In response to a lawsuit filed by a coalition including HALCO, the City of Toronto has finally committed to enforceable physical distancing standards across its shelter system. An interim agreement has been reached that will protect the lives of shelter residents, shelter employees and the public at large.
While very welcome, it is disturbing that the City’s commitment comes only after a lawsuit, two deaths of shelter residents, and over 300 COVID-19 cases across at least 21 sites.
The agreement will bring a measure of accountability and public transparency that has been lacking in the City’s approach to dealing with the pandemic crisis within the shelter system. The City is now required to provide regular, detailed reports about its efforts and progress in achieving and sustaining physical distancing standards that will surely save lives.
The terms of the agreement are as follows:
1. The City is required to use best efforts to “achieve without delay and thereafter sustain” 2 metres between beds and end the use of bunk beds across the City’s shelters, respites, and overnight drop-ins.
2. The City is required to provide shelter to all shelter system clients by making available such beds as is necessary to achieve physical distancing standards across the shelter system.
3. All individuals who received any support services from the City’s shelter system since March 11, including those now in encampments who left the shelter system because of fears of COVID-19, are included within the scope of the City’s obligations under the settlement.
4. The City will report regularly on its progress until it reaches and sustains compliance for 2 months.
The coalition is comprised of the following organizations:
• Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS)
• Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO)
• Black Legal Action Centre (BLAC)
• Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA)
• HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO)
• Sanctuary Ministries Toronto
A copy of the public summary of the agreement is available here.
The coalition’s press release is available here.
The Notice of Application is available here.
On July 6, 2020, due to serious concerns that the City had not in fact reached compliance with its obligations, the coalition announced they were taking the City back to court. For further information see here.