News Reports and OP-EDS

Editorials and Journalists in newspapers across Canada have written in OP- Ed sections on the realities behind the daily statistical updates given by our prime minister and provincial premiers. We post samples of what we have read in mid April and May. These on line news postings have reached a wider public audience and reinforce RECAA’s concerns. The following articles are written originally in French:

Article 1: April  18, 2020 Le Devoir:  Ageism Must End 

Article original en français

Collectively signed by over 40 specialists and researchers from across Canada and Europe including our partners Kim Sawchuk Director & Constance Lafontaine, Deputy Director, Aging, Communication, Technologies (ACT), Concordia University.

Ageism is deeply embedded in Western culture, and attitudes toward older adults are often tinged with prejudice and false beliefs. Political models announce and state the aging of a population as a threat, even a heavy burden to manage for the economy. Paradoxically, the voice of the elderly is not very present in the public arena, as sadly testified by the current pandemic. A pandemic that accentuates the stigmatization of the elderly, in particular through disturbing public speeches that call into question the value and contribution of these people in society.

One of the most egregious examples of what might be called contempt for the elderly is the fact that the French authorities, in particular, did not count the number of deaths resulting from COVID-19 in retirement homes. Should we conclude that their deaths were insignificant compared to those of young adults? More so, in France as elsewhere, the pandemic was not taken seriously at first: public discourse conveyed the message that the real threat only concerned the older adults. Has this type of discourse contributed to a certain resistance by some to observe and respect social distancing? It is also revealing that the rare cases of young adults who have died from complications of COVID-19 around the world have often generated personalized media reports, while the deaths of hundreds of elderly people have not, and have at times not been statistically recorded.

An infantilizing look: In addition to the misrepresentation of COVID-19 as an “elderly problem”, several countries have chosen to impose very severe restrictions on these people, ordering them to stay indoors during the pandemic. While these restrictions were intended to protect them, they have, however, exacerbated the problem – prior to the pandemic – of the isolation of many seniors and its physical and psychological consequences. In fact, the protective purpose of these restrictions has sometimes resulted in condescending public communication describing seniors as all “vulnerable” members of society. For example, in some regions of Canada, people over the age of 70 were asked to register with a “vulnerable persons registry”. In other regions, COVID-19 outbreaks first appeared on the Asian and European continents in the fall of 2019 and early winter 2020. What was happening in these regions was widely publicized by the media, as nursing staff raising serious concerns about the number of victims in long-term care homes. In Italy, for example, caregivers  alerted governments about the safety of residents of these centers, advocating for more staff and protective equipment and urging countries to remain vigilant and already protect this population.

However, it is clear today that many long-term care facilities in Canada have not been able to manage or even limit the impact of the virus. Have we been slow, even careless, in preparing the response to COVID-19 in order to reduce the number of victims in long-term care facilities? Several of these centers were already sorely lacking in resources long before the COVID-19 pandemic, which only worsened the situation in terms of protecting residents. Why did it take a crisis with more than disastrous consequences for the residents and caregivers of these centers for our leaders to speak of the importance and urgency of caring for the elderly?

A shared responsibility: Canadian data show that the highest proportion of COVID-19 carriers is found among young adults and that, in addition, people under the age of 60 account for a significant share of hospitalizations (including intensive care> 35% ). Young adults are therefore not immune to this virus and share the responsibility for its spread. A casual attitude towards public health guidelines increases the risk for everyone, regardless of age. In other words, COVID-19 is not a “disease of the elderly”, its effects having repercussions throughout the population. We must all help to limit its spread.

As researchers but also defenders of the rights of the elderly, we express deep concern about the ageist attitudes that are expressed consciously or unconsciously during this pandemic. High death rates among the elderly can have devastating consequences that should not be minimized. It is not only a matter of loss of human life, which in itself is a tragedy, the consequences of that loss are just as much: seniors are invaluable members of society. They are a source of knowledge and generational wisdom, they contribute to the strength of the economy as well as to the quality of family ties.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the slippages of ageism, we are convinced that it is also a turning point to review our attitudes toward seniors and to build a truly inclusive society for all ages.


Article 2: La Presse : Debates section, screen 2:   Let’s start with some numbers.

By AGNÈS GRUDA (May 4, 2020 Edition)

Article original en français

Over the past 20 years, in Quebec, the number of people over the age of 85 has increased from 75,000 to 200,000.

In 15 years, they will be … 400,000.

Quebec, like many other societies, is aging at great speed. For 20 years, we have been content to watch the train go by. We scrutinized the phenomenon without reacting.

