‘Tis the season

Most of us are contemplating a holiday season different from any we have had before; well, let’s be honest, a holiday season that will be pretty lousy compared to what we are used to. Few of us will be seeing extended family and friends or booking seasonal travel. We may take a break from work for a few days, but since many of us are working from home already, it just won’t be a big deal. We may continue with our usual baking rituals, planning contactless care package drop offs, but we are not likely to be planning meals for large crowds.

Even as we manage our disappointments over the upcoming season, let’s take some time to consider—and respond to – organizations supporting those who face not just disappointments but serious challenges because of the pandemic.

Here are a few suggestions.

Supporting survivors

As has been well reported, rates of violence against women — in particular, intimate partner abuse — have risen dramatically during the pandemic; in part, because so many women are confined at home with an abusive partner. Women looking for legal and other supports are hard pressed to find it. They may not be able to leave their home; the service they want may be operating remotely and the woman may have little to no privacy in her home; wait times may be longer than usual.

Luke’s Place in Durham Region (full disclosure: I am the Legal Director there) offers a wide range of family-law related services for women in or leaving abusive relationships. Beginning in March, the organization quickly pivoted to deliver many of its programs and services online.

The Virtual Legal Clinic offers free summary legal advice to women anywhere in Ontario who have been subjected to abuse and have family law issues or questions. The Clinic connects a woman wherever she is to a volunteer lawyer wherever they are, using a secure online platform, and the two of them can have a virtual face to face meeting. There is no financial eligibility requirement for this program, and women can access it more than once if they need to.

Like many other charitable organizations, Luke’s Place is doing much more than it has funding to support. As well, planned fundraising events have been significantly curtailed because of pandemic restrictions.

Please consider making a donation to Luke’s Place or to the shelter or rape crisis centre in your community.

On her own terms

Ninety-year old  “exceptionally social and spry” Nancy Russell lived happily in a retirement home until COVID-19 hit and her daily walks, trips to the library and other activities, including visits with family and friends, came to an abrupt halt.

Russell understood the reasons for the restrictions: as of late May, more than 80% of COVID-19 deaths were people in long term care and retirement homes, and the percentage has grown steadily since then.

However, like many others living in these facilities, Russell began to decline during the first two-week period in which she was confined to her room. As her daughter said:

“She was just drooping. It was contact with people that was like food to her, it was like oxygen.”

Long a supporter of dying with dignity, Russell sought a medically assisted death, but was rejected by a doctor who told her she had too much to live for.

By the time the second wave hit, Russell had developed more concrete medical health issues. She applied again for MAiD, this time successfully and, last month, she died in her daughter’s home, surrounded by her family and friends.

“She just truly did not believe that she wanted to try another one of those two-week confinements into her room,” said her daughter.

Dying with Dignity’s law reform advocacy and resources continue to support Canadians who wish to have a medically assisted death. Please consider supporting their important work with a donation.

Far from home

When my partner and I were in Prince Edward County a couple of weeks ago, we watched workers at one winery burying grapevines for the winter. As their voices wafted across the fields to where we stood, we realized they were speaking Spanish, and it reminded us of the difficult situations many migrant workers are facing because of the pandemic.

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change is Canada’s largest coalition of self-organized groups of migrant workers that, with the support of other social justice groups, fights for justice and dignity for migrant workers in this country.

Its recent report, Unheeded Warnings, details complaints by more than 1,000 migrant workers prior to COVID-19 that remain unaddressed by governments and employers.

The food and wine we put on our tables during the festive season – and all through the year – may well be there only because of the hard labour done by migrants: please consider supporting the work of this organization with a donation.

A night at the movies

Kingston is very fortunate to have an independent movie theatre, owned and operated by the creative and tenacious Wendy Huot.

My partner and I love going to the movies. We have been frequent patrons of the Screening Room for many years, missed it greatly when it was forced to close in March because of the pandemic, and were among the first through the door when it reopened in the summer.

The theatre has been adapted to meet pandemic requirements which, coupled with the reluctance of many to go to a movie theatre, has created a financial crisis.

Wendy launched a creative fundraising campaign last week. If you are a regular or even irregular visitor to the Screening Room, check out the fundraising site and contribute!

Many of us have a bit of extra money this winter because we aren’t eating out or taking vacations. Our donations to any of these – or other — worthy organizations will make a huge difference to the important work they are doing at a time when they have fewer financial resources to call on.

Please dig especially deep this year.

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