On April 2nd, comrades in Toronto met for our first political convention of the 21st century, to reorganize our political work in Toronto amidst a severe economic crisis, the ravages of the global pandemic, related environmental carnage and heightened imperialist warmongering. These crises are rooted in capitalism and are felt particularly sharply in cities, where the forces of production – labour and capital – and the struggle between them are especially concentrated.
It’s been twenty-four years since our last Toronto convention, held in May of 1998. The characters may have changed, but the situation facing the working class shows stark similarities. Then, Mike Harris was Premier, Mel Lastman was Mayor and the labour movement was fractured despite having successfully organized the Metro Days of Action in October 1996. Harris has been replaced by Doug Ford; Lastman by John Tory and both have continued to slash funding to a wide range of municipal public programs services, like housing, transit, shelters, recreation and libraries.
The divisions in the labour movement have continued and deepened, but also with new characters, with Unifor and Teamsters leaving the house of labour. Other labour bodies have become paralyzed during the pandemic and related economic crisis, their right-wing social democratic leadership stuck in a state of procrastination, opportunism and near-total reliance on the NDP for political action.
Years of capitalist assault have also taken their toll on the labour movement. The ongoing loss of manufacturing jobs in Toronto has severely weakened the size and strength of unions in those industries. Public sector workers and unions have been hit hard by privatization – as occurred with municipal solid waste collection – and underfunding and cutbacks in areas of transit, healthcare and other services. One of the net results is diminished economic and political power of the labour movement.
Along with status quo budgets, continued downloading from the province and systemic racism, the income divide in our city has become a chasm. According to the 2016 Census, 68% of low-income neighbourhoods are racialized, while high-income neighbourhoods are 75% white. With the onset of the pandemic, we have seen more deaths in lower income and highly racialized communities. These communities, correspondingly, have a higher rate of front-line health care workers, service sector workers and those who try and survive in the gig economy.
The growth of social housing waitlists, the number of outbreaks in the shelter system, the astronomical increase in food bank visits and the jump in the number of homeless trying to wait out the pandemic storm in park encampments are indicators that our social safety net has collapsed. Life in the city is no longer sustainable. We must act now to effect change to ensure people have safe and affordable housing, strong social supports and access to healthy and culturally appropriate food.
In this challenging context, the Communist Party is increasing in strength and influence. Along with others, we have organized resistance to systemic racism, police violence and the clearance of homeless encampments. We organized strike support for local unions and solidarity pickets for Cuba and took action against the escalation of war in Europe.
With nine clubs in Toronto, and major gains in recruiting trade union members, women and young workers, this convention will be an exciting time to discuss the ways we can structure our work to build a strong civic reform movement to win progressive change in our city.
A New Deal for our City
The major source of our municipal tax revenue is the outdated property tax system. Additional funding is attained through user fees, on transit, garbage bins, recreation programs, etc. The property tax system was never intended to pay for anything except direct services to property. They weren’t intended to pay for public health, education, transportation, welfare, housing, childcare, or any of the other myriad services which modern cities have to provide.
Municipalities must be provided with adequate sources of revenue to meet the growing needs of city-dwellers for necessary municipal services. These revenues must be generated from commercial-industrial and corporate wealth, not from working people through increased development fees, residential property taxes, or user fees.
The best option for this funding is statutory grants from the provincial government, at adequate levels to provide for social need. More than any individual municipality, the provincial government has the capacity to tax the huge profits and enormous wealth that is generated by big corporations, banks and industries across Ontario, and to provide equitable funding across the province. In particular, all programs that have been downloaded to the City (transportation, public health, housing, welfare and education) should be adequately funded from provincial and/or federal coffers.
In the absence of adequate statutory funding from higher levels of government, Toronto needs new wealth taxing powers to tax the huge profits and enormous wealth that is generated by developers, big corporations, banks and industries in the city. In addition, municipalities need to be recognized in the Canadian constitution. Toronto and other cities can no longer afford to be ‘a creature of the province.’
In 1998, Harris forced the amalgamation to make the megacity of Toronto; in 2018, Ford slashed the size of council from 47 to 25 councillors, weakening civic democracy so that one councillor now represents over 100,000 residents. As the rules were changed well into the election period, the chances of defeating incumbents were astronomical; the hopes of electing a progressive majority a pipe dream.
