Open letter to Saskatchewan government in response to the removal of all remaining COVID 19 public health restrictions

Today, February 28 2022, RPIRG is sending the following open letter to Premier Scott Moe and all provincial Cabinet Ministers. The letter sums up our concerns about the removal of all remaining COVID 19 public health mandates. If you are a student or staff at the University of Regina and would like to sign on to the letter as an individual or on behalf of a campus group or department, you can still do so by filling out the endorsement consent form here:

Attention: Premier Scott Moe and all Cabinet Ministers

We are very concerned about the trajectory of messaging from the Saskatchewan government about COVID-19 measures - they have noticeably shifted in the last several weeks to become more dismissive, misleading, and furthering an “everyone for themselves” mentality that shifts the responsibility to individuals to manage a global crisis. We argue that this causes more harm to our communities than asking people to show their vaccination status during a pandemic.

These changes will have a disproportionate impact on folks who are already discriminated against in our healthcare and social services systems and as such will be put at even greater risk of being negatively impacted by COVID-19.

We are also concerned about the impact that dropping all remaining current restrictions will have on frontline workers as many university students work in these roles - healthcare, grocery, retail, hospitality, and more. These students are often working for one of the lowest minimum wages in the country, with no legislated paid sick days or other benefits like being able to work from home. Support is even more limited for international students, who are also paying 3 times more for tuition than domestic students.

We are all tired of this pandemic, that’s for sure. But trying to manufacture consent that it is over or that we need to “just live with it” is incredibly harmful because right now:

We are still in a pandemic stage of this virus, evidenced by the record-high number of hospitalizations in our province this month
we are still lacking crucial supports that change the material conditions for those at greater risk of being impacted by COVID, which is dehumanizing many people by treating their lives as disposable

In times of crisis it is more important than ever to practice collective care. We all depend on each other and building strong systems of support that don’t leave anyone behind is how we achieve stronger, healthier, and more equitable communities. We reject any framing of this pandemic that doesn’t acknowledge this and demand that our provincial government:

  • Re-introduce health mandates including indoor masking and proof of vaccine requirements
    Immediately legislate paid sick days for all workers in this province
  • Re-introduce more detailed reporting requirements for schools and workplaces and institutions
  • Increase access to PCR testing to make it easier for workers to fulfill WCB reporting requirements and access support if they have COVID and experience other longer term side effects
  • Make minimum wage more reflective of actual living wages in this province (in Regina for example this is around $17/hr (as of 2014 - source)
  • Raise social assistance rates and heed the concerns that anti-poverty advocates have been sharing for decades

The above calls to action are not an exhaustive list but are a necessary start to improving the wellbeing of many people in this province, while also increasing community resilience to navigate the remainder of this pandemic while slowing the spread of the virus. They also echo the demands of many other organizations and advocacy groups in the province.

 

Signed,

University of Regina Groups/Departments

Regina Public Interest Research Group (RPIRG)

English Students Association (ESA)

University of Regina New Democrats

Campion College Students’ Union (CCSU)

University of Regina Champions of Change Club

Dept of Sociology & Social Studies

Pre-Social Work

 

University of Regina Students

Peace Olanipekun

Lise Haberstock

Solana Rivera

Aysha Tabassum Syed Taj Peer

Rachel Swanson

Aysha Yaqoob

Anna Norris

North-Marie Hunter

Tayah Willick

Eden Antoniuk

Raiha Shareef

Rayanne Westermann

Tanjila Begum

Riley Herman

Md Lukman Husan

 

CC: MLA Jennifer Bowes, critis for Advanced Education

Signed after Feb 28, 2022:

University of Regina Students Union (URSU)

Noora Ashrafi

Amir Said

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