalist Richard Pierpoint and heavyweight boxer Larry Gains – for their contributions to the struggle for Black Canadians’ equal rights.

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As of tomorrow, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor will have spent 600 days in detention in China. The two Canadians were detained in retaliation for the arrest of Meng Wanzhou. While Ms. Meng has spent a year and a half on bail in her Vancouver mansion, Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor have gone more than six months without being able to speak to a Canadian official. Though that is not, sources tell The Globe, for lack of trying on Ottawa’s part.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau testified at the finance committee hearing into the awarding of a multimillion-dollar contract to WE Charity, which was later cancelled. Mr. Trudeau acknowledged that he knew he could be in a conflict of interest when the proposal was first brought to him. He said he pushed back and told the public service to do more due diligence before the matter was brought to the full cabinet two weeks later. However, during that due diligence, other issues at WE – such as the resignation of many members of its board of directors and mass layoffs – were never brought to his attention, he said.

The Canada Border Services Agency has unveiled new rules for Americans driving through Canada en route to Alaska to crack down on those who may have been planning to hang around in Canada longer than they had told border guards.

Ontario released its back-to-school pandemic plan for the fall. Elementary students will be back at school full-time, but high-school students in most regions will only attend class on alternating days. Masks will be mandatory from Grade 4 to 12.

And a Calgary city councillor is under investigation for thousands of dollars of expenses for events that auditors say never happened. Auditors also say the city should look into another $9,000 worth of flight upgrades the councillor made. The fellow councillor who signed off on many of the expenses said he did so under duress.

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on Trudeau’s testimony on the WE contract: “The Prime Minister didn’t wave the ethics concerns away. It’s too late for that, because he should never been involved in decisions on the whole business, given WE’s ties to his family. He didn’t dispel questions about his judgment; he raised a few more. But he got his message across, and that’s that he wasn’t involved in steering a contract to friends.”

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Adrian Sutherland (The Globe and Mail) on federal responsibilities to First Nations: “The things that have been done in Attawapiskat over the past year have been Band-Aid solutions to address short-term needs. While it’s understandable that the COVID-19 pandemic has been hindering much-needed work on the system, it would be nice to at least have some reassurance from our leaders that water issues will be addressed in Canada for the long term. It’s not surprising the federal government was able to suddenly pull billions of relief dollars for COVID-19, yet can’t ever seem to find money to fix the water crises in First Nations once and for all.”

Michael Orsini and Francisco Ortega (The Globe and Mail) on the treatment of Indigenous people in Brazil: “[Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro] stands out, however, for his calculated attempts to use this public health crisis to further immiserate the country’s more than 900,000 Indigenous people. Despite worldwide condemnation and criticism for failing to provide support to Indigenous people who have been hard hit by the pandemic, he responded by ordering the military to ship hydroxychloroquine tablets to them. After testing positive for the virus, Mr. Bolsonaro appeared in the media touting the benefits of this scientifically debunked medication.”

Christian Leuprecht (The Globe and Mail) on how to fix some of the flaws in policing: “There is a solution. In fact, between 2007 and 2017, 15 studies and reports on the RCMP alone generated a broad expert consensus on what should be done: civilianization, or allowing non-policing Canadians to occupy senior leadership, management and oversight roles, while uniformed members run operations. This has long been the approach of the civilian-led Australian Federal Police, so why not here? Officers are not inherently business-savvy or steeped in administrative expertise; they learn management and leadership skills within the institution, which means they will manage the way they were managed. As a result, they lack the experience to bring about the change needed to meet the public’s heightened expectations.”

Sean Speer (National Post) on the rise of millenials in the Conservative Party: “The age of a new millennial generation of elected Conservatives seems to have finally arrived. Their rise is notable for two reasons. The first is that millennial Conservatives weren’t generally part of the intra-conservative conflicts that predated the creation of the Conservative party in 2003. Most weren’t even members of the two legacy parties. The Conservative party is all they’ve known.”

Tiffany Gooch (Policy Magazine) on recognizing Emancipation Day: “A critical mass of responsive and understanding government leaders is needed at all levels of democratic forums in this country. We can combat institutional anti-Black racism in Canada with leaders inspired by the late US Congressman John Lewis, by bringing good trouble to our democratic institutions until everyone is respected and lifted.”

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