Public Statement from Historians at the University of Toronto, April 21, 2021

April 22, 2021 by Faculty members at the University of Toronto

As faculty of the University of Toronto’s History Department, we join with hundreds of our colleagues in the fields of health and medicine in condemning the Government of Ontario’s refusal, through 13 months of this devastating pandemic, to even consider funding paid sick leave and paid time off for vaccinations for essential workers in this province. While the April 20th announcement extends the hope that a plan is finally coming, it is critical to remember that this government has repeatedly refused to implement these policies despite multiple calls to do so from the members of its own COVID-19 Science Table, leading public health experts, as well as ER and ICU physicians. 

The provincial government’s evident disregard for scientific advice is costing the health and lives of the most vulnerable Ontarians, many of whom are racialized people, immigrants, women, single parents, the homeless, the disabled and the underhoused. The government, in its utter failure to live up to its basic responsibilities, betrayed its democratic mandate and provoked an unnecessary political crisis. On April 16th, rather than acting responsibly and listening to its own public health experts, the provincial government sought to impose authoritarian measures that undermined democracy while doing nothing to address the public health disaster that its own negligence helped to create. 

Many of our own colleagues here at the University of Toronto were among those who warned the Ford government months ago that this public health emergency would come. Despite these warnings, the government willfully ignored scientific advice, forcing vulnerable people back into unsafe workplaces with no protections against this disease. The government’s decisions have now compromised one of the best public healthcare systems in the world. Every single one of the more than 250,000 backlogged surgical procedures represents a person living unnecessarily with illness and pain. Now, here we are, in peace time, watching as our health care providers face the terrible prospect of having to practice wartime medicine, triage ICU beds and decide who lives and who dies. 

As we write this, the province’s hospitals and morgues are filling up with racialized and working-class people and their families. At a time of global conversations about systemic forms of racial violence, the provincial government’s refusal to implement the measures necessary to protect these workers, who disproportionately face a choice between going to unsafe workplaces and being unable to pay for rent and food, is a textbook example of systemic racial violence and inequality. The Ontario government’s public health policies have allowed businesses and privileged consumers to take advantage of the vulnerability of others, a policy that we condemn, in no uncertain terms, as racist. 

We urge Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, to support his own colleagues in the fields of medicine and public health. He has an urgent responsibility to speak truth to power and demand publicly that the government make good on its vague announcements of April 20th and implement funding for paid sick days and paid time off for vaccination for the duration of this public health emergency. Failure to act now can only be interpreted as, at best, incompetence, and at worst, a commitment to callous indifference, gross incompetence and systemic racial violence. 

Economies recover. The dead do not. 

 

Heidi Bohaker, Associate Professor of History 

Melanie J. Newton, Associate Professor of History 

Doris Bergen, Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor of Holocaust Studies 

Malavika Kasturi, Associate Professor of History 

Stephen J. Rockel, Associate Professor of History 

Funké Aladejebi, Assistant Professor of History 

Shami Ghosh, Assistant Professor of Medieval Studies and History 

Rebecca Woods, Assistant Professor of History 

Brian Gettler, Assistant Professor of History, 

Julie MacArthur, Associate Professor of History 

Tamara J. Walker, Associate Professor of History 

Rick Halpern, Professor of History 

Nhung Tuyet Tran, Associate Professor of History 

Eric Jennings, Professor of History 

Jennifer Mori, Professor of History 

Russell A. Kazal, Associate Professor of History 

E. Natalie Rothman, Associate Professor of History 

Mark Meyerson, Professor of History 

Nicholas Terpstra, Professor of History 

Luis van Isschot, Associate Professor of History 

Lisa Mar, Associate Professor of History 

Kevin Coleman, Associate Professor of History 

Dimitry Anastakis, Professor and LR Wilson/RJ Currie Chair in Canadian Business History 

Piotr J. Wróbel, Professor of History, Konstanty Reynert Chair of Polish Studies 

Takashi Fujitani, Professor of History 

James Retallack, University Professor of History 

Katherine Blouin, Associate Professor of History and Classics 

Charlie Keil, Professor of History 

Michelle Murphy, Professor of History 

Paul Cohen, Associate Professor of History 

David A. Wilson, Professor of History 

Sean Mills, Professor of History 

Lynne Viola, FRSC, University Professor 

W. Chris Johnson, Assistant Professor of Women & Gender Studies and History 

Mark G. McGowan, Professor of History, Principal-St. Michael's College 

Bhavani Raman, Associate Professor of History 

L.K. Bertram, Associate Professor of History 

Isabelle Cochelin, Associate Professor of History and Medieval Studies 

Lilia Topouzova, Assistant Professor of Creative Nonficiton and History 

Alison Smith, Professor of History 

Lucia Dacome, Associate Professor, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology 

Elise K. Burton, Assistant Professor, Institute for the History & Philosophy of Science & Technology 

Joseph Berkovitz, Associate Professor of Philosophy of Science 

Sean Hawkins, Associate Professor 

Shauna Sweeney, Assistant Professor of History 

Max Mishler, Assistant Professor of History 

Susan M. Hill, Associate Professor of History and Indigenous Studies 

Anup Grewal, Assistant Professor of History 

William Nelson, Associate Professor of History 

Anver Emon, Professor of Law and History 

Tamara J. Walker, Associate Professor of History 

Jens Hanssen, Associate Professor of History 

Cecilia Morgan, Professor, Dept of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning/Adjunct Professor of History 

Angela Fernandez, Professor of Law and History 

Michael Lambek, Professor of Anthropology, cross-appointed to History 

Rebecca Wittmann, Associate Professor of History 

Andres Kasekamp, Professor of History 

Jennifer L. Jenkins, Associate Professor of History 

Janice Boddy, Professor of Anthropology and History 

Jayeeta Sharma, Associate Professor of History 

Elspeth Brown, Professor of History 

Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, Professor of History 

Catherine Evans, Assistant Professor of Criminology and Sociolegal Studies and History 

Lori Loeb, Associate Professor of History 

Konrad Eisenbichler, F.R.S.C., Comm. O.M.R.I., Professor 

James Phillips, Professor of Law and History 

Nakanyike Musisi, Associate Professor of History

Martin Klein, Emeritus Professor of History

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