Community response on COVID-19 emergency benefits
No one disputes that any government is unprepared for such a global health crisis as the COVID-19 pandemic. But why is one racialized, precarious, woman worker being singled out and shamed for taking the bold task of taking the government accountable for promises of long-term recovery?
First off, to those who say that to criticize the CERB (Canadian Emergency Response Benefit) is to be ungrateful to the Canadian government, well perhaps you’re right as no resident or citizen owes the government “utang na loob” or debt of gratitude. In a democratic society like Canada, people have the right to be involved directly or indirectly in the decision-making process. It is the government representatives who owe their power to the masses. Any aid the government provides to those in need shouldn’t be seen as debt because it is their duty vested in them by the people–not only to those who elected them but everyone within their jurisdiction. It is also the responsibility of the government to provide care and protect people who are facing injustice and discrimination. Whether or not the government provided enough aid, and regardless of how wrong or unacceptable one thinks of the spoken sentiments, soliciting violence, threatening, wishing deportation or death are much worse and uncalled for. Even when the comments are meant as a joke, by some quirk of personality, they do not warrant a riposte.
Should we be critical of something, we ought to think of the biases and understand where others are coming from. It is easy for us to ridicule others especially in this time of “physical (social) distancing” and we can easily get disoriented when we can only interact virtually. In this digital era, disinformation spreads like coronavirus and we cannot simply mask idiocy.
As an immigrant community, we, kababayan, have lived as unvalued, unappreciated, invisible for years. We have known the pain of not being able to stay with our loved ones and of not being permitted to go to places because of our status. While there is optimism in the immediate response of the government in terms of weathering the short-term crisis with relief funds, there is a chance the worst is yet to come. This is a reminder that we can not go back to our ways and the normal must be disrupted. We are standing on the threshold between the old colonial mindset and the new. And as restrictions are lifted, what do we look forward to?
Instead of limiting our discussion on the crumbs falling from the master’s table, we have to instill in ourselves that the wealth that our labouring hands create is worth more. Our path to recovery includes mobilizing mass movements and urging governments to reckon with the inadequacies and inequities of our current socioeconomic system. In the interim, a free, universal, and expanded healthcare – regardless of immigration status – is the backbone of a COVID-19 response. Having access to safe, affordable and decent housing is needed as part of the long-term permanent plan. Together, we must choose to build the future we want.