Now more than ever, labour and democratic forces in the city need to come together to organize a broad-based civic reform movement, drawing in trade unions, tenant and ratepayer groups, community and civic groups across the progressive spectrum. The current balance of political forces, and current council structure creates many more barriers for progressive labour candidates to win seats, fight for a civic reform agenda, including challenge ballooning police budgets and to expand social housing and other programs.
In the last municipal election, groups like Progress Toronto stepped up to highlight the worst actions of right-wing councillors and were key in helping to defeat Giorgi Mammoliti, one of the most conservative councillors. The Toronto Labour Council should work with Progress Toronto and other social justice partners outside the United Way, to develop and promote a progressive municipal program that will unite workers across the city. A new, broad civic reform movement should to introduce progressive reforms that produce a more accessible electoral playing field that will be more responsive to the demands of the community while opposing ranked ballots in civic elections
A new invigorated civic reform platform would appeal to working people, many of whom have been drawn in by right wing populist politics. The platform should focus on a new financial deal for Toronto, the removal of education from the property tax (cutting taxes by 50%), strong and equitable public services, free transit and civic leadership to defend local autonomy and democracy and produce good jobs in the community.
Housing is a human right and every person should have access to safe, affordable housing. However, because housing is considered a commodity, Toronto is ground zero for the housing crisis in Canada and ranks the 6th most expensive place to live in the world. By the end of 2022, Toronto’s estimated population will be 2,900,000 with nearly half being renters. A report to City Hall in 2019 noted that the median household income in Toronto grew 30% from 2006 to 2018, as home ownership costs grew by 131%. The increase in housing costs has not deterred speculators, as over a third of all apartments in the city are owned by Real Estate Financial Investments Trusts (REIT) and other multiple property owners. According to urban planner Steve Pomeroy, for every one affordable unit created by government funding, approximately fifteen become unaffordable due to the financialization of rental housing.
Despite a freeze on rent increases during the pandemic, landlords were able to apply for Above Guideline Rent Increases (AGRI). Rates of AGRI requests tripled in the five months after the rents were frozen in 2021. Tenants are subjected to illegal evictions and the ongoing injustices governed by the outrageously landlord-biased Landlord and Tenant Board. Landlords also utilized the semi-legal renoviction process to force out renters, often without consequence, but with minimal financial consequences even when exposed.
Everyone should not only have the right to housing, but the right to live where they want to live whether it is a rental, co-operative living, etc. The movement to reaffirm this right has seen recent wins by tenants organizing in buildings across Toronto, with such organizations such as Parkdale Organize and Crescent Town Tenants Union. Yet the processes involved in housing, tenants’ rights, and development are created and passed without actual consultation or the inclusion of experiences of those who need housing the most. Especially throughout the pandemic, landlords and developers have exploited working people’s lack of knowledge around the issues of housing and renting in Toronto. Illegal evictions using a common tactic such as renovictions are difficult to track because the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board does not keep track of the outcomes of eviction hearings and rarely shares the information it does have.
For the past 30 years, housing policies and incentives have skewed towards the interest of developers. For example, inclusionary zoning policy indicates that developers should allocate up to twenty (20) percent of a new housing development’s units as affordable housing – known as section 37, part of the Toronto HousingTO Action Plan. Yet this plan has several loopholes to avoid allocating affordable units such as exempting developers who are not building within 800 meters of a transit station; applying only to developments over 10 units; exempting “non-profit housing suppliers.” There is a disproportionate gap between the number of individuals who need housing, and the number of homes Toronto needs to build to meet the supply, which will only continue to widen as affordable housing supply continues to shrink drastically.
Nearly a quarter of Toronto residents have already experienced homelessness and/or feel at risk of eviction or homeless due to not being able to find a place they can afford. This insecurity coupled with other urban costs is impacting the health of residents. The Daily Bread Food Bank reported last year a dramatic increase in food bank users during the start of the pandemic. In June of 2020, food insecurity among renters resulted in the largest number of food bank visits ever recorded in the history of the city. Nearly 125,000 people needed to access a food bank in one month, and during the spring of 2020 until the end of 2021, there were an alarming 1.45 million visits to the food bank. The growth of income inequality has been linked to the housing crisis as one of the main causes. The pandemic has only exacerbated this public health emergency.