Except that with the COVID-19 pandemic, the train has just hit a wall. And that hurts. If there is one conclusion to be drawn from the crisis we are currently going through, it is that by massively driving seniors back to mass housing, by ghettoizing them without offering adequate alternatives, we are creating centers of contagion where viruses can spread like a bush fire.

Every day, dozens of institutionalized elderly people die far from their loved ones.

What if we took advantage of this tragedy to make a 180-degree turn? To review our model of care from top to bottom?

Here are other numbers. Quebec has around 40,000 places in CHSLDs. They are overflowing: 3000 people are currently on waiting lists. With her “Homes for the Elderly” project, announced in November, Minister Marguerite Blais plans to build 2,600 new spaces (while renovating 2,500 spaces in obsolete CHSLDs).

The Homes for the Elderly may almost make you dream by their arrangement in small units, contrasting with the current hospital model, but these new places will not even meet current needs. What about future needs?

Of course, there will always be a need for accommodation for people who are too sick to stay at home. So much the better if they are more human than today.

But now is a good time to wonder if this is the model that we should continue to favor. If we can’t do better. By helping the “septua”, “octo” and nonagenarians to stay at home, as long as possible.

A few additional figures. Quebec is now at the bottom of the OECD countries in terms of investments in home care. It spends only 17% of its health budget on long-term care budgets, compared to 41% for Sweden, 43% for France, 50% for Norway and 73% for Denmark.

In Canada, 58 out of 1,000 persons over the age of 65 live in institutions. The OECD average is 47.

Yes, there will always be CHSLDs. But “we must reverse the preponderance of accommodation as a solution to the loss of autonomy,” says the geriatrician and former Minister of Health Réjean Hébert. The person whose “autonomy insurance” project died on the order paper in 2014.

Basically, this insurance, which was also advocated by the Clair commission in 2000, gives a kind of service credit to seniors who can choose the care they need.

Fifteen countries have adopted this model. In Sweden and Denmark, care for the elderly is the responsibility of the municipalities which give priority to home care. In Luxembourg, the elderly can receive an allowance which allows them to pay a loved one.

And guess what: wherever possible, users favor home care rather than living in an institution!

However, for 20 years, Quebec has taken the opposite path. While the public authorities ignored the demographic shock that was facing us, the private sector has massively built chic retirement homes with a few floors for people losing their autonomy. A mass residential model in parallel with CHSLDs, which is quite specific to Quebec.

From reform to reform, the funding of home care has melted, while the CHSLDs have lost all autonomy, merged into the bureaucracy of the CIUSSS…

When the COVID storm has plunged CHSLD residents into inhuman isolation, when a new demographic shock is looming on the horizon, the time has come to reshuffle the cards. And to bring  the autonomy insurance out of the dungeons.

This text from La Presse + is a copy in web format. Consult it for free in an interactive version in the La Presse + app.


Article 3: The text following is from La Presse +. Consult it for free in an interactive version in the La Presse + app.

Yves Boisvert:  Humanitarian Reasons

Article original en français

Why are so many people infected in Montreal North?

As if by chance, this is where many refugees live. And as if by chance too, it is from them that we recruit auxiliarly personnel in CHSLDs, wherever the virus circulates.

Vanne Guerrier still had a bandage on her neck on Tuesday when we met in front of the building where she lives in the semi-basement.

“They made a hole to pass the tube and give me oxygen,” said the 46-year-old woman. Eight days in hospital, two in intensive care.

She worked as an attendant in two residences. One in Coteau-du-Lac. The other in Sainte-Julie. She worked there, but her employer is an agency.

Every morning, the agency picks up attendants in a van. They are half a dozen. We pay them $ 14 or $ 15 an hour. The agency bills residences double, in chronic shortage of attendants.

There was an outbreak at La Rosière, in Sainte-Julie. The agency workers with whom she worked are almost all infected.

“I don’t know how I caught it, I’m very careful …”

Oh, by the way, two workers she knows are dead, she tells me. A woman she doesn’t know much. And a man in his forties, who often worked with her.


“His funeral was held on Saturday,” she said.

The owner of the agency confirms to me that one of his employees in his forties has died. Can’t say whether it’s COVID-19, he says, he hasn’t had family confirmation.

“He was a refugee. A father. He could have stayed at home. Many stay at home and receive the $ 2,000. He went to battle. He’s dead, dead, dead, like a fried fish … ”

A death outside the network, outside statistics, invisible.

