The "Dangerous Disruptions: Local Intersections of Poverty and COVID-19 in Guelph-Wellington and Dufferin" webinar, held March 18, 2021, highlighted the disproportionate impacts that COVID-19 had on poor communities, while also considering intersecting circumstances, such as systemic racism and colonialism. The event marked the launch of five reports based on research conducted in partnership with A Way Home Canada, the Guelph-Wellington Taskforce for Poverty Elimination, and Services and Housing in the Province.
The research, funded by a University of Guelph COVID-19 Catalyst Grant, had two central aims: 1) to better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on the day-to-day lives of people living with poverty in small urban and rural communities; and 2) to identify and respond to policy gaps in government responses to the pandemic. From July to September 2020, the research team conducted in-depth focus groups and interviews with people who self-identified as living with poverty in the City of Guelph, Wellington County, Dufferin County, and Peel Region. The insights they shared illuminate the depth and breadth of experiences among those coping with the COVID-19 pandemic while experiencing poverty.
Dr. Laura Pin moderated the panel discussion between Dominica McPherson, Sharon Henriques, and Dana Nutley, who each served as representatives from the Guelph and Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination; Cindy Laroque, representative of Dufferin Services for Housing In the Province; and Criminal Justice and Public Policy Undergrad, Paul Berthelot. Guelph’s Member of Provincial Parliament, Mike Schreiner, also joined the conversation to provide his perspective on the gaps and shortcomings in the immediate governmental responses to COVID-19.
The panelists’ discussion centred on the fragility and inequities of Canada’s social safety net. A specific focus was placed on the ambiguity and uncertainty surrounding Canada’s Emergency Response Benefit, as well as the inequitable access to technology, food and housing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schreiner and panelists advocated for a basic annual income guarantee, increasing affordable housing stock, and improving rural access to technology and broadband internet. Policy suggestions were made in hopes of improving the quality of life at the individual and societal level.