Racialized and indigenous people face some of the most significant barriers to finding housing in Toronto’s unaffordable market, their communities so prevalent in the category of essential workers, yet completely unable to afford the astronomical rents in the communities where they work. The steady squeezing displacement of indigenous people from their remaining land in S. Ontario has had the consequence of the over-representation of that community in the unhoused urban population. This situation must be resolved as a component of any serious commitment to reconciliation. Indigenous people living in Toronto represent the 4th largest of the Indigenous population in the whole of Canada. Toronto should deem housing a human right and implement anti-racist policies along with the recommendations of truth and reconciliation for Indigenous peoples. These measures would go far to address the gap between the rich and the poor in the city
The Shelter System
Since 2017, the Toronto emergency shelter system has witnessed historic levels of people needing access to their services. The pandemic has put even more strain on the deteriorating and substandard shelter system, whose design and overcrowding have contributed to yet another public health emergency. Hundreds of people died in Toronto Shelter systems last year and hundreds more died on the streets.
The current shelter system is a hotbed for the spread of COVID-19. During the pandemic, the system was only second to Long Term Care facilities in the quick spread of the virus and continued outbreaks for both workers and the residents. Additionally, the shelter systems’ regressive and draconian substance use policies serve as a barrier to a large swathe of the unhoused population, and force substance users to unsafe locations as opposed to safe consumption sites.
Currently, the city of Toronto has nine supervised consumption sites. These sites are underfunded and facing constant pressure from the province as well as some local residents who are determined to have them shut down. The City should expand its Integrated Prevention & Harm Reduction Initiative (iPHARE) to create more of these services and have existing sites able to operate.
The undignified conditions within shelters, coupled with the serious risk of contracting COVID19, led many residents to live on the streets or in encampments in public parks. Encampments grew quickly throughout Toronto during the pandemic. Police continued to criminalize the poor and unhoused by ticketing and ordering non-trespass orders in the encampments. In the spring and summer of 2021, residents living in encampments were subjected to ongoing harassment and violent “evictions” from the Toronto Police.
Violence Against Women, Access to Shelters/Housing
Women seeking safety from abuse and violence were also left out in the cold or susceptible to continued violence in their homes. With school closures during the pandemic, incidents of child abuse went undetected, so reports of child abuse were down by hundreds. Women were forced into isolation with abusive partners with little or no recourse to support systems. Thousands of women and children are stuck on the special priority housing waitlist and forced to wait an average of 5-10 years for safe social housing. Shelter beds specifically for women fleeing violence have been reduced. (1,028 in 2018 to 795 in 2021). These cuts to social housing and shelter beds continued to occurred at a time when the need was perhaps the greatest due to the pandemic, with several studies showing an increase in both the rate and severity of intimate partner violence. Toronto has also experienced an uptick in violence against trans women, occurring alongside an increase in exclusionary policies against trans women within the shelter system. The city of Toronto must invest in immediate access to safety for women and children and ensure that transitional, supportive and long-term housing solutions are addressed. We need to ensure that all forms of social housing include space for women fleeing violence.
While the City has brought in status quo budgets over the last decade, police budgets have grown in each and every budget year. Despite an overwhelming demand from community and labour organizations for a notable decrease, the 2022 police budget of $1.1 billion, a 2.3% increase over last year, has been approved by the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB).
The global call to defund and demilitarize police forces and to end police brutality and systemic racism has grown in strength since the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota in 2020, and in Toronto since the recent murders at the hands of the police of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Parkdale and Ejaz Choudry, a Muslim man from nearby Mississauga. In both of the latter cases, a family member called police to help the victims, who only needed mental health support. “With only police responding and without proper mental health teams to answer, these resulted in the entirely preventable deaths of these persons.”
People in Toronto experiencing mental health crises need crisis response services built by and for our communities and that are anti-oppressive and trauma-informed. Police are not trained to support people experiencing mental health crises or to provide front-line intervention. Community-led crisis response teams work: they empower people and provide options that police cannot. The City of Toronto recently approved the piloting of four non-police mental health units, which is imperative, but has deferred the implementation of any further pilots until at least 2023, which will continue to leave people in crisis without appropriate supports. City Council must ensure the immediate implementation and scaling of community-led crisis intervention.
In addition to de-tasking police of mental health crisis calls which is already underway, police should be de-tasked of many calls involving the homeless, drug overdoses, youth, and gender-based violence. There should be no repeats of the disgusting eviction of homeless encampments last summer. Aside from criminalizing the most marginalized members of society, the evictions were completely unsuccessful. When there are no safe or affordable places to live, and Toronto’s shelters are COVID breeding grounds, where should the homeless live?
Community organizations, like the Police Accountability Coalition (PAC), have brought forward demands to end suspensions of police officers with full pay, which the Ontario Association of Police Chiefs supports. Savings are estimated at $12 million per year. While it would need provincial legislation, the TPSB would be a powerful starting point to make change.
The government’s increasing collaboration with tech giants presents a troubling relationship for a multitude of reasons, the most pressing being surveillance and criminalization of the public, disproportionately impacting racialized and poor people as well as those facing housing precarity. Aside from mobile data collection, the facial recognition software used to make mass community surveillance a reality is biased against certain ethnic features and can be used by law enforcement to perpetuate cycles of criminalization of people living in predominantly racialized and low-income areas.
Safeguards need to be put in place to balance a need for comprehensive data-driven public health policy with the protection of people’s right to privacy and each communities’ ability to refuse mass surveillance from corporations and law enforcement.
Other changes that would stem the growth of a more militarized police force pocked with extremist elements are as follows:
• Reduce the police budget by 50%
• Demilitarize police and restrict budget allocation of any and all military equipment, including armored cars and drones, that have been used to gather information at protests and large gatherings.
• Retraining or release of all officers who exhibit racist, fascist and other extreme tendencies, including those who wear ‘thin blue line’ badges.
• Disarm frontline police units
• Establish strong civilian control over the police, through a completely independent civilian agency to oversee and investigate the Toronto Police Force replacing the SIU, which has been nearly completely ineffective in investigating the many cases of brutality, violence and other police misbehaviour assigned to it.
• Investigations into police misconduct should be timely, completed by civilians, and the consequences for an officer facing discipline must be available to the public.
Transportation and Planning
Toronto has been rapidly growing in size and population for several decades, and until now planning has been overly focused on making the city accessible to cars. Accessible and free public transportation, and the needs and basic safety of bicycle riders and pedestrians have been set aside in favour of the continued dominance of cars and trucks. As ‘vertical’ development proceeds unchecked, existing roads are increasingly choked with new vehicles and their emissions. The city must choose a new path in planning that puts the needs of public and accessible mass transportation, cyclists and pedestrians first – the result will be a cleaner and more usable city for all.
The pandemic had a devastating result on TTC ridership, worsening an ongoing transit crisis which is the result of underfunding and privatization. Currently, Toronto has the largest percentage of revenue from fare collection – meaning more private funding – than any major city in the world. During the pandemic, many workers worked from home which sent ridership, and therefore fare revenue, plummeting. Other front-line workers, mostly from marginalized and racialized communities, were forced onto overcrowded buses to get to their place of employment. The Safe Restart Program offered by the Provincial government helped maintain TTC service in 2021, but it has since been cancelled. In addition, a promised “Fair Pass” for low income workers has been put on the back burner in the proposed 2022 City budget. Working people need expanded and fare-free transit that is publicly owned and operated.
The TTC needs to overhaul many of its train stations to be more accessible throughout the year for people with disabilities and mobility issues. Cuts and underfunding have meant delays in the implementation of TTC’s Easier Access program. This means many subway stations remain inaccessible to wheelchair users and transit riders with mobility limitations. While the Wheel-Trans service does allow riders to book door-to-door transit rides, it is inconvenient and inflexible. More must be done to eliminate delays and make the entire system accessible.
The provincial agency which oversees regional transportation and is responsible for the integration with the TTC is Metrolinx. This agency is specifically mandated to develop transit through private public partnerships (P3s), which ensures that public transit will be used for profit. Brian Guest, Metrolinx vice-president, secured almost $30 million in contracts for the company he works for – Boxfish Infrastructure Group. After a Toronto Star investigation, he stepped down. All transit should be publicly owned and operated and have accountability and transparency in their governance.