***Mme  Warrior has four children. The oldest lives in New York. The other three in Haiti. The little that she earns goes there. The father died in 2004.

” What I was doing ? I was a gardener for children, in Haiti, we call it a gardener, “she says with a smile, seeming to say I know, I seem to be growing human beings.

Arrival in 2018, first job: in a pig slaughterhouse. She took an attendant course, to work with the elderly now.

“We wash, we give them food. But we also play games, we sing, we dance [she sketches a movement of the hips]. People, when they get older, sometimes they become like little children, timouns… ”

She is bored.

“Anyone helping you?”

– People from my church. ”

He was refused refugee status. She lost on appeal. Her last resort: she hopes for permanent residence “on humanitarian grounds”.

Humanitarian reasons…

Who, exactly, does humanitarian aid for whom?

It’s funny how the roles seem to be reversed these days.

Or maybe we just see things right there, all of a sudden.

***On the same street, a row of eight-unit buildings, all looking alike, but bordered by beautiful ripe trees, I meet Gisèle. She doesn’t want us to give her real name or show her face.

It begins with a “big hat trick” to Justin Trudeau and François Legault.

“I was at work and I see what they do, I am everything they say. ”

She was sent to Valleyfield. Same system: an agency, low salary. And  she sends the money to her children who stayed there in Haiti.

“I put raw onions in all the rooms, and I drink lukewarm water with lemon,” she says.

Her roommate, who followed her outside for the interview, confirms with a pout: just fresh onions.

“But you caught it anyway …

– That doesn’t prevent me from having it, but I wasn’t too sick. ”

All the same enough, one night at 2:22 a.m., she thought she was dying, she was in so much pain, had a fever.

“My only regret, if I died, is that I would no longer see my daughter, I could no longer help her, she is studying to be a nurse in Port-au-Prince …”

She’s crying. She shows us a series of photos on an old phone.

She too, three years after crossing the border at Roxham Road, is awaiting a decision from the Immigration and Refugee Board. She shows us her injured leg.

She lived in the northeast of Haiti.

“People came to our house before the elections, they killed my nephew, they beat me, I have a screw in the knee, one in the foot. I crossed the border on crutches. ”

She worked in manufacturing, it was hard for her leg. Becoming an attendant was better.

“I don’t wonder if I like working at it, it’s a duty. ”

She explains to me by adjusting her mask that she is waiting for another test to find out if she is really cured.

Two streets away, at Fourchettes de l’Espoir, the founder, Brunilda Reyes, is busy with six others, delivering baskets for 160 people instead of the usual 25 or 30. Too many organizations have closed shop.

People come to a counter instead of entering. A woman approaches with a leaf, saying nothing.

She speaks neither English nor French.

“Habla español? ”

She said nothing.

We finally understand that she is mute, we make her a basket.

“We see a lot of concern, because of the numbers, but crises, we have known others here and we will know more,” says Brunilda Reyes with the confidence of the one who overcame her lot.

She is a political refugee, mother of four children born in three countries, ex-social worker in Chile, who has become here, yes, … an attendant for beneficiaries. Until she founded  this social economy enterprise in 2001 which feeds, informs, educates. From meal delivery to day camps.

“We are ready. If we stay locked up too long, we will have other types of problems. ”

***On Tuesday, Public Health recognized the particular problem of Montréal-Nord, the highest concentration of cases in Quebec, and where it continues to increase the most. There will be screening, it is announced.

The local deputy, Paule Robitaille, welcomes the decision, but thinks that a “local screening center” is absolutely necessary. “The epidemic is rampant, the contagion is communal, the population density is high and we must have a fair portrait, it is necessary that everyone can be tested. ”

In the meantime, lots of workers are on the sidelines or, seeing what is happening, stand aside.

Long-term care  home owners are complaining about the increase in agency fees, an absurd and costly emergency breakdown assistance system that has become institutionalized due to the lack of employees. The agencies say the beneficiaries are dying, the workers refuse to work and receive compensation from the government. The rates double. And there is still a shortage of people.

Even if each morning, from Montreal North, Côte-des-Neiges, Saint-Laurent, refugees leave by bus to go and treat people in the residences, from Drummondville to Repentigny. Without it appearing in statistics..even when they die.

Why are so many people infected in Montreal North?

For humanitarian reasons.


Article 4: La Presse, Patrick Lagacé Edition of May 7, 2020 NEWS section, screen 4

Article original en français

Dear reader of rainbows,

This column is for you.

Not the politicians who run us, not the “system”, for once.


More particularly to you who inevitably write to me since the beginning of this crisis to tell me that I am not constructive, that I am negative, that you should not criticize, that this is not the time to point out some disfunction  in our health system.

Like Tuesday, after my column (1) that you didn’t like, because you have to be “positive”!

Dear reader who only wants to read “It’s going to be fine” and who only wants to see rainbows, so …

You are part of the problem.

Quebec is the epicenter of the Canadian coronavirus pandemic. Montreal is a “tragic anomaly” in a country that is beginning to flatten its infection curve, in the words of the Globe and Mail (2) .

Every day, we are the Canadian champions of new infections (910, yesterday) and new deaths (112, yesterday) and I feel that it is welcomed like an inconsequential rainy weather report. Of the 4,000 Canadian deaths since the start of the pandemic, 2,500 are Quebecers.

Homes where we are supposed to take care of our old people are deadly hotbeds, hotbeds unique in Canada again. These are in tragic shortage of personnel.

More than 11,000 “guardian angels” are missing, sick or too frightened by the coronavirus to report for work. We have to call the army. And when one of these caregivers is infected by going to lend a hand in a CHSLD, the reflex of her/his employer is to remove her/his paid hotel room (3) …

Quebec is the place most affected by the coronavirus in Canada… And it is at the same time the  place where the start of deconfinement is most urgently required by the government.

Our eagerness to stop confinement is unparalleled in Canada. Elsewhere in the country, this eagerness is seen as a kind of “madness”.

Experts from the National Institute of Public Health (INSPQ) published a barely veiled criticism of the motivations presented by the state to justify the deconfinement of children last week, which can legitimately raise the question of the real place of science in making deconfinement decisions …

Researchers denounce the opacity of the Quebec government in the face of the data that guides its decisions, which raises the question of the quality of the data that guides government decisions.

One of the keys to stemming the spread of the coronavirus is the speed of efforts to trace recent contacts of an infected person. In Montreal, however, we are entering data mites based on information received by… fax (4) . As in 2001.

And shouldn’t we ask questions?

We should not raise these shortcomings, we should not name the dysfunctions of the system. So, should we not be surprised by the about-turns of our leaders and the directives of our public health experts superbly ignored by the machine?

If you think about it: you’re part of the problem.

Your docility is part of the problem.

I have already written: we accept mediocrity (5) . And currently, the health system offers a poor response to the challenges of the pandemic.

The health system, with its patents at ACRONYMES, does not deserve the heroic dedication of caregivers. When the system despises caregivers, the least you can say is :

It is not new. It’s just more obvious in a pandemic.

This crisis is said to expose the flaws in the systems. We say that here, we say that elsewhere.

I think so do the people, too. Quebec’s health care system has been taking on water for at least 40 years. And we get used to it, we get along very well.

For urgent-urgent emergencies, that’s fine. Car accident, colon cancer, heart attack: we are usually on the tick.

For the rest, it’s another story. You know it.

La Presse , the other day, headlined this: “Hospitals: Quebec puts order in emergencies” …

The other day ?

Yes, “the other day”, but I played a trick on you: it was Tuesday, March 11, 1980, I just wanted to remind you how long this has been bugging us. Since before the proliferation of faxes.

René Lévesque was Premier of Quebec.

Then there was Robert Bourassa 2.0. Next, Jacques Parizeau. And Lucien Bouchard. And Jean Charest. And Pauline Marois. And Philippe Couillard.

In each election, health was a “priority” for those who wanted our votes.

For my part, I refuse to blame a politician, a party, a government in particular for the excesses of the system. It is a shared responsibility. I have tried to make sense of this since the start of the pandemic. It would be unfair to say that the Caquist government is all wrong: it has inherited a system that has been built and reworked for 40 years.

But who voted for these people?

We. All of us. For 40 years.

We accepted that…. this system with its inefficiencies which are not different in this pandemic period, they are just more apparent, more annoying.

Every day, at least one hundred new deaths are announced to us at the press conference at 1 p.m. I refuse to even consider that these are for the majority old people  who were going to die in 3, 6, 12 months. As if it was less serious.

They are Quebecers, and they died before their time. Their families have been deprived of these moments of grace that precede death, when one can say goodbye with dignity. It’s a tragedy. It is a Quebec tragedy.

The f ***ing minimum is to ask a few questions, to let a little indignation filter from time to time… While talking about the beautiful stories of these nasty times (6) .

I will continue to do so.

And if you are one of the readers who are obsessed with rainbows and “It’s going to be fine”, I suggest ignoring my column and going to watch Passe-Partout .