Expanding public transit and eliminating fares would also be a big step to meet the City’s goal to attain zero emissions by 2040. However, according to the Toronto Environmental Alliance, this year’s transit budget proposal is $1.5 billion short of what is needed to meet these goals.
Climate change is causing immense changes in the environment globally. In Toronto, issues include:
• Worsening pollution in Lake Ontario, the Don River, and other waterways. Floating waste has increased in Lake Ontario.
• Air pollution is on the rise due to diesel trucks, increasing number of SUVs, and cars. 50% of Torontonians live near a major roadway where air pollution is 2x-5x higher than areas with little traffic (source: SOCAAR). Benzene (car exhausts) and nitrogen dioxide exposure cause long term health problems.
• Public transit needs serious investment and overhaul to curb the use of cars
• The city desperately needs a consistent city-wide plan for increasing bike lanes and encouraging bike usage over cars
• Increasing rainfalls due to climate change have resulted in more and more flooding in parts of Toronto
• Many older buildings around the city need to be retrofitted to be greener and more efficient in their use of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration
Between 1988 and 2016 several party members were elected and served on school boards. At various times, these five comrades played a significant role in the fight against the Harris government’s cuts and attacks on public education. They worked closely with the Campaign for Public Education.
Toronto school boards currently receive their funding from provincial transfer payments and the ‘education portion’ of property taxes. The amount of funding provided to the individual boards is calculated using an enrolment-based funding formula imposed by the province, which fails to take into account student needs or the unique needs of each board. While boards have some ability to transfer funds between categories as needed, other areas of funding are ‘enveloped’ and must be spent as the province sees fit. The total budget for education in Ontario is $26B.
School funding should be removed from property taxes, and school boards should receive full needs-based funding from the province. Individual school boards should have the ability to allocate funding as best serves the specific needs of their communities, without political interference from the province. Further, a single secular public school system, would end public funding of religious schools, and strengthen quality public education in the province. Ontario is one of a minority of provinces that provides public funding to religious schools.
Liberal and Tory provincial governments have tried to eliminate locally elected school boards in Ontario and across Canada and have been successful in every province east of Ontario. This is an attack on local democracy and autonomy, and ultimately on the quality of public education. The problem with school boards is the same as with Councils; they are dominated by Liberal and Tory trustees who take their direction from provincial governments. Electing progressive trustees who take their direction from civic reform movements will make school boards an effective voice for quality education, adequate funding and local democracy and autonomy.”
The province has attempted many times over the last few decades to introduce new cuts and austerity for schools, opportunities for privatization and other degradations to the service provided to students, with the sharpest attack beginning under former Education Minister John Snobelen during the Mike Harris government, and continuing through to the present under successive Liberal and Conservative governments.
Teachers’ unions have regularly used their power to advocate for students, teaching conditions, and improvements to infrastructure in response to round after round of funding cuts from the province. For its part, the Ontario Liberal government led by Kathleen Wynne passed back to work legislation against striking teachers in 2015, and this aggressive stance toward teachers has only been continued and sharpened by Ford government – a looming showdown with secondary school teachers in late 2019 was only interrupted at the last moment by the arrival of the pandemic. The Ford government has also proposed increasing the amount of mandatory e-learning programs – which would impact the number of teachers employed and decrease the amount of one-on-one support each student receives.
In the course of the pandemic, however, the province repeatedly showed that it was willing to jeopardize the health of teachers, staff, and students by opening schools in unsafe conditions for all present – not out of concern for the interruption to learning caused by lockdowns, but for the disruption to the economy that would be presented by parents needing to care for their own children at home during these periods.
The condition of schools has reached a crisis level – many are in a dismal state of repair, poorly heated, and directly threaten the health of the young people studying there. Particularly in the wake of the pandemic, the province should immediately commit the funds necessary to reverse this state of affairs. This would necessarily include significant funding dedicated to improving ventilation and air conditioning in schools. Students simply cannot learn effectively while sitting in sick buildings.
Schools should be operated as a public good with the aim of the intellectual and personal development of the entire population, not as a bare bones childcare service, only existing to ensure that parents are free to report for work. Schools must also be places where children are fully prepared intellectually and socially for life – STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, while important, should not be pursued at the expense of eliminating the teaching of history, arts, music, philosophy, languages, labour, Indigenous and gender studies. The updated sex education curriculum should not be modified because of the backlash from right wing conservatives. Provincially funded food programs should ensure the provision of breakfast and lunch programs to every student at no cost. Childcare centres should also be funded in secondary schools to assist young parents to complete high school education and for the education and training of ECE students. We also call for the pupil-teacher ratio to be lowered for smaller classes and better learning environments for students.
The disruption and chaos in the system provided by repeated interruptions to in-person education by the pandemic have provided plenty of cover for these changes, most notably the introduction of mandatory e-learning. But, the pandemic revealed the inequities inherent in e-learning. Education workers with low-tech literacy, with children at home, and low-income students, who are frequently racialized, were left behind by remote learning. Many could not fully participate in virtual school because of a lack of access to adequate technology and reliable internet, putting them at risk of falling behind. Others, notably students with intellectual and learning disabilities, were often neglected in the remote learning environment.
We must be vigilant in ensuring that none of the temporary changes introduced to deal with the situation of the pandemic become permanent – children need face-to-face instruction in the company of their peers, in reasonably sized classes held in a healthy and well-maintained environment (which includes enhanced ventilation, including air filters, windows that open, classrooms large enough to support social distancing, maintenance of mask mandates in schools and appropriate testing).
A civic reform movement – working with teachers’ and education unions and with parent and community groups – needs to press school trustees to stand up to the provincial government and its privatization agenda. Toronto school trustees should refuse to implement provincial cuts, under the guise of “balanced budget” requirements, and they need to know that working people will support and defend them in this action.
Impacts of the Pandemic: Jobs, Women and Gig Workers, Childcare
The pandemic caused unparalleled disruption in Toronto’s labour market, with women and young workers experiencing larger job losses than men. Part-time workers lost jobs at a much faster pace compared to full-time workers across all age groups. Racialized workers in these categories face more job loss than their white counterparts. Women have faced devastating choices between their job and their children when schools and daycares closed at various times during the pandemic. The pandemic also exposed the deplorable living and unsafe working conditions in the city’s many Long-term care facilities, and the willingness of the provincial government to prioritize the profits flowing out of these facilities over improving conditions inside.
Overwhelmingly, it was essential service and other frontline workers who were thrust back into in-person work, while their managers worked from the relative comfort and safety of their homes. Many frontline workers were forced into an impossible decision between unemployment and the endangerment of their safety — some are still suffering from the consequences of long COVID. The experience of the pandemic definitively showed which workers are truly essential, and just how far their managers and employers were willing to go to ensure that their work continued uninterrupted.
The Ontario government was the last holdout to sign up for the new federal childcare program. The implementation of $10-a-day childcare will be a massive benefit to parents who currently pay the highest fees in Canada. A civic reform movement needs to work with labour and women’s movements, to support the creation of enough childcare spaces to meet the demand. Furthermore, a civic reform movement needs to fight for a system of quality, universal and public childcare, to ensure that private for-profit providers are not part of the plan.
To make matters even worse, the Ford government cancelled the minimum wage increase in 2018 along with paid sick days. The next year, Ford brought in Bill 124 capping compensation across the broader public sector at 1% for at least three years. This impacts one million workers, including nurses and almost all other health care workers who are on the frontlines of the pandemic, and ensures that their real wages will dramatically fall at a time of rising inflation. Shortages of workers in healthcare have been exacerbated by the low wages and resulted in even more exits as workers face overwhelming burnout in the sector.
The fight for paid sick days has intensified over the last few years of the pandemic, led by the Justice for Workers Campaign (the group formerly known as $15 and Fairness.) This organization is province-wide but has a strong presence in Toronto. The incoming committee should assign comrades to actively participate in this important group.
Another key area of struggle is that of workers in the expanding gig economy. Gig workers had begun to organize well before the pandemic and, with support from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, won rights for Foodora workers to be considered employees. In response to unionization, Foodora shut down Canadian operations, and the Justice for Foodora Workers transformed into Gig Workers United. Support needs to be intensified for GWU and its organizing model for gig workers, in light of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) deciding to offer their services to Uber management in the form of a crass collaborationist company union.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the opioid and stimulant crisis has significantly worsened. The most marginalized and alienated sectors of the working class have been dying at unprecedented rates, due to an increase in unsafe supply, an increase in isolation and violence and restricted access to social and healthcare